Article

23.08.2016

How the on-demand economy is reshaping society

Designed to respond to the consumer's every wish, the on-demand economy is transforming companies and the labour market, and its rise is undermining the strength of the traditional players.

The term "on-demand economy" was made popular by the rapid success of the new Silicon Valley start-ups led by Uber and Airbnb, and now everyone is talking about it. It refers to business activities where companies use new technologies to bring goods and services to consumers virtually immediately, and is experiencing staggering rates of growth. And so, scarcely seven years after it began, Uber is worth over 60 billion dollars. In the United States, 42% of people have used an on-demand service at some point. This is a trend set to continue.

Aside from the most well-known services that allow customers to order a driver, a meal, a doctor or lawyer, the on-demand economy now seems able to satisfy the consumer's every whim, even the most outlandish. Booster offers a mobile petrol pump service allowing drivers to fill up at any time. Through Techy you can request the services of an IT expert to fix your computer. FriendsTonight finds its users companions for any trip, such as to the cinema, a bar or nightclub. Pamper lets you order a manicure and Soothe brings you a massage. With Trumaker, you can find a tailor to cut you a suit. Washio will do your washing. And finally, Wag! walks your dog for you. There are even start-ups in California that deliver cannabis on demand, plus for Roman Catholics with an urgent need to confess, Scooterino Amen can bring a priest on a scooter to your door. It seems that the economy is more directed towards the immediate gratification of the consumer than ever before.

A new phase of capitalism

The arrival of the on-demand economy marks not only an anthropological development, but also the beginning of a new phase of capitalism. At the start of the 20th century, the introduction of assembly and production lines meant that Henry Ford could mass produce the Ford T at a reasonable price, a development that began to make the automobile more accessible to all. Today, the on-demand economy is allowing ordinary people to access services that were once the preserve of the privileged.

Several factors have converged to allow this revolution to occur. The first is the boom in new technologies. Powerful microcomputers available at low prices mean entrepreneurs can achieve a great deal by working alone from their own home. The spread of smart phones is also enabling autonomous workers to react quickly and move around with ease. And thanks to the internet, complex tasks such as programming or drawing up legal documentation can be outsourced to professionals working remotely.

In short, new technologies are creating relationships that are more fluid: large companies with very strong hierarchies and a stable workforce located in physical premises are giving way to less precisely structured entities composed of a small team of leaders and a constantly fluctuating mass of contractors. They may not even have an office, but those at the top direct the business while their staff work flexibly to meet customer requests.

The swift rise of the on-demand economy has also been facilitated by the financial crisis, which led to an availability on the labour market of young, flexible workers with good access to technology. Today, 34% of US workers are self-employed. Finally, the on-demand economy is the consequence of a shift in the balance of power in society. As The Economist states, whereas Karl Marx once laid out the opposition between the owners of the means of production and their workers, the dichotomy that stands out today contrasts individuals who are cash rich and time poor and those who have less money but much more time. The on-demand economy means transactions can take place between these two kinds of economic agents, and the latter can be paid to provide the former with services that they have no time to carry out themselves.

The winners and losers of the on-demand economy

The on-demand economy has changed the capitalist paradigm, bringing about far-reaching changes within society, the world of work, and even the lives of individuals. There are positives and negatives, as with any radical change. This is why it causes so much passionate debate, as illustrated by the many legal challenges and demonstrations against Uber and the aborted attempt to legislate to limit the expansion of Airbnb in San Francisco. Its opponents regard it as a reversal of social progress and a return to the brutal capitalism of the 19th century, when long queues of workers waited every morning in the hope of picking up a day's work.

But the supporters of this new reality emphasise the flexibility it gives workers, who are free to work wherever and whenever they choose. They also highlight the freedom consumers now have to choose from a wide range of services accessible on demand at prices they can afford. The defenders of the on-demand economy also say that it enables a better allocation of resources in society. For example, many rooms that would otherwise remain empty can be offered to tourists temporarily through Airbnb, and Uber allows several passengers to share the same vehicle.

Consumers certainly appear to be holding all the cards; for workers, however, the picture is more mixed. Those who value flexibility over security benefit from the new reality. This is the case for students wanting to earn a bit of cash, those who loathe office hours, young parents who would like to work part-time while raising their children, or older people nearing retirement who want to reduce their working hours. On the other hand, workers who favour security over flexibility, such as families with mortgages and tuition fees to pay for, stand to lose out in the new economic environment. It is therefore up to governments to adapt their welfare systems to better reflect society's needs in the light of the rapid rise of the on-demand economy. The American model, where health insurance is provided by the employer, is not at all appropriate for these circumstances and ought to be reformed so that every worker is covered.

