I rarely get thrilled by ultra luxurious experiences. I mean, we all love luxury, but for some of us, a few things in life make us tick a little more than others. It could be a smart afternoon conversation over coffee, or a brown-bag session about the future of communication.
But as the years pass by, you learn that luxury is an element of aspiration, and mostly appreciation, of your own life and that of every living organism surrounding you, including your pets and plants. As the years pass by, many of us understand that refusing to have their coffee but with the right density of foam, or their music, but tuned to their favorite notes, is neither hubris on the expense of the waiter’s temper, nor contempt for the service of their host coffee shop. It is simply the need to cherish every moment in life with what fully vibrates one’s sensations.
In one’s lifetime, riding a car is an experience of its own, upon which we stumble on a daily basis, and the luxury of which we plan for as early as eighth grade.
Riding a car is risky, tiring, and thrilling at once. The motion itself is what makes it as such. The speed, the bumps, the leaps. There is no wonder why people fantasize about cars, die in cars, make movies about cars, and obviously pay so much for cars.
If I were to stop now, and think of how many times I took a cab in Dubai till day, I would definitely lose count. I am enjoying the car-less life in Dubai, and for a reason it just got addictive. Those endless cab conversations (and fights) with cab drivers, and the no-commitment feeling to park, maintain, or look after a vehicle.
It got even more addictive when I started using Uber, the taxi service app company that got the whole startup world busy talking about it, and its disruptive business model. In the most simplistic way I can put it, Uber is one of those companies of the new world order of economies. Think AirBnB, AliBaba, Facebook. As put in the words of advertising expert Tom Goodwin:
“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
Interestingly, these companies rather provide a service by which they bring to you the luxury of having access to the best and most competitive community-led offerings. They act as the middle man between you and the service or good provider, managing the process efficiently, and making both parties rely on them for a better user experience and higher profitability, respectively.
Smart? very. A much lower implementation cost, much higher scalability, and most importantly the least responsibility whenever anything happens between you and the service provider.
A Closer Look at the ‘Uber’ Model.
If we take a closer look at Uber’s terms of service, it is clear that Uber claims no responsibility for your safety as a passenger:
So technically, your Uber ‘chauffeur’ is your own responsibility. And taking an even closer look at that, there is absolutely no hypocrisy from the side of the company.
I must state that the latest India’s rape incident was certainly tragic. But such an incident could have happened whether it was an ‘Uber driver’ or a regular cab hitch-hiked off the street. The most unfortunate part in such a story is that as grown up customers we still often assume too much responsibility on any company, with little investigation over our rights and responsibilities as users. We became used to ‘Accept’ those terms and conditions without even looking. And we shall learn to never assume companies have got our backs all the time.
In fact, Uber has acknowledged the need to do a better job at running background checks for drivers, but by putting the responsibility on the shoulders of the driver, Uber is also rightfully nurturing the sense of self-awareness among drivers, and pushing them to drive you home safely, because otherwise they may end up in jail or losing their job. A total Libertarian move and a customer-centric approach from the app company that totally fits within its mission as a ‘Network Orchestrator’, no more no less:
In their 2014 HBR publication, Barry Libert, Yoram (Jerry) Wind, and Megan Beck Fenley looked at the way companies create value and attract investors, and identified four corporate business models. Compared to Asset builders (e.g. Ford company), Service providers (e.g. Accenture company), Technology Creators (e.g. Oracle), Uber, AirBnB and Facebook were classified as Network Orchestrators.
According to their analysis, Network Orchestrators outperform companies with other business models on several financial measures. These advantages include higher valuations relative to their revenue, larger profit margins, and faster growth.
In fact, with an impressive growth rate, Uber has made it to the region (Abu Dhabi, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Manama, and Riyadh) among its overall 57 cities within less than 6 years of launching; and made the cab experience for many of us somewhat more pleasurable.
A Chit-Chat with My Driver.
In fact, I just got back home from a lunch with a friend on the terrace of a lovely spot in Madinat Jumeira. I landed home off an Uber car, and a ride that was about 20 minutes and five clicks away.
- Launched Uber app, and set my pick up location.
- Ordered an UberX, a.k.a the regular/not premium service of an Uber ride. (Uber has two types of services: UberX and UberBLACK, the former servicing customers through Toyota or other types of cars while the latter having a Lexus car service. Out of experience, I noticed that as an UberX customer in Dubai you can still get a Lexus almost 50% of the times. The reason for that is that the drivers eligible for UberBlack pick ups may still decide to take a customer who orders an uberX in order to optimize their daily revenues).
- Waited for my driver to show up, all while tracking him real time.
- Seven minutes later, et Voilà, I am on board. Smoothly riding a Lexus back home.
“Hello, Miss Nancy?” (confirming that I am the customer he is supposed to pick up)
“Herself, Ride on!”…“It must have been a busy day? So much traffic.”
“Oh mam, it’s Dubai”
“Where are you from my friend?”
“So tell me, is it possible to make a living with this Uber job you do with so many toll fees per day?”
“Toll fees? no mam, Uber pays for that, and we get to keep 80% of what we make.”
“So it pays off to work for Uber in Dubai afterall?”
“Yes mam. It is very good, hamdulillah. I was a Taxi driver before, but with Uber, it is like it is my own business; it is different. Now with Uber; I can make up to AED 4000 per week if I work more than 12 hours per day. And we get our pay-checks every Wednesday”.
“But you have to pay for gas and account for your car depreciation?”
“Yes mam, but in Dubai, Uber is still more expensive than regular cabs; in other countries Uber is cheaper than taxi.”
“Cool! Can I start working with Uber myself?”
(laughing)- “If you have a limousine license and a driving license in the country, yes mam you can.”
A limousine license? I guess not.
But anyway, there it is, the smell you can never be mistaken about, the smell of your own house. The one that tells you you’re home.
And just like that, after a boisterous afternoon at Madinat, a lengthy conversation with Faruq, and a gaze into the sunset on my ride back home, I am off to prepare my favorite cup of cappuccino, with just the right amount of foam; while playing my favourite late afternoon tunes; Marwan Khoury, Café del Mar, or at best a selection of bubblé hits.