On-demand is in Demand

Want someone to wash your laundry or give you a haircut in the comfort of your living room? There are an on-demand smartphone apps that offer these services and many more.

By Zeid Nasser

The phrase “there’s an app for that” was coined around the time we all started to realize just how brilliant mobile applications could be at helping us complete simple, everyday tasks.

But the well-worn phrase has now started to take on a whole new meaning and could actually be rephrased as: “There’s an app that will give your job to someone else, because that person is available on-demand.”

In a nutshell, it explains the reason why some labor unions and governments are waging war on Uber, the on-demand ride-hailing service launched in 2009 which connects customers with freelance drivers who are available in the area and arrive on short notice.

Its huge success has caused waves of discontent among traditional taxi drivers. Protests against Uber have become common occurrences across Europe and the United States. Taxi drivers argue that enlisting amateur drivers who don’t have high licensing fees gives Uber an unfair competitive advantage. Apparently, the income of taxi drivers has fallen in some European countries by one third in the past two years. Every week, new objections emerge about Uber. Even the mayor of New York warned the growing number of Uber cars on the streets of the city could lead to mass congestion.

It’s disruptive, but it’s the next big thing in our mobile-driven lifestyle as analysts believe that Uber has a potential 1.1 trillion dollar market size and say that the app has prompted a reclassification of the transportation industry.

That’s why entrepreneurs, egged on by excited investors, are capitalizing on this trend by creating on-demand apps enabling users to get doctors, domestic help, haircuts, and even pet care.

According to CrunchBase, the directory and data section of TechCrunch, investment in on-demand startups is currently peaking, with over 120 startups now funded close to the tune of $2 billion. Not a week goes by without a founder claiming their startup is the Uber of this or that industry.

Medicast claims to be the world’s first on-demand platform for delivering medical care. While VetPronto is a version for your pets. Bannerman allows you to instantly hire a private security guard for a flat fee of $35 per hour. Shortcut is a service that connects you with on-demand barbers. It’s an expensive haircut at $75, but you’re paying for the convenience. Pamper, Priv, and GlossPod enable customers to enjoy manicures and pedicures in the comfort of their home or office.

The laundry and dry cleaning industry is also getting the on-demand treatment with Laundrapp in the UK and FlyCleaner in the United States, both of whom will pick up your laundry in 20 minutes. Several popular on-demand apps for garden care have also appeared. Plowz and Mowz will plow the snow off your driveway in the winter and mow the lawn in the summer.

Parking also has its on-demand services like ZIRX and Luxe, which give you a personal valet waiting to park your car. Then there’s SpotHero which enables you to locate and reserve a parking space yourself. For fitness enthusiasts, there’s Vint, which matches fitness instructors with customers in a choice between one-on-one or group sessions. Handy is a service that matches household jobs with independent contractors on the fly, and so do other similar services such as HomeJoy and TaskRabbit.

All these on-demand services could just represent the tip of the iceberg in the exponentially growing app economy.

However, the best established and fastest growing on-demand services are in the food delivery business. Apparently, it’s a good fit for the food eco-system players. Watch food on-demand explode worldwide, with global players like FoodPanda and DeliveryHero acquiring emerging local players.

There could still be many obstacles along the way, other than just regulatory issues. Recruitment specialists expect that there will be a shortage of independent workers in several sectors due to many emerging on-demand companies competing to hire the same on-demand talent.

But that highlights the rather old-fashioned benefit these smartphone-driven, cloud-based services actually provide: person-to-person experiences that make the consumer feel valued. Isn’t that what classic salesmanship is all about?

That’s why on-demand is in demand. You had better prepare for it, especially if you’re a skilled worker in a service-delivery industry. It will reshape your career and cause upheaval for companies and industry bodies you work for. Adapt or expect to be Ubered.