My Uber predictions

Last week, there was a ‘rape’ incident in New Delhi that involved a cab driver who was part of the Uber network. It created quite a storm in India with protests from all quarters and subsequently, Uber was banned in New Delhi and several other states. I wrote the post below in 2008 when I was a MBA student in Japan. I predicted the emergence of a taxi service model riding on the social networking technology and also, predicted that such a service could be misused by criminals if not managed well. Both the predictions have come true. More from the post below but before you start reading, please don’t forget to rewind back to 2008 when social networking sites were in their early days.

11 January 2008

We had a great guest lecture at campus today through the Mobile Consumer Lab of Prof.Sugai. Mr.Jonathan Brown from Forrester Research gave an inspiring lecture on Mobile Social Computing among Japanese users.My mind was immediately thinking on how we can use this for practical applications in India.

SNS stands for Social Networking Service. Facebook, Orkut, flickR, Myspace are some of the most popular SNS services currently available.Some new services are available where using your mobile you can let people know where you are and what you are doing.Twitter.com is a great example.If you leave a message in twitter, it will send that message to all your friends’ mobile phones.If I go to Bombay tomorrow and I want to invite my friends out for dinner, I dont have to call each one of them or I dont have to plan the previous day.I just have to send a message from the place where I am and if someone happens to be in that area then he/she can join.Isnt it cool ?

Take for example, the Auto Drivers/Taxi Drivers in Bombay.They can have a mobile social networking with their local communities.For example, the auto drivers can have a community.Anyone who uses their services can become a member of the community.If I send a message to the community members saying,”I am in chedda nagar bus stop.I need a taxi/auto to go to Worli.Any one out there to take me?” Now immediately,all the auto/taxi drivers in the community will receive the message on their phones.If some auto driver happens to be in that area, then he can make business immediately.For every business he makes, a small service fee can be charged through the mobile operator.

There is a good opportunity for advertising as well.SNS has a space for filling your profile and based on the user profile, ads can be customized and sent to both the parties.When the user types and sends the message, the auto driver who receives the message will get an ad along with the message.It will be the same for the customer when he/she receives the acknowledgement from the autodriver.

Isn’t it simple?

But the real problem lies in the implementation and adoption of mobile internet.Some of the problems are

1. Taxi drivers use mobile phones but not mobile internet.They have to be taught how to use internet and SNS.But it is controllable and possible with some efforts.Once people see the power of networking, they will learn.

2. Many people use the internet for all the wrong reasons.They may harass taxi drivers saying they are waiting in a particular place and not show up. Also, criminals could register in the name of taxi drivers and use these communities for criminal activities.

3. Mobile phone data services will pick up if the data speed is really high. 3G will solve this problem but they need to subsidize this service for auto drivers. GPS and advanced features will make the phone expensive.They cannot afford to buy expensive phones or can pay extra for these kind of services.

Innovation lies in providing effective solutions to address these challenges. Technology can do so much to these regions than in the developed countries where it is just an extra convenience.Mobile technology can be used for such services that solve the real day to day problems that people face in their lives than using it for services like fortune telling and astrology.

ImageCredits: http://nscbikolkata.weebly.com/

Original blogpost : http://vgthinks.blogspot.ch/2008/01/sns-more-than-friendship.html

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed here are those of the author and are not related to his organisation or affiliation.

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