Over the last year, you’d have to have been living under a rock to not hear about Uber. Despite courting controversy in a number of cities, the taxi-cab booking app currently provides one million rides per day across sixty countries; and expects to turn over $10.8 billion in 2015.
Starting in 2012, Uber works by allowing users to book a private hire car from their exact location to where they wish to go without speaking to a phone operator, paying via their account rather than paying the driver cash. Plus users can see on their smart phones exactly where their cab is via a real-time map display. The firm has since attracted huge sums of money in private investment while seeing rapid growth. Its recent investment plans in May 2015 saw the company valued at a minimum of $50 billion!
However despite its soaring popularity with the public, not everyone is happy to see their arrival into the marketplace. Many local taxi drivers are unhappy that the unique business model Uber operates mean that they do not have to comply with the comparatively high barriers to entry; giving them Uber a huge advantage. Many taxi organisations have even staged large protests in response. However, this only seems to fuel demand for the business and provide a positive PR opportunity.
For example a mass protest of over 4,000 taxi drivers in London, where the more traditional “cabbies” in their distinctive black cabs ground Parliament Square, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square to a halt, backfired somewhat when Uber saw the number of people downloading the app increase by a whopping 850%. While traditional taxi drivers are unhappy that they have to jump through numerous hoops to obtain their licences while Uber drivers do not; many people feel that Uber offers a far superior service; and feel unhappy that taxi drivers are trying to force a monopoly instead of competing by offering better service or rates.
No matter what arguments, protests or legal challenges are proposed, it seems that the march of Uber isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, Uber have even announced an expansion into the delivery industry with UberRush; which allows businesses to deliver items to customers fast and efficiently without the need to organise round-trips. Or schedule efficient routes between multiple locations. So far there hasn’t been any complaint from the existing delivery industry; but if the response from the taxi industry is anything to go by, this new venture won’t go ahead quietly. Nor will Uber miss an opportunity to capitalise on the slow progress of their competitors.
What do you think of Uber? Do you support them, or do they undermine existing businesses unfairly? What do you think of UberRush? We’d love to hear your views.