Thursday, February 26, 2015

Technology is a double edged sword.

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Welcome to Malaysia’s new smart phone induced internet fed frenzy.  Peer to Peer & Business to Consumer (B2C) apps.

For brick and mortar business owners, it doesn't take much these days to make the link between the meager bottom line and disappearing profit margins to see the impact peer to peer platforms and B2C platforms have created in our tourism and service industries. This brings disruption to the traditional profit lines of hotels,restaurants and many others in the traditional service concept as they attempt to share their profits and compete with online booking websites similar to Travago.

For the hospitality industry in general, now it appears they have to shirk off competition from B2C platforms as well. We have the leading contender Airbnb and Couch Surfer– the sites which offers alternative accommodations for weary travelers seeking unconventional places to stay, such as private homes, a seaside villa, or even something as simple as a sofa bed in the corner of the host’s living room. To put it simply, apart from room or home-sharing, these peer-to-peer business arrangements could involve a car ride, a neighbor’s lawn mower, or even someone’s time.

Peer-to-peer business module is fast becoming popular as it pools both ends of demand and supply from consumers in general and society as a whole and it looks to break our known cultural and financial barriers. Examples of sharing-based companies which have received flak from industry players and regulatory authorities include the popular Airbnb and Uber, both of which are available in Malaysia.

What technology has done today, is it has basically allowed an alternative to the traditional brick and mortar, government regulated service industry to compete with individuals offering similar systems.

Apps in smart phones allow these service offers to grow at such an incredible scale whereby for example, a single person’s review of a restaurant can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people by just a click of a button. It has amplified the ability to truly enhance the ‘sharing’ aspect and this is what has disrupted traditional economies. As long as the system can build trust and give credibility, it will turn that piece of shared information into something valuable.

Moving forward on that paradigm, ordinary app users then realized the niche they had and started to offer their personal time, room and skills for monetary returns. In the national news lime light recently were Taxi drivers up in arms about the competition from smart phone apps such as Blacklane, Uber, & Grabcar. The national Taxi association,PERS1M even issued a warning to SPAD (the National Transport Agency) to speed up its enforcement against these new competitive upstarts or risk seeing more and more taxi drivers losing out to these new upstarts.

On another level, imagine the benefit when a social media app can connect a person at home to share to the community that they need someone to pick up condiments for the curry that the person is cooking, and someone who is free and standing near the grocery store gets that piece of information and can make a decision on whether they would like to help out. That’s the concept behind another peer to peer app for smart phone owners- Goget.

Goget-currently in its beta service here in Malaysia and available only in the Klang Valley but no doubt will be crossing the state borders once they gain momentum.
What GoGet does, is that it simply connects smart phone owners with the other smart phone owners by providing better access to information about what is currently in need, It also helps sharing excess capacity that people have and thus ultimately create an opportunity to earn money and get help at the same time.

People are open to such things if it brings value to them, and GoGet is a direct help to the busy city dweller or small and medium enterprises (SMEs) looking for help to deliver or do errands for them. 

For food enthusiasts we now have Plate Culture, which encourages anyone to pop into your house, enjoy the meal and hospitality (for a price) and lets you leave a review for the next person to judge your cooking, ambiance and service. Plate Culture has currently 50 hosts in and around the Malaysian peninsular.

And let’s not forget the lower end of the tourism market commerce -the touch and go crowd. For these people there’s now even a Airpnp – a mobile optimized web app that “gives residences and businesses the opportunity to rent out their bathrooms to people in their immediate location”.

“Who’s got it & who need to use it.” Is the current mantra of these B2C start ups.

So business owners need to be updated these days on why their thinning bottom line is becoming a normal affair.

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