Uber and Free Market Economics

Uber has changed the way we travel within cities. On a recent trip to Jaipur, the first thing I did on reaching the city, was to top-up my PayTm wallet to get going on Uber. (yeah no card-on-file yet 🙂 )

Uber Free Market Economics
Uber Jaipur

And over the next 3 days I took more than 12 rides across the Pink city. Here are some of the interesting observations I had:

  • Jaipur is really a small city – Only one ride was over Rs 100/-. All others barely crossed the Rs 75/- mark. Given the distances are not too much, the per ride fare is expected to be low. This is a critical point because the supply-demand balance can be easily titlted in a small-population. Also the per ride metrics are sensitive to even the slightest changes.
  • Free market economies tend to be cyclical – Almost all the drivers I spoke to talked about the good old times they have had, driving around as Uber cabs upto almost 6 months back. It seems back then Uber was super aggressive in signing up cabbies and were paying as high as Rs 1800/- per day. Guaranteed. This came down to 1600, 1400 and now is at 1200/-. And its all because of the immensely huge supply. Most cabbies now complained of getting too few rides on a daily basis. Add to that the low average per ride fare and it is clear that this city needs volume of rides to be high. Or to quickly reach an optimal sweet-spot of supply and demand match. As the word of tough times (for the cabbies) is spreading,  fewer are joining and many who had joined Uber are reportedly quitting it. Some can’t even pay their loan EMIs.
  • There is no consistency of vehicle experience – I got from a Nano to an Innova under UberGo. Firstly, UberGo is where most customers go, hence even cabbies are registering themselves as UberGo. So you are better off choosing an UberGo. The Innova guy said that he wasnt getting any rides so he switched from UberX to Uber Go. Also it seems you make the same per ride across both categories. Hence UberGo seemed a logical preference. The Nano guy was proud of his decision, he claimed that he would recover his investment much faster. And thats true. I think this is a classic example of how the market evolves when its close to a free market.
  • Drivers understand and give importance to rider feedback – I have never seen so much sensitivity from an Uber Driver towards the feedback/rating. To have been able to crack this is really commendable on Uber’s part. The drivers have strong appreciation for this feedback being utilized for giving them ride bookings. Again, there might not be a completely transparent system but the fact that information and feedback is flowing across the supply and demand side, is strong enough motivator to influence decisions.
  • Locals are avoiding taking own vehicles – Lot of areas constantly face bad traffic due to construction activities. Parking is a challenge. Most of my local friends have either started using an Ola or Uber over self-drive or are seriously considering to do so. Atleast till the fares are this low !

Update:

And back in Delhi.

  • There was a surge charge of 1.9X due to high demand and unmatched supply I guess. This allowed UberX  guys to also pick up UberGo customers without formally registering into the UberGo. Complete reverse of what’s happening in Jaipur. I guess Delhi customers prefer the more spacious UberX and there is sufficient demand therein.
  • The first cabbie who picked my request, called me and asked me where I need to go (instead of asking me where to pick me up from), and hearing my destination – declined. Just put the phone down and on my Uber screen I was back at fresh request. No way to even go and give feedback on this bloke ! So I guess Delhi cabbies have a hack to the feedback-driving-behaviour loop also. Land of Jugaad !!

Embrace APIs – Digital Banking Toolkit

Digital is the latest buzzword in banking. Not only are the bank boardrooms echoing with digital keywords, its what seems to be driving the pitches at most IT and Management Consulting firms.

And rightly so !

When the data tells us that 9% of the population already uses Mobile Banking, we know that Digital Banking Revolution is already upon us.

India Internet Statistics
Source: We are Social

In the last article, I mentioned, how the Digital Banking Journey will be different for each bank and why it might be a good idea for the banks to play to their strengths.

Equally important is to acknowledge and understand, that partnerships will be essential in this journey.

And what enables partnerships to work (apart from a culture and mindset) is a technology architecture that is geared towards APIs.

APIs are like Legos – you own some, some you borrow – but put together you make something exciting.

While the consumer technology companies understand this, banks have traditionally been slow to embrace deep connects into their systems. The risk is too high ! After all banks have been trusted with the consumers money and data.

But to stay viable, banks will need to embrace partnerships, learn to publish and consume APIs, while still not compromising the customer promise.

 

Digital India – its already here

Today’s the launch of the Digital India initiative and quite a coincidence that I had an experience which makes me believe that Digital India is already here.

Digital India

Here’s what happened.

I was in Mumbai and called for an Uber. I started talking to the cabbie to understand the target market for a specific use case for mTuzo . We are pitching to banks that with mTuzo we can help move their debit card customer from an ATM only to ATM + POS relationship.

So I asked him which bank account he gets his Uber payments in – it was a SBI account and it was his choice. Uber gives him complete freedom to choose the banking partner.

Next I asked him if he had a debit card for that account . Turned out he did.

I asked him if he’s been using that card at ATM or for shopping also. As expected he had been using it only for cash withdrawals.

Probing further I asked him what if he got 15-20% discount if he shopped using his debit card, would he consider switching from cash to card. And his response just stumped me.

He said he’s already used his card for online purchases at SnapDeal. He did his first purchase using COD (cash on delivery) but once he was sure that they delivered just fine, his next transaction was through his debit card,

Let me repeat that – a 30 something male who has been driving a cab in Mumbai for last 10 years, is only schooled till class 10th, who uses his debit card only for cash withdrawal, has used it online at SnapDeal.

And what really really shocked me was his first purchase on SnapDeal. I can bet you will never be able to guess it.

 

 

Take a few guesses…..

 

 

 

…….

He bought a selfie stick for Rs 300 (after a 66% discount). A selfie stick !!!!

I rest my case, Digital India is here.

Maybe we need a Digital Bharat initiative.

 

Mood as the context for marketing

Something very interesting happened while I was using the Linkedin App on my mobile. I liked an article and pop came the message from Linkedin checking if I would want to share my love of the Linkedin App itself.

The timing of this “Rate us on PlayStore” screen intrigued me.

mood based marketingDo folks over at Linkedin believe that if I have read a lengthy article and liked it, I am in a good mood?

If you ask me, may be I am. Atleast for sometime.

And since that mood is caused by the content that was delivered on the Linkedin App, Now might be the best time for ask for a rating. I would rate them much higher.

Maybe they didn’t do this on purpose and this was just a coincidence.

But it still piqued my interest in “Mood as a potential context for marketing“.

Did a quick Google and found that both Apple & Microsoft have applied for patents long ago on Mood based ad targeting. If this is at play, its surely super exciting stuff.

Why?

For one, mood is a very strong context. I remember once being told that the reason behind gorgeous women in skimpy clothes selling electrical switches was to get the predominantly-male-customer distracted and lower the apprehension about the product itself. If that’s been working for ages, surely a more trackable and insight driven model will be more successful.

Also, this might help “push” marketing be more effective. Google driven pull marketing works predominantly on context – what is the customer looking for actively right now. Imagine products and services being thrown just at the right moment. Feeling all mushy thinking about your partner, and pop comes the mention of a romantic cruise. Imagine how hard would it be to not buy it then n there.