Traditional actors forced to catch up

The on-demand economy also implies a significant shake-up on the majority of markets. This is firstly because companies offering on-demand services naturally launch on existing markets, where they proceed to impose very stiff competition on the traditional players. The most striking example of this is of course the arrival of Uber on the taxi market. But secondly, the heavyweights of the on-demand economy, which have the benefit of their brand names, capital and the latest technology, can swallow up sectors other than that of their principal and initial line of business.

If we remain with the example of Uber, the company quickly realised that drivers were extremely busy in the mornings and evenings, but had far fewer jobs in the middle of the day. And so to fill the off-peak hours, it began to offer additional services. First came the food delivery service, UberEATS, then the company delivering anything, UberRUSH. From a taxi company at the forefront of technology, Uber has gradually transformed itself into a service platform devoted to nothing in particular, able to turn its hand (or its vehicles) to various types of requirements.

Besides taxis, start-ups delivering food such as Caviar or Munchery are the ones facing competition, as well as longstanding firms on the delivery market such as FedEx and UPS. The name that Uber quickly built for itself, combined with its solid IT infrastructure, has allowed it to rival institutional players in a field where it was initially an outsider. And so these firms are obliged to respond to demand and follow the lead of Uber, or to at least adapt what they offer to meet the new rules of the on-demand economy. This is why UPS has just invested 28 million dollars in the start-up Deliv, which provides a same-day delivery service. The fast food brand Taco Bell has also established its own system for delivering food. And taxis are using smart phone applications modelled on Uber ... Little by little, with missionary zeal, the on-demand economy is converting its competition rather than taking them out.

(Source: www.atelier.net)

Article

12.06.2024

We need to move forward together

Since 2019, the bank has reduced its CO2 emissions per full-time equivalent by 55%. And according to Sandra Wilikens, Chief Human Resources Officer, everyone must play their part.

Between 2019 and 2022, the bank succeeded in reducing its CO2 emissions by 55%. So how did you do this?

"Mainly by focusing on the energy efficiency of our buildings, which account for approximately 80% of our immediate emissions. We also optimised our real estate and significantly reduced business travel. We settled on a structured approach involving all departments. Since 2012, our Green Bank Platform has gathered the contact persons of each department every quarter, allowing them to present an action plan with their initiatives. They then develop a series of KPIs on energy and paper consumption, business travel, the electrification of the vehicle fleet, waste management, etc. Because measuring is knowing."

The target was to achieve a 42.5% reduction in emissions compared to 2012 by the end of 2025. A goal we have since achieved. What else is in the pipeline?

"We have no intention of resting on our laurels until 2025. Because there is no time to waste if we want to be carbon neutral by 2050. Our new headquarters at Montagne du Parc in Brussels is a good example of energy efficiency, but there is still a room for improvement in the rest of our real estate. We will improve the energy efficiency of the various regional offices, install solar panels in more than 80 branches, and LED lighting will become standard in all our buildings. These efforts must allow us to reduce our CO2 emissions by another 7%."

How much progress have you made in terms of the electrification of your fleet?

"We are making a sustained effort to electrify our fleet, and I think we are on the right track. At the end of 2022, just under 30% of our fleet of leased company cars was electric – 100% electric and plug-in hybrids. In the third quarter of 2023, these cars accounted for 95% of new orders. This was largely due to the new car taxation. But for employers, it doesn't stop there. They must deal with a complex tax framework, including the reimbursement of electricity costs. Some of our staff members also face obstacles, for example, because they have difficulty accessing a charging station. I intend to organise a mobility roundtable this year. The aim is to bring governments, operators, start-ups and companies together. Because we have to move forward and are all in this together."

How do you ensure sufficient employee engagement?

"With a lot of communication. You need to explain what you are doing and why. That is the only way to get people to cooperate. We have a network of more than 200 EcoCoaches within the bank. The sustainability compartment of CBA 90 also inspires. We set six specific objectives each year. If we achieve at least three, all staff members receive a bonus at the end of the year. To date, this has been a success. We also have other incentives. With our “Green Fuel Consumer Plan”, we reward staff members who have a company car but use it sparingly. We are also launching many campaigns to promote soft mobility, such as walking, cycling and public transport. The decision to base our offices in cities is also positive. At the end of 2022, 79% of the employees working in Brussels used public transport to get to work. Outside cities, 60% of employees do this."

Finally, can you think of any issues that need to be addressed urgently?

