Are Immigrant Uber Drivers Your New Product Buyers?
I was reminded of this timeless wisdom when meeting an endless succession of Cape Town Uber taxi drivers who weren't South African.
A run only broken by the irrepressible Keith. A former Big Brewery truck driver from Wynberg. Who after retirement felt that his brain was fading. So took up the gig inspired by London cabbies, to learn his equivalent of The Knowledge.
Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somali, Rwanda, Nigeria, Congo.
Drivers from everywhere except the country they were now in.
After a while, I enquired as to the paucity of 'local' drivers.
Whilst the Zim's had a slightly separate slant (due to a corrupt deal by previous president Mbeki that allowed free movement which criminally kept Mugabe's regime on their throne), the rest all left their homeland through the well-known mixture of fleeing a dictator and to make a better life.
Some genuine asylum seekers, others economic migrants.
Almost all (even Zimbos now their visas are being revoked) now under the official radar in their chosen place of sanctuary.
Several drivers explained to me that when Uber arrived in the city around a decade earlier, the locals didn't fancy the job.
In part, due to the abject failure and oppression of the liberation army turned ruling party of the ANC. More interested in keeping power than genuinely uplifting their compatriots. Squandering the glorious altruistic opportunity they earned in favour of lining their own pockets. Othering through a fictitious bogeyman with the promise of something for nothing. As if a person's democratic right was naturally a shiny BMW for nothing.
Hard work? No thanks. Just gimme.
Whereas the migrants knew different.
As the articulate Samuel, ten years on from Zimbabwe, expressed, the locals looked at something 'new' and said no. Let others have a go and maybe we'll see later.
He even suggested this was the natural human state.
How right he is.
Migrants did not have the 'luxury' of waiting it out. They had no access to welfare, handouts or backhanders. They had to act.
And the result now, is that they have pretty much sealed the market for drivers. They have created, maintain and understand the ecosystem inside which they operate. A tad daunting for 'outsiders' to join. Even though they are not discriminated against.
Another issue is the shark that is Uber the company. Trying to tempt (desperate) new drivers by exploiting them. Luring those not able to access credit with eye-watering terms on hire-purchase of a new car. Meaning they pay three times the price-tag amount for it. Locked in too for 4-5 years on a repayment plan making it so hard to put food on their table week in, week out. And that's before you get to the recent, brutal margin squeeze they applied to commissions. But I digress.
Whilst the local authorities have even begun to impound cars for drivers without an official cab permit (the issuance of which also appears a racket, even if they could get one, which they cannot) requiring exorbitant release fees, the migrants continue to log on.
Their need is great.
They will not wallow.
They must act.
A trio of traits that you must find in the potential buyer for your new product too.
There are those who'll be content to carry on. Muddle through. Despite the ongoing trauma they'll be consigning themselves to, they prefer to sit and wait.
We must find those who won't or can't tolerate such a stance.
It's not acceptable for them to merely moan. They must now mobilise themselves.
Uber disrupted the market in this place by appealing to a certain type of early adopter. They likely didn't know they were doing so. It'll help immeasurably if you do know for your space.
The full quote from the tweet above I cited in an essay from the Epilogue of my book, 101 Diagrams That Sell:
"When a new invention is first propounded in the beginning every man objects and the poor inventor runs the gauntloop of all petulant wits, every man finding his several flaw, no man approving it unless mended according to his own device".
Quite the gauntloop. Further adding;
"the kneejerk reaction of most people to something new is often worry, sometimes even disgust".