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.”


Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

Updated 13 August 2020

Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

  • Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months

JEDDAH: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity is plunging in lockstep with Turkey’s collapsing economy and the country is on the verge of a potentially devastating recession, financial experts have told Arab News.
The value of the Turkish lira has fallen to 7.30 against the US dollar and the central bank has spent $65 billion to prop up the currency, according to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months as the government moved to help families during the coronavirus pandemic, but the result has been a surge in inflation to 12 percent.
With the falling lira and increased price of imported goods, the living standards of many Turks who earn in lira but have dollar debts have fallen sharply.
The economy is expected to shrink by about 4 percent this year. The official unemployment rate remains at 12.8 percent because layoffs are banned, although many experts say the real figures are far higher.
To complete the perfect storm, tourism revenues and exports have been decimated by the pandemic, and foreign capital has fled amid fears over economic trends and the independence of the central bank.
Wolfango Piccoli, of Teneo Intelligence in London, said logic dictated an increase in interest rates but “this is unlikely to happen.”
Piccoli said central bank officials would strive to avoid an outright rate hike at their monetary policy meeting on Aug. 20. “A mix of controlled devaluation and backdoor policies, such as limiting Turkish lira’s liquidity, remains their preferred approach,” he said.
There is speculation of snap elections, and Erdogan’s view is that higher interest rates cause inflation, despite considerable economic evidence to the contrary.