Friday, February 3, 2017

(The Big Disrupt) Uber: lessons from #deleteuber


Uber has largely made its name fighting tooth and nail with taxi drivers and local authorities but with Uber cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanic removing himself from president Trump's strategy and policy forum, it showed that there was a relationship the San Francisco based company wasn't prepared to test: the one it has with its customers. 

Uber's popularity is why the rideshare service can scale and dominate local markets in short order before taxi drivers, local authorities and competitors can blink which has made them as the world's no. 1 rideshare service. However, despite their popularity and dominant market position, the company is no stranger to controversy.   

Kalanic's exit from the Strategic Policy forum is a serious blow to Trump's hopes of improving his relationship with Silicon Valley which so far has been frosty at best. Uber's head honcho's departure could also see other members follow suit in light of the president's controversial immigration order that prohibits immigration from a number of middle east countries which incensed many in silicon valley and across the country. 

Uber's attempt to provide assistance to those stranded during the numerous nationwide protests sparked by Trump's order has made them persona non grata among some of their customers as they interpreted Uber's decision to still take rides during the protest as a way to weaken its potency. The fallout was immediate as thousands of Uber customers took to social media to express their disgust publicly deleting their Uber accounts and creating new ones with the company's mortal enemy, Lyft. Lyft were less than subtle to say the least in exploiting the situation as they pledged $1 million to the ACLU to "protect the constitution" and, of course, all too welcoming of the new business sent their way. 

Despite the fact that it's not exactly clear how Uber would have been able to stop its drivers from picking up passengers during the protests and are doing more than Lyft to provide assistance to those affected by Trump's order, the damage was already done. The damage done won't be easy to repair and it will take an awful lot more than Kalanick leaving the president's strategic policy forum to heal the rift. 

It can argued that Uber should have seen something like this coming this given the fact that Donald Trump is possibly the most unpopular and polarizing figure ever to become president. Why Uber would align itself  with an unpopular president who's naturally combative and likes to be the story even when the story is damaging seems beyond reason as Uber were almost certainly going to be affected by any fallout resulting from his controversial immigration polices. 

In sum, while Uber are far and away the world's no .1  rideshare service, political faux pas like this could bring the company to its knees as this week showed, they're dominant and popular but, most importantly, replaceable.  

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