Are Ola and Uber Drivers Entrepreneurs or Exploited Workers?
Updated: Sep 15, 2019
Early 2017 was a difficult period for Ola and Uber drivers: Their earnings plummeted by 30-45% throwing their economic planning and household incomes off kilter. This led to widespread protests by the drivers across the country. This period marked a significant turning point in Uber-Ola dynamics, with both companies seeking to end their competition and narrow-in on their bottom lines. Both companies had found it extremely difficult to turn profits, despite a business model that allowed them to jettison all or most operating costs. Uber and Ola typify the intra-capitalist competition that has become the hallmark of digital capitalism where growth is seen as more important than profit, making companies beholden to what investors choose to do with them (Sundararajan 2016, Srineck 2017, Allen 2017).
The platform, or the two-sided digital market, is one of the most compelling models for the distribution of technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). These technologies use networks, data and information to create the operative environments for companies and determine their success. This has deep and structural effects on what it means for capitalism at large (Beckner 2007). Technological innovation has outpaced regulatory innovation, a reason for why debates in policy and scholarship focus on how different people situated in different parts of the platform need to be treated.
The binary of employment versus entrepreneurship that forms the framework indicates a failure of public policy to keep abreast of changing times.
Read the full text at the Economic and Political Weekly