Breaking the contractual work cycle and empowering partners in the sharing economy

Words by

Founder and CEO of Mober Technology Pte. Inc.

In May, the world’s biggest Internet company, Amazon, announced a surprising proposition to its employees: Quit and be handed $10,000 to start a delivery company. The announcement came at the heels of the e-commerce giant’s promise to its VIP or “Prime” customers of a guaranteed shipment of their orders within two days.

This bold promise required that Amazon tap as many delivery partners as possible on top of its already growing list of established logistics players, including UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service. The giant knew that to fulfill its promise and live out its vision of being the world’s biggest Internet company, it needed reliable partners—and who better than the very same people who helped build its success story from the start.

As a founder of a logistics company, I couldn’t help but admire Amazon’s bravado to venture with individuals who may not have had the same experience, much less track record as established players in the industry. Instead of looking out, Amazon looked into what they had access to. It reached out to people who knew their business, subscribed to their values, business acumen and practices—and empowered them not as employees, but as independent entrepreneurs.

When my on-demand logistics startup Mober, experienced a slump in fulfillment performance among our drivers, I realized we had a bigger problem than just unmotivated workforce. Like most ride-hailing and delivery startups, we had built a venture for independent solo entrepreneurs. But somehow, it had turned into yet another platform for operators managing fleets, simply tapping drivers on a contractual basis.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Our partners are principled entrepreneurs and Mober has helped fulfill noble goals of their own too. But the goal has always been to empower these drivers, not as employees, but as independent entrepreneurs.

Like Amazon, Mober had to make a bold move.

Driverpreneurship at Mober




I earlier envisioned a company that was going to be an enabler for the aspiring entrepreneur, to be a partner of that driver-entrepreneur who has long dreamt of making it on his own. After all, this was the initial promise of the sharing economy—to democratize opportunities for everyone.

Anyone who owned an asset could share them systematically, matched with those who need the particular service at a specific time.

And so, I developed a Driverpreneur program, which allowed our partner drivers to take a brand new van or truck on the road that they may eventually own. Think of a rent-to-own scheme but for vehicles that are at the same time assets. I’m proud to say the program has already driven the productivity levels of our partner drivers and encouraged them to accomplish more deliveries to meet demands of clients and customers.

The project brings me back to the origin of the sharing economy—giving everyone a chance to become an entrepreneur driven to maximize their own assets, but also operating at their own pace and time. This way, it’s not just Mober’s vision that is fulfilled but every driver that is part of our program too.

Hustling back to the sharing economy

I don’t mean to make it all sound very easy. Mober’s Driverpreneurship Program is quite challenging, requiring partners to go through rigorous training and fulfill deliveries at an optimum level; which is to say that the program isn’t for every type of driver on the road. It demands focus and endurance, and a hustle mentality to keep up with the growing demands of the economy.

The reward on the other side though is the fulfillment that majority of the pesos earned goes back to the driver-partner. It’s a program that thrives on win-win benefits between all parties, customers, asset owners, and tech-based systems—the very promise of the sharing economy Mober was built upon.

It’s true that for now, the sharing economy as a whole may not be working to the advantage of small partners. But it doesn’t mean companies tapping the labor of these people cannot trust them with an enterprise opportunity that can have profound multiplier effects for the economy and for society.

It’s not just Mober heeding the call for a mutually beneficial business relationship with partners.

Homegrown ride-hailing app OWTO has a similar driver-partner service, which likewise gives people a chance to own the vehicles they drive for business. And I’m sure there are other lesser known businesses doing the same for their employees, and their partners—giving them a chance to be asset-owners and entrepreneurs themselves.

All of these convince me it’s a very doable, viable and most sustainable business model. If anything, it’s a call for entrepreneurs everywhere to apply the same principles, and if they already are, be more vocal about them. There’s a good chance that one more entrepreneur will be swayed to do the same, and in that process, their entire workforce benefits too. Filipinos have long lived by this certain bayanihan spirit, traditionally depicted by neighbors carrying whole houses on their shoulders as folk move homes. At Mober it is that same bayanihan spirit once more, only this time helping our people move up in life, as we help literally move economy and society.



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