Instantaneity is the prime driver of the on-demand economy. But, even as startups and established business are consumed by the need for speed, they are becoming increasingly aware of the risk to their reputation because of the antecedents of the people critical for the driving of the on-demand economy – among others, cab drivers, delivery staff and short-stay house guests.
That’s the first of seven trends I identified in my opening blog on key background screening trends for the year 2016. Let me now deliberate on each one, starting with the on-demand economy, for which let me coin an acronym – ODE.
Disruption is severance and it’s not a positive word but disruption is the holy grail of the on-demand economy. Regardless of the industry you are in, if you can improve the speed with which you have delivered the service, you have disrupted the market. So, with the likes of Uber and Ola, we have stopped waving down kaali-peelis and even Mumbai’s once trendy CoolCabs. That’s disruption. And that disruption came about because consumers needed an instant solution.
ODE is of course a great thing for consumers, but equally it puts great pressure on the regulators and the government to not compromise key issues like security. Recent efforts by the state government in Delhi to promote car pooling, even though necessitated by intolerable levels of atmospheric pollution, are laudable. But would you want to car pool with someone who has a record of rash driving? Can that be prevented?
Instantaneity of demand requires a modicum of vigilance, in the absence of which things have the potential to go horribly wrong.
Consider these incidents:
Just over a year ago, we had an extremely unfortunate incident in which a vicious cab driver raped a 27-year-old woman in Delhi.
There was a huge public outcry and the government’s reaction was typical overkill. It blacklisted and banned all but six radio taxi services.
While what the government did in December 2014 was misplaced hubris, the case did bring to light the need for background checks of cab drivers.
In July 2015, Delhi Police on Sunday arrested a pizza delivery boy for allegedly molesting a five-year-old girl in south-east Delhi.
The incident took place when the victim was molested by the accused after she had come out play in the staircase of her residential building. There was no one at her home during the incident.
If you think consumers only are at risk from service providers, think again. In October last year, an elderly man was taken into custody for attempting to molest a beautician, who had answered a house call in Hyderabad for a beauty treatment.
When she showed up, the lady who had called was not home and the man tried to molest the beautician.
So, while delivery and shared services are creating opportunities for microenterprise and self-employment, providing opportunities to participate in the country’s economic activity and for others an opportunity to earn additional or supplementary income, they do present a challenge in safety and security terms.
You don’t want someone with a criminal record showing up at your door to deliver a pizza. Nor do you want, someone who comes to stay as a short-term guest in your apartment to be someone with a history of violence.
Total strangers are renting things to each other.
Online social networks and secure payment mechanisms are allowing them to do that. But in this sharing economy security is the missing link. And that is where background screeners will be required to provide solutions to problems which, if not solved, have the potential to stymie the growth potential of this collaborative consumption.
The background screening industry will be required to step up and provide three quick checks for cab drivers, delivery staff and short-stay guests: identity check (to establish that the person is who he says he is), criminality record check (a straightforward check establishing that the individual in question has no criminal history) and accessibility check (an address verification).
Using these three check levers reasonable instantaneity will be ensured by background screeners giving a fillip to the on-demand collaborative economy. ODE is a good thing; positives far outweigh negatives.
Its vulnerabilities are public relations challenges which they will need to fight. Background screeners can add a much required shoulder to the ODE wheel.