Disruption. That’s a catchword you’ve probably been hearing a lot of these last few days. But what are they disrupting? And why does it need to be disrupted? The first answer, is the market. The second answer, well, that’s more complicated. Allow me to explain anyway. Back in the pre-Netflix era, when ridiculously expensive cable companies ruled the day, we had a very specific method of consuming entertainment. We turned on the television, every day, at a specific time of day. We tuned in to a specific channel. We watched a specific program that was being broadcasted at that exact time on that exact channel. There was no way for us to stipulate when and how we were going to consume our entertainment, our schedules were a slave to the telecom industry. When DVRs hit the market, they changed things a little. TV networks still broadcasted popular television series at their own convenience, but at least you could hit the recorder on your favorite show and watch it later when you had the time. Still, things were far from convenient. What if you missed an episode of you regular show that aired six days ago? What if you forgot to tape it? Netflix changed all that.
When Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph invented Netflix in the August of 1997, they changed the way we consumed our entertainment. No longer were we enslaved by the restrictions forced upon us cable companies. No longer were we helpless before their unreasonably high price tags and lack of independence. We could watch whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted to. Want to binge watch an entire series that aired six years ago and never crossed your attention? Well, there you have it. Want a suitable replacement for high-priced cable companies? Here you go. Please understand that I am not running an advertisement campaign for Netflix here. The application comes with its own flaws, namely, lack of live TV and region-based barriers. But still, what the company did had the ability to disrupt the functioning of an entire market. Exorbitant cable companies with crappy service were no longer the monopoly. You had an alternative, something that catered to your demands and wishes.
If you have been following the news for the last one month or so, you have probably seen the hashtag #DeleteUber flash multiple times across your screen on news websites and social media. Truth be told, the company has been taking a lot of heat thanks to a poorly thought-out marketing strategy that had nothing to do with the subject of the movement in the first place. Freshly after President Trump put up his executive order preventing immigrants from six separate nations from entering into the United States, there was a massive public upsurge, a protest formulated by people who saw this move as irrational and heartless. One of those days, taxi drivers at the Kennedy Airport refused to pick up passengers during the time period of one such movement, half-an-hour after which Uber released a message saying that it was turning off its surge-pricing feature for the area for the day. The decision was seen as an attempt to profit from the suffering of innocent immigrants and the tireless actions of thousands of protesters, resulting in a social media frenzy that caused over 200,000 users to delete Uber from their devices and switch to a prominent competitive known as Lyft. While Uber apologized for this decision with words and action and stated that its intentions were misunderstood, the public outrage continued for quite a few days, causing Uber to lose out on hundreds of thousands of users.
“But the damage was done: soon afterward, the $69 billion ride-hailing company endured a social-media boycott that resulted in some 200,000 users deleting their accounts. Many tweeted screenshots of themselves getting rid of the app as hashtags like #DeleteUber and #BoycottUber went viral. Others said they would switch to Lyft, which publicized a $1 million donation to the A.C.L.U. amid the blowback.” – Maya Kosoff, Vanity Fair
Uber may have been at fault for formulating a poorly created marketing strategy that caused it to lose millions of dollars in potential users, but let us not forget that the company was the original ridesharing app that took the transport industry by storm and gave us an easier way to travel across town. Before Uber, getting a cab meant standing in the middle of the street, whistling like a maniac, hoping for a passing taxi-driver to take heed. Even people with their own transport often find themselves in situations where hiring a cab is more feasible. Thanks to Uber, that process is not so difficult anymore. Uber isn’t irreplaceable, this movement proved that. It is, however, the one to thank for a new concept that made transport a lot easier than it previously was. It is also the one application that resulted in a series of similar on-demand applications being released across several other industries.
“Just by tapping on a smartphone today you can summon a home cleaner via Handy, order groceries via Instacart, wash your clothes via Washio and get flowers via BloomThat. Fancy Hands will provide you with personal assistants. TaskRabbit will pick up a gift, Shyp will deliver it. You can even order chocolate chips cookies with Doughbies. There is a whole world of on-demand applications. The obvious inspiration for all this is Uber, whose strategy was praised innovative and disruptive.” – Svetlana Muravskaya, iTransition
Airbnb is your perfect on-demand rental service. JustEat is the go-to for anytime food takeaways. TaskRabbit can help you get anything done. Shyp will help you get anything delivered. Hell, you can even book your own private jet with JetSmart. These are all on-demand applications that took inspiration from Uber’s groundbreaking success and set out to disrupt their own respective industries.
But what makes on-demand applications so popular? Turns out, we like having stuff at our beck-and-call. No one likes to stand in a cue at a restaurant or wait for hours near the road for a cab, we want to get things done fast and easy. On-demand applications like Uber and Airbnb don’t sell anything, they just act as the middleman between you and the service provider, helping potential buyers and sellers of various services come together using an online or app-based platform. So, without really doing anything at all, these applications help managing our day-to-day lives a whole lot easier. And they make a lot of money in the process.
After what I just told you, you probably can’t wait to get started on crowdfunding your very own on-demand service and launching it to the web. Keep in mind, though, that it was never that easy. Companies like Uber or TaskRabbit may not provide any particular services on their own, but it took them years of hard work to establish the user base that they currently have. It’s a shame that Uber lost a substantial portion of its own thanks to a stupid misunderstanding.