Book stores are closing. Recording artists aren’t making as much as they used to. Old business models are being challenged. This is the digital age. Almost every industry is being changed because of the web, from media and music to retail.

Many years ago if you loved a particular song by your favourite recording artist you had to either buy their whole album or the single on CD. Today you can buy the song you want on iTunes and bypass the rest of the album. That’s if you even want to buy it. Online streaming services like Spotify and YouTube allow you to listen for free.

YouTube and Netflix have allowed consumers to watch content when and how they want to. The web has allowed people to try on clothes in a store to get their size right, then go home to shop online. It has also changed the way people consume news. The web has turned the tables and given power to the consumer, in the process changing how businesses make money. People want options and they want to control how and when they consume goods and services. And there is more disruption on the way. We’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the power of mobile technology. As we become more of a connected society with our phones becoming our remote controls for everything and our cars becoming increasingly connected through the internet and apps, old ways of doing things will continue to die.

The latest industry to be disrupted is taxi services. Everyday there are headlines from around the world about the impact that Uber is having on how people get around. Taxi companies and their drivers are holding protests and are heard complaining about these “illegal taxi services”. The truth is the model for taxi services hasn’t changed in decades and the old model is finally being disrupted. Governments shouldn’t be in the business of propping up outdated industries and models when the market has moved on. Services like Uber use modern technology to allow consumers to control their own experience. Industries that don’t pick up on this will find it hard to compete.

We have to ask ourselves what makes services like Uber illegal and when did the current modus operandi inherit this right to never be changed or challenged. It’s because city governments, who have a financial interest in the current system, have been slow to embrace change. Yes, a service like Uber has the potential to eat into a taxi company’s business to the point where they may lose money and people may lose jobs. But those are the realities of doing business. If you don’t evolve and adapt fast enough you can die.

In times of major disruption is when true entrepreneurship and innovation is tested. Sooner or later the taxi industry will change like publishing, music and retail have already. These innovations in mobile and web-based technologies aren’t going away, so as we say at SHIFT- “Don’t complain, create”.

 

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