Change Practitioner of the Month- March 2016

Hostility and bitter rivalry between competitors is nothing new, particularly in business. Whether it’s Apple v. Samsung or Coca Cola v. Pepsi, competition is the corner stone of our capitalist society. Indeed, Adam Smith in his book “The Wealth of Nations” argues that free and open competition, as opposed to monopolies and restrictive controls, are key to ensuring the benefit of all society. And this was way back in 1776!

So you see nothing has really changed. And in this month’s blog, we recognise a company who has responded not only to their rival’s dominance of their market sector, but also to the necessity for competition in order to maintain high-quality standards for their customers. The Facilitate4Me Change Practitioner for March 2016 is awarded to ‘Gett’, for their multi-million pound buy-out of taxi rival ‘Radio Taxis’, thus becoming Britain’s biggest black cab app.

Ever since Uber launched itself into the UK taxi market back in 2012, it has exploded with an unprecedented amount of popularity. Rapidly expanding to 400 cities worldwide in just four short years, it currently boasts 25,000 drivers in just London alone.  Points of praise for the company mostly centres around their cheap prices and the ease with which drivers are able to meet customers anywhere at anytime. So everyone’s happy.

Well, not everyone.

Simmering beneath the surface of Uber’s rise to power has been the growing hostility amongst traditional black taxi drivers in London. That hostility has boiled over into a series of mass protests from those who feel they are losing out to Uber’s cheaper rides and the alleged increasing number of their unlicensed drivers on the road. As we previously noted in our 2014 blog, the sense of frustration felt towards Uber from black taxi cabs, for forcing an industry change is not to be under-estimated and has seen disgruntled black cabbies try everything within their powers to make this change disappear. Their last public effort involved calling on the government to limit the number of private hire vehicles in London, ban several features of the Uber app and force Uber customers to face a wait of at least five minutes before the arrival of the cabs. This wasn’t successful.

But whilst some people seem to be so fixated on tearing down the opposition, others are more focused on rolling their sleeves up and taking them head on.

Introducing Gett.

Gett is a relatively unknown taxi company, with a presence in the US, UK, Russia and Israel. Like Uber, customers can request a taxi from the app, but unlike Uber, there is no minimum fare with Gett and there is no surge pricing (when fare prices are increased during peak times). It is because of these differences that the Gett Managing Director for western Europe, Remo Gerber, believes that both firms, and indeed other rival taxi companies, can happily coexist in London. In an interview with Business Insider he said, “I don’t believe in killing, I believe in competition. It’s a very large market. It’s not a winner takes all”.

Their recent acquisition of Radio Taxis means that Gett will now have a combined total of 11,500 licensed taxi drivers on its books. And although it is still a good 10,000 short of the number of Uber drivers in London, it is still encouraging and extremely welcoming to see a company responding to change in a proactive and positive way.  No one can hope to have a monopoly over ideas or an industry. To do so will mean that society neither develops nor improves.

It is easy for black cabbies to beat their chests in anger and protest at what they perceive to be a threat to the status quo, but in a free society where creativity is promoted and healthy competition is the motivator for increasingly high standards, black cabbies would do well to embrace the inevitable and either align themselves with Gett or try something more positive than attempting to hold back change.

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