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.
How can the blue economy make a difference?
What if the future of sustainable business is at the bottom of the ocean for once? Marine biodiversity contains resources that can meet the environmental challenges of many sectors. Perhaps yours, too. Find out more during an online event about the promising blue economy on 11 March 2021.
Blue is the new green
71% of our planet consists of water. Seas and oceans play a crucial role in our climate, and coastal areas can capture up to five times more CO2 than tropical forests. The blue economy wants to benefit from all these advantages to improve both the environment and our well-being,
With local being the keyword. And that's where the difference lies with the green economy, which also focuses on the environment and health, but not always in such a sustainable and smart way. Eating organically grown quinoa from Ecuador, for example, is healthy and eco-friendly, but transporting it here is expensive and creates high amounts of pollution.
What does the underwater world have to offer that can be reused, recycled or converted into new sustainable products? A lot, it turns out, as the unique properties of organisms such as algae, starfish, jellyfish or sea cucumbers can be transformed into sustainable products with high added value. This is a process that requires creativity and innovation, and is already with us today.
For your sector, too
The blue economy is expanding rapidly and could bring about a revolution in a wide range of sectors such as healthcare, food, the plastics industry, cosmetics, energy and even aerospace. It is fully capable of helping companies transform their traditional activities into a sustainable model. And in Belgium's ports, the country already has a huge advantage and excellent access to coastal and offshore areas.
Another scoop of microalgae?
Microalgae, for example, offer a lot of promise, as they can renew themselves and thrive both in the desert and in the ocean. They contain many healthy components, such as proteins, that can be used to develop food products.
When discussing the oceans, the plastic problem is never far away. Human beings are producing more and more plastic as the world's population grows, yet the problem with the existing plastic is that it's nigh on impossible to recycle as its components are hard to separate. By making a completely different type of plastic from biomass, its recycling is already considered at the design stage. A large amount of biomass remains unused in the oceans, and using smart, natural polymers could revolutionise plastic production, for example. These polymers are capable of self-renewal and can adapt to their environment.
Who will pay for it?
Great ideas, you think, but who will pay for them? The financial sector certainly wants to play a role in this revolution and is prepared to take risks and invest in new technologies, production systems and R&D.
This commitment was formalised in various ways during the climate week in New York at the end of September 2020. BNP Paribas signed the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) and joined the UNEP FI's Collective Commitment to Climate Action, a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and the financial sector. In terms of the maritime sector, the Bank committed to working with customers to preserve and sustain the oceans. Read more about this commitment here (only available in French).
Would you like to find out whether the blue economy could make a difference to your sector?
Sign up here for a free online event on this subject on 11 March 2021 (in English only), organised by BNP Paribas Fortis Transport, Logistics and Ports Chair.
What is the future for mobility post-coronavirus?
The health and economic crisis has affected all aspects of every sector. Among them, mobility, for both private individuals and for companies.
Mobility is evolving every day. And it has been driven further as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Many people have been locked down and working from home has been widespread in many parts of the world.
The coronavirus crisis has changed concerns about transport
We are no longer moving around in the same way. And concerns are no longer the same. According to a BCG Consulting report, social distancing and vehicle cleanliness are the most important aspects for 41% and 39% of respondents, respectively, when choosing a mode of transport. There is also pre- and post-Covid mobility, with respondents being more likely to choose walking, their own bicycle or scooter, or their car than before the crisis.
Sustainable and alternative mobility in the years to come
Mobility has not necessarily waited for the coronavirus crisis in order to evolve. And, according to the same report, the share of more environmentally-friendly vehicles will continue to increase. By 2035, more than 35% of new vehicles will be electric cars, becoming the predominant form of motorised transport worldwide. Autonomous cars will also become more common, with 10% of vehicles being level 4 vehicles (able to travel without a driver, for example), and 65% level 2 or higher.
Customised mobility for employees, right now
The future of mobility is also relevant now, especially for businesses and the self-employed. The need for alternative modes of transport does not only concern private individuals, but also employees. There is no longer a single mode of transport for all situations, but a range of means depending on the need at a given moment. Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, electric bicycles, a public transport season ticket, car sharing, leasing, etc. These modes can take different forms and be combined in a mobility card, for example. There are benefits for the employees and managers of a company but also for the company itself through cost reduction, optimisation and fleet management.
Find out more about our tailor-made mobility solutions
The road to alternative mobility
Nowadays, responsible fleet management is built around sustainability. We're here to help you identify and realise your Corporate Social Responsibility ambitions.
Together we can cut your company's carbon footprint, improve employee mobility, and make sure these steps become a central pillar of your company's added value. In short, our aim is to have an alternative mobility policy.
We can help you make the switch to alternative mobility and new technologies to reduce your carbon footprint. Our SMaRT approach ensures your fleet has the best energy mix to match your strategy and driver profiles.
Alternative mobility needs new technologies to go hand in hand with new infrastructure. That's why we offer not only electric cars, but also the right charging solutions, too. As part of our integrated service provision we can determine how many charging points you need, install them, and manage how they are used both at the workplace and at the driver's home.
Modern mobility management is about more than just cars or vans. You need a 360-degree approach. We'll work with you to determine your mobility strategy and needs. Greener cars are just one of the options available. We have a number of mobility management solutions (such as the Mobility Card) and alternative mobility solutions (such as bicycle leasing) to inspire your organisation to offer a more flexible range.
Focus on employees
When you put your employees at the heart of your organisation, you're in a better position to find skilled employees, satisfy them, and retain them. Go a step further than just an alternative mobility solution: focus on their safety and let them play an active role in achieving your sustainability goals. Trust us to improve their safety and integrate new technologies.
Operational leasing is offered by Arval Belgium SA/NV, with the intervention of BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV – Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, B-1000 Brussels, Brussels Register of Companies VAT BE0403.199.702.
Promotion only available from Thursday 21 January up to and including Wednesday 31 March 2021 and is only available to professional clients (self-employed, liberal professionals and SMEs) of BNP Paribas Fortis and Fintro.
The information provided here does not constitute an offer. An offer is made only after your file has been accepted and is always subject to Arval Belgium SA/NV's General Terms and Conditions.
Mobility, more than just four wheels
BNP Paribas Fortis offers complete mobility solutions. Sometimes a four-wheeled fleet is not enough for your mobility needs.
As a reliable partner, we can help you with every step – or pedal – of your mobility trajectory.
Mobility analysis and advice
Our mobility managers can work together with your relationship manager to develop a future-focused mobility strategy.
We start by listening to you: we want to understand your needs and concerns when it comes to mobility. This is our starting point for creating the best mobility solution for you and your company. We will build on this foundation with our expertise, while also taking Belgium's specific legal and fiscal ecosystem into account.
New mobility solutions
As well asfull-service leasing,we also offer our core product giving you access to our full mobility range, a wide range of basic services and added-value services such ascar parts,carpool management,bicycle leasingandmobility cards. All of our mobility services and their associated services such as parking, electric charging, fuel, tolls and car washing are within reach.
Managing your mobility budget
We'll help you and offer advice about implementing the federal mobility budget[VBK1] in your company. If that's too limited to meet your specific needs and aims, we can develop a personalised mobility budget solution to manage your mobility costs in line with the legal framework, just as we've done for a number of clients previously.
We've already implemented some tailored cost-neutral solutions, allowing our clients to combine lease cars with lease bicycles or other mobility solutions. This means the company can meet its goals while also making good on its promises and obligations.
Those ambitions might range from an ambitious CO2 agenda to a competitive offer to attract talent or a solution to solve your lack of car parking spaces.