Thursday, 16 January 2020

Land Of Plenty

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How fantastic is the ‘Gig Economy’? How did we ever cope without it? A bit like asking ‘However did we cope without Smartphones’? Well we did didn’t we, for many tens of thousands of years.

However, we like Uber, AirBnB and JustEat etc. These all provide a new level of convenience and choice for the buyer/service user, often for (almost) free or at comparable/better prices/quality to the traditional alternatives.

The concept of Turkers (or MTurkers) originated in 2005. The "Worker" (contractor) and "Requester" (employer), was born. These were Human Intelligence Tasks, but most workers on modern platforms are providing physical services.

As we know, they often come at a downside too. The platform provides its tech to connect sellers and buyers, using an app or a well designed website, taking its cut. In an ideal world, sellers have space/capacity to sell services or provide their time and are welling agents in that transaction. Reality in some of the gig economy, is prices being driven down, variable quality and other pressures to buy equipment, fund their own vehicle fuel and of course receive minimal or no employment rights.

The independent or Amazon parcel deliverer often earns 50p or less per parcel, while being sequenced by a smartphone and paying all their own vehicle costs, including fuel etc. Great if that fits in with your wider life, as retired or student. Less good if the employment stats record you as ‘Employed’ (as you work at least one hour per month), and you have to juggle two or more jobs to actually stay above the breadline.

Since 2013, for Social Housing, the UK Uber of repairs is Plentific. Landlords can set up arrangements to use a sophisticated platform to log and manage repairs. The Turkers are the claimed 13k contractors who need to be qualified, have the right certifications etc. The best/cheapest of three quotes is processed and the platform progresses with the victor.

Plentific has experienced a lot of growth, particularly with some particular London G15 landlords, such as Peabody & Notting Hill/Genesis, almost regarding the platform as a ‘partnering contractor’. Clearly any organisation growing like that can experience some growing pains, (as a trip to Glassdoor generally reveals). 

Last November 2019 Plentific picked up £32m in venture capital funding, from five investors. This could be looked at in a positive or negative way. There’s potential here for more growth within and outside of London, which you would expect to be quite a challenge. I cannot see Plentific coming to semi-rural mid-Wales, or Fife anytime soon. Also, if I were providing VC, I would hope to see a chunky return on my investment by year two. Might a sale be good for the small number of landlords, with closely coupled asset and repairs functions? Having all eggs in one basket can often be problematic. 

Outside in the non-app world, we would choose another contractor to build some resilience. Its interesting that no alternative similar platforms to Plentific for Social Housing have evolved. London is a very specific animal, but similar services, perhaps made available in more rural locations across the UK, would be very convenient to use to supplement repairs, where limited conventional resource is available. Resilience for Social Housing is very important, as the demise of Connaught showed in October 2010, mainly sunk by unrealistic margins.

In the current climate, with many EU tradespeople voting with their feet, deciding to return home and from what so many asset and repairs people tell me about different skill gap shortages, more platform / app choices would be extremely useful. Competition is always good, particularly where quality can be pushed up, costs potentially reduced and resident satisfaction improved. Additionally, key is that repair trade workers are not forced to a race to the bottom too. We need a sprinkle of social value in all of this too.

             Maybe this is the time Social Housing needs a few more Plentific’s to hand….

Related Post: Don't miss a trick. You need to do more than just 'build it' for self-servers to come..


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

Robin Trower – The Land Of PlentyRobin Trower – The Land Of Plenty.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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