How Tech is Spawning a Breed of Monopolies

Photo by Aedrian on Unsplash

Back in the early days of the Indian start-up ecosystem, disruption was the word to define a start-up.

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources can successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.

Source:https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-is-disruptive-innovation

And while most claims of disruptive innovations are exaggerated and do not meet the standards of the original idea, yet, they brought such massive shifts in consumer behavior that they were disruptive to the common folks like me.

Flipkart changed the way I shopped for books, and then utilities.

Amazon upped the game with its quick and reliable delivery.

Ola made my commute to the office cheaper than taking an auto. Coursera and Udemy helped me learn courses from top creators at a low cost.

With the Amazon Firestick, I got rid of the cable.

Jio made my calls longer and browsing faster without having to worry about running out of balance.

It was fun while it lasted.

Then, we started hearing the word valuation a lot more than disruption. The money started flowing in from the VC’S.

It had turned into a game of whose pocket outlasts the competition. Established businesses had to pack their bags and leave. And all that advantage for the customer; all that took a backseat.

Let’s take the APP-CAB industry for a minute. Today the cost of taking a cab is almost equal to or sometimes less than an app cab. There is a perennial surge in demand, as the app would show.

Also, you would find it tiresome to search for a stand-alone taxi or auto, since the old ecosystem of taxis and autos at every corner is no more.

The drivers keep complaining how their share and incentives have kept decreasing rapidly and politely ask you to roll down the windows since it’s expensive for them to switch on the air conditioning. If you do not agree to their polite proposition, they might ask you, not so politely to get down from the cab.

You see they don’t care about ratings that much, anymore.

They have formed their unions and app cabs need cabs to justify their huge valuations. If you call on their customer care, after a long wait you might manage to get hold of some human that keeps repeating the same lines like a cyborg. And after much frustration, if you do decide to hire a normal taxi or an auto, good luck!!

They are few in numbers and given the fact that you are waiting on the roadside, asking for a ride, it must mean some tragedy has occurred since you have chosen not to hire an app cab and it’s the perfect opportunity to make a fortune.

Telecom

The continuous increase in mobile data pack prices over the past few years has been a reality check. Before you go on about India having one of the lowest data prices in the world, please also make a corresponding comparison to the average income of that country. What brought about a data revolution only a few years ago has also become a heavy compulsory expense for most households. A steady increase in price every few months has become the norm. The question is do you have any other alternative in the market? Isn’t competition a key aspect of a free economy? Do you see lower plans with any other provider? Also, how difficult would it be for a new entrant in the telecom market at this point?

Disruption >>>>>Monopoly?

ED-TECH

How about education. Yes, I DARE to venture into the darling territory.

ED-TECH.

From promises of turning you into a digital marketing Ninja in two hours for just 99/- with the prospect of an upsell in the webinar to cohort-based courses, they are all the rage.

To top it, we have large fund-backed education platforms that promise to turn your child into the next Einstein for the price of two of your kidneys and half a lung. You see, the old education system was broken. All it needed to fix it was some animated videos and some wonderful background music, and voila…you get the perfect education system for your child. And of course FOMO; so if you are not doing it for your child, your neighbor will have a much better life when they are old.

Isn’t this what we were fighting against, only a few years ago? How do children need to stop running the races? How we need to deescalate the study load and let them lead saner lives?

But today, if your child has not coded an app by the age of ten, “solved a problem” by fifteen, given a TedX Talk by eighteen, and retired by twenty-two, do they even deserve to be content and happy?

Are they all as bad as I am making them out to be? No. They give the child the freedom to pick and choose various programs. They offer the freedom from going in an enclosed space to learn; they can do that on a road trip. They offer access to some of the best faculties around the world. But the question is; Is MORE better? Do we need more choices? Do we need more courses? Do we need more?

Or do we need to do better with the choices we have? But I am getting sidetracked here so let me come back to it.

A huge ed-tech platform recently decided to back physical tuition centers across the country. Disruption? Or intention to create a Monopoly? The problems with tuitions have been debated for a long time. How is this good for the children?

But hey, start-ups Yo! Technology broooo….

In this frenzy to accept technology as the solution to all problems, even the non-existing ones, there is least care to not throw the baby with the bathwater.

A more conscious approach to innovation can tremendously add value to the customer. Instead what is happening is using heavy marketing to push a new feature down the throat of the audience, claiming it to be “THE” solution that will lead to salvation.

Hey, but who said, all disruptions would be great?

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Sayan Goswami

Sayan Goswami

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