Mohammed Sha Mohammed Sha Director of International Marketing Communications - Asia Info

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Uber Goes From Cabs to Kebabs

  • These digital disruptors just do not stop, do they? Having totally transformed transport habits worldwide with its taxi-booking app, Uber now has the takeaways industry in its sights.


    Taxi - Uber Asia InfoWith its sister service UberEats, Uber is primed to gobble into a global takeaway market worth a whopping  $75 billion. Designed to rival the likes of Deliveroo and JustEat, UberEats is available in several US cities, and more recently launched in London and Sydney. From cabs to kebabs in one fell swoop.


    The Uber Grab


    Uber only launched in 2007 but already the brand has infiltrated our everyday lexicon, and taken on common noun status: ‘I’ll just grab an Uber’. Considering the number of times words like “easy,” “convenient” and “great” appear in Uber’s App store reviews, it’s no wonder that old-fashioned taxis are starting to take the back seat.


    But while its users may associate Uber with easy and inexpensive taxi hire, the company is actually a very sophisticated marketplace, acting as an interface between drivers and passengers (for a commission, it connects drivers and passengers, sets the fee, and handles payment).


    So while users may just ‘grab an Uber’, the company itself wants to grab its way into new markets – and extend the reach of its powerful software platform. So far, this has proved fairly easy. Consumers have bought into the Uber brand, and the user-friendly service it represents. New partners, whilst not universally complimentary about Uber, recognize the power of the service, and the phenomenal scale it offers them.


    Last year Tom Goodwin wrote a much-cited article for TechCrunch where he explained that the big battle for these digital “interface owners” is in expanding the reach of their sophisticated platforms.


    “Uber, Instacart, Alibaba, Airbnb, Seamless, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google: These companies are indescribably thin layers that sit on top of vast supply systems (where the costs are) and interface with a huge number of people (where the money is). There is no better business to be in.”


    Could telcos replicate the Platform as a Service (PaaS) model?


    The idea of telcos occupying a similarly central position in the evolving digital ecosystem is not new. Nor is there a lack of available technology to support them in implementing these innovative business ideas – AsiaInfo’s Veris O2P is a proven example of such platforms in the market.


    There is huge potential for operators as digital players especially if they leverage their full capabilities, and take ownership of the Enterprise role (a PaaS approach, similar to that of Uber, WeChat, etc). This would see them sitting in the middle of brands, channels and consumers, in order to deliver the customer experience, commercial path and partner integration processes. Their pitch: a trusted partner that can enable brands to monetize and scale their services.


    In just under seven years, Uber has completely overturned a global transport market. It is set to do the same again with takeaways – and who knows what this ambitious digital brand will set its sight on next? Telcos must move fast. Before other pockets of opportunity get similarly gobbled up.

    Mohammed Sha
    About Mohammed Sha Mohammed Sha works as Director of International Marketing Communications at Asia Info
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