"Digital pollution is often underestimated. To give you an idea: sending 100 mails emits just as much CO2 as driving twenty kilometres. That’s why we organise an internal campaign every year to raise awareness among our staff members and give them tips on how to reduce their digital footprint. Regularly cleaning up your mailbox, sending links instead of files, deleting outdated files: all little things. But if our 11,000 colleagues do this daily, we can make a big impact. Every effort counts!"

Article

10.06.2024

Electronic invoicing between companies to become mandatory

The bill to introduce this obligation in Belgium has been submitted to the Federal Parliament. If the draft bill is approved, B2B e-invoicing will become mandatory from 1 January 2026. Our experts explain why Belgium wants to introduce these new rules, what the implications are for your company and how we can better support you.

“The bill is consistent with international developments and initiatives at the European level,” says Nicolas De Vijlder, Head of Beyond Banking at BNP Paribas Fortis. "Europe's ambition is a harmonised digital standard. Structured e-invoicing between companies will also reduce the administrative burden of invoicing, enabling companies to work more efficiently and increase their competitiveness. The automation of VAT declarations will also help governments prevent tax fraud and adjust economic policies based on more qualitative data.”

Evolution rather than a revolution

“The new legislation is an evolution rather than a revolution,” adds Erik Breugelmans, Deputy Managing Director at BNP Paribas Factoring Northern Europe. "Digitalisation is becoming pervasive at all levels of society, as we have seen with the increase in electronic payments, as well as the additional obligations in recent years regarding electronic invoicing to the government. In this sense, the bill for mandatory electronic invoicing between companies is a logical next step. Our bank is happy to contribute to this process, although we do not intend to offer the same services as accounting software or fintechs. However, we are happy to help our customers with payments and financing."

The impact on businesses

“Customers need to be aware that the new regulations will have an impact on their internal and external processes,” continues Erik Breugelmans. "The majority of Belgian companies mainly serve an international market, which means that the introduction of electronic invoicing will be more complex for them than for companies operating in the domestic market. As the legislation will be introduced in one go, they need to start preparing now."

“The new rules will affect a company’s accounting department as well as its IT department,” emphasises Nicolas De Vijlder. "The procedural requirements are key, otherwise the automated process will not work. However, one of the main benefits of advanced automation is that everything can be done faster and more efficiently. The time between sending an invoice and paying it will be shorter and cash flows more predictable. In addition, it will also reduce the risk of error and fraud, as all transactions will pass through a secure channel."

Ready to offer you even more and better support

“Thanks to the far-reaching digitisation resulting from the new regulations, we will be able to further optimise payments,” concludes Erik Breugelmans. "As a bank, we need to finance our customers’ receivables as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that they have easier access to their working capital. In addition, because we have already gone through an entire process in terms of large-scale automation, we will be able to adapt quickly to the new rules. We can also draw on the expertise of the BNP Paribas Group, which is currently developing an e-invoicing solution for large companies."

Want to know more?

Listen to the episode on B2B e-invoicing :

A subscription to build customer loyalty, reinvent yourself in times of crisis and buy better: Emna Everard saw that as exactly the right way to launch and maintain her Brussels-based start-up.

Born into a family of dietitians, Emna Everard knows what it means to eat healthily. "At the age of 12, I was already deciphering packaging labels. My dream was to open a supermarket one day where you could shop with your eyes closed", she recalls.

And because Everard has entrepreneurship in her bones, that’s exactly what she did. In 2016, just before the end of her university studies, she launched the “healthiest online supermarket on the market”: Kazidomi. Her standards are high, both in terms of composition and taste. Kazidomi selects products carefully, enabling its customers to buy healthy, mainly organic, plant-based products with complete confidence.

The loyalty programme

Six months after its launch, Kazidomi’s growth is accelerating thanks to the launch of its loyalty programme. A 59 euro subscription offering 20–50% discounts on all food, cosmetics or care products available online. Profitability and savings guaranteed.

This was followed by a first fundraising of €50,000 in 2017. Kazidomi is growing, expanding the size of its stock and developing its marketing. Everard hired her first two employees. Sales grew rapidly and literally exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Consumers suddenly had time to think about their health and well-being and were doing most of their shopping online," she adds.

How did you reinvent yourself?

The post-crisis period was a turning point. "Kazidomi had to reinvent itself. We wanted to have financial stability and avoid any dependence on external resources," continues Everard. Together with her teams, she looked at their cost structure, operational efficiency and marketing. After these reflections, the aim was no longer growth at any price, but the company's long-term viability and financial health, thanks to an intelligent reorganisation.

