Why the gig economy has more concerns than zero-hour contracts

Delegates at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh heard on Thursday that gig economy companies are having to focus on the communities they serve to secure long-term sustainability, jobs, and more importantly trust and security. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2019

Why the gig economy has more concerns than zero-hour contracts

  • All gig economy companies have to consider security
  • Mudassir Sheikha, co-founder and CEO of Careem spoke at the event

RIYADH: Gig economy companies are nothing new to the region — people have been using the likes of Zomato and Careem for many years.
But while these companies continue to strive to be major international success stories, they are also having to focus on the communities they serve to secure long-term sustainability, jobs, and more importantly trust and security, delegates at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh heard on Thursday.
Mudassir Sheikha, co-founder and CEO of Careem, said the aim of the ride-hailing service is to “simplify and make the lives of others easier.”
He added that the issue of trust faced by ride-hailing companies “is more challenging,” especially when expanding to some of the Middle East’s less stable countries, “so we have to become the brand that inspires trust.”
He said Careem’s expansion to other countries in the region raised other security concerns. “When going into places like Iraq and Palestine, we needed to know how to ensure that when getting into a car, you aren’t then taken away and kidnapped,” he added.
It was a learning curve that first took the firm to Pakistan, so they could learn what it was like to operate in a “slightly more challenging market.”
Sheikha said Careem worked with the same security companies that dealt with multinational corporations and the US Consulate.
He added that eventually, they knew every aspect that they felt was necessary to ensure the security of their customers.
With a lot of unknowns attached, all gig economy companies have to consider security. Food-delivery firms have to build trust and make sure they have a true understanding of the communities they serve.
These firms are not competing with multinational organizations, and they are providing a service that had not previously existed.
Food-delivery companies such as Zomato, Deliveroo and Careem need to know that the restaurants they are delivering food from are reliable and hygienic.
“People in India don’t actually trust the quality of food. They don’t know whether to trust that the kitchens are hygienic or not, whether the raw materials are hygienic or not,” said Gaurav Gupta, founder and CEO of Zomato Media India. “We’ve used the reviews and ratings system to get more trust.”
He said Zomato also created HyperPure, a company that ensures food is sourced from trusted local providers.
Food-delivery companies have another unique issue: Their customer base is at both ends — the producer and consumer.
So it pays for companies like Zomato to ensure their producers have a full understanding of the competition.
“When we ask restaurants ‘who do you compete with?’ they often say ‘the guy next door’,” Gupta said. “But we tell them ‘you don’t compete with the guy next door — you compete with home-cooked food.”
He said up to 97 percent of meals consumed by an individual in India are home cooked — only 3-4 percent of meals are bought from restaurants and other outlets.
Most multinational companies work on reputation — they sell consistency. The high-street supermarket is a brand and people have their favorites.
But there is little expectation for those services to vary much from a major city to a small secluded town.
The online UAE-based shopping site Noon.com was set up to compete with the previously named Souq.com (now part of Amazon).
Noon CEO Faraz Khalid said local knowledge is key to success. When it came to shooting an advert for the upcoming Black Friday campaign, Noon had to create three versions to cater for all cultures.
“People like to be spoken to in the way they speak to each other. It’s these local nuances you definitely need to be aware of. It makes it more exciting,” said Khalid.
“But also I think if you do it well, it can give you some form of long-term sustainable income.”


Oil giants’ production cuts come to 1m bpd as they post massive write-downs

Updated 10 August 2020

Oil giants’ production cuts come to 1m bpd as they post massive write-downs

  • Crude output worldwide dropped sharply after the market crashed in April

LONDON: The world’s five largest oil companies collectively cut the value of their assets by nearly $50 billion in the second quarter, and slashed production rates as the coronavirus pandemic caused a drastic fall in fuel prices and demand.

The dramatic reductions in asset valuations and decline in output show the depth of the pain in the second quarter. Fuel demand at one point was down by more than 30 percent worldwide.

Several executives said they took massive write-downs because they expect demand to remain impaired for several more quarters as people travel less and use less fuel due to the ongoing global pandemic.

Of those five companies, only Exxon Mobil did not book sizeable impairments. But an ongoing reevaluation of its plans could lead to a “significant portion” of its assets being impaired, it reported, and signal the elimination of 20 percent or 4.4 billion barrels of its oil and gas reserves.

By contrast, BP took a $17 billion hit. It said it plans to recenter its spending in coming years around renewables and less on oil and natural gas.

Weak demand means oil producers must revisit business plans, said Lee Maginniss, managing director at consultants Alarez & Marsal. He said the goal should be to pump only what generates cash in excess of overhead costs.

“It’s low-cost production mode through the end of 2021 for sure, and to 2022 to the extent there are new development plans being contemplated,” Maginniss said.

London-based BP has previously said it plans to cut its overall output by roughly 1 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOEPD) by the end of 2030 from its current 3.6 million BOEPD.

Of the five, Exxon is the largest producer, with daily output of 3.64 million BOEPD, but its production dropped 408,000 BOEPD between the first and second quarters. The five majors, which include Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell and Total SA, also cut capital expenditures by a combined $25 billion between the quarters.

Crude output worldwide dropped sharply after the market crashed in April. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut output by nearly 10 million barrels a day to balance out supply and demand in the market.