Two acquisitions would subsequently enable Kazidomi to boost its growth, creating significant synergies: "Smart Fooding" in August 2022 and "Bébé au Naturel" a few months later, a business specialising in healthy products for babies and their parents. "With Bébé au Naturel, we doubled the volume of orders sent out," adds Everard. "This has allowed us to get a better rate from our carriers and reduce costs."

A responsive and attentive bank

As the Brussels start-up’s bank, BNP Paribas Fortis granted it three loans for its launch, between 2016 and 2019. This support came naturally, with Kazidomi’s commitments in terms of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) objectives perfectly aligned with the bank’s strategy. "We joined the BNP Paribas Fortis Innovation Hub programme and our relationship manager – who knew the start-up environment extremely well – was immediately enthusiastic and very attentive. He believed in our project, followed it closely, advised us to participate in a series of events to meet other players whose background and profile would be of interest for us," explains the Entrepreneur of the Year 2019.

But the support didn't stop there. "In December 2022, it was thanks to BNP Paribas Fortis, among other things, that we were able to acquire “Bébé au Naturel”. Start-ups like Kazidomi need a high level of responsiveness from their bank. When there is a company to buy, or another opportunity, things have to move fast. Analysis of the file, provision of funds: BNP Paribas Fortis has always been responsive and enthusiastic and has supported us in 99% of our requests," says the CEO enthusiastically.

Eight years since launching, Kazidomi today has 4,000 products that it delivers across Europe. The Belgian start-up makes 90% of its sales on its website and 10% via external resellers, such as Delhaize.

Kazidomi has also launched its own brand “Kazidomi”, which has 200 products on offer. By working directly with producers, we can offer the best possible quality products at the best price.

https://www.kazidomi.com/en

Kazidomi is ready to change the world. Discover even more inspiring entrepreneurial stories.

Cosucra is investing in the decarbonisation of its production processes. Their focus is on using fibre and plant-based protein from chicory and peas for a healthy and less polluting diet.

Belgium’s Hainaut-based Cosucra has been operating since 1852. The company is quite small with 365 employees, but its activities have evolved over time. From the 1980s onwards, sugar beet processing gave way to chicory and yellow peas. Also, sugar was replaced by inulin and pea protein.

"Many families lack the time to put a fresh meal on the table every day. With our products, the industry can offer them easy, quick and nutritious meals," says Eric Bosly, CEO of Cosucra. "Nutritionists stress the importance of fibre and plant proteins for health, and such a diet has a positive impact on our carbon footprint."

New investors

To take their decarbonisation a step further, in 2023, the company launched a seven-year investment plan worth EUR 150 million. “We are keenly aware of the climate crisis, so we wanted to make this transition fast,” says Bosly. “That's why we brought three investors on board who share our values and are willing to commit in the longer term.”

Long-term relationship

Cosucra and BNP Paribas Fortis have a long-standing partnership. "The bank has supported us in expanding to Denmark and the United States. It's of great value to have the same contact person for setting up the financial structure of subsidiaries, opening accounts abroad, etc. We also meet regularly, which means we can count on the expertise of teams specialised in the food industry. Their macro vision complements that of our local account managers who know our business well."

Same market conditions

Cosucra’s efforts will result in a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions within three years. Yet, decarbonisation is just one of Bosly’s bold ambitions. "We are pushing for the same market conditions as animal proteins. Why, for example, is 20 per cent VAT levied on pea-based milk while for cow’s milk, this figure is under 6 per cent? Plant-based products are also more expensive because you can't achieve economies of scale due to the lower quantities required. If you consider all the “negative external effects” of animal products on human health and the environment, our sector deserves support until we reach a certain scale."

Change of mindset

The entrepreneur also laments how the retail sector uses meat as a decoy product, lowering its margins to offer consumers an attractive price. "In times of inflation, that price difference is all the more detrimental to us. This is why a change of mindset is essential. Nutritionists say that a weekly serving of just 200 to 250 grammes of meat is enough to get the nutritional benefits with no negative impact. But at the moment, most Belgians consume 200 grammes of meat per day."

Bosly also cites competition from imported agricultural products as an obstacle.

Cosucra is ready to change the world. Discover even more inspiring entrepreneurial stories.

"The European Green Deal aims to reduce inputs by half, leading to the ban of many herbicides, among other things. Farmers should be supported in this transition. And a company like Cosucra, which buys chicory and peas within a 200-kilometre radius, is not on an equal footing with strong Chinese competition."

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