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Sample Research Paper on Uber Technologies Corporate Governance: Porter’s Five Forces Analysis

Uber Technologies Corporate Governance: Porter’s Five Forces Analysis

Introduction

Uber Technologies is a software company that uses a smartphone app to connect drivers with customers that need a ride to a particular destination. The company, with its headquarters in San Francisco, operates in over 550 cities across the globe. The main idea behind Uber’s inception was to help provide a solution to the city’s transportation and traffic problems. Currently, it operates with partner drivers in North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia pacific. By identifying an existing marketing problem, the founders took advantage of technological advancement through Smartphone innovation to develop the Uber app. The app enables users to arrange and schedule transportation and logistics services with licensed Uber drivers. While traditional taxi operators used their cars to facilitate their businesses, Uber contracts third party vehicles to facilitate their services. The partner drivers are paid a commission by the company based on the revenue they earn. A review of the customer feedback section on the company's website highlights convenience, affordability, and security as some of the major factors attracting them to Uber. The company, which uses non-cash payment, encourages its customers to make payments using their credit cards or PayPal accounts. This is a security strategy employed by the management to ensure clients are protected from any form of exploitation by their designated drivers. Unlike most startups, Uber has continued to grow at a tremendous rate of 40 percent every quarter, even surpassing the industry’s growth rate. The company’s gross bookings in the first quarter of 2015 totaled to $ 3.75 billion, exceeding the gross bookings attained in 2014 (Wallsten, 2015). This paper analyzes Uber's five forces, outlining the various strengths and weaknesses in its business model and identifying viable opportunities it can exploit to continue prospering in this industry.

Porter’s Five Competitive Forces

Uber continues to grow because of its corporate governance’s effectiveness in addressing the impacts of five forces in the transportation industry. The company deals with internal and external factors that influence its success. According to Grundy (2006), Michael E. Porter’s five forces analysis evaluates the environment under which a company performs through relevant factors that define its competitiveness. The forces model analyzes the strategic management process of the company, addressing the bargaining power of its suppliers, existing competitive rivalry, the threat of substitution, the bargaining power of customers or buyers, and the threat of new entrants. The analysis highlights the notable factors that Uber should consider to continue being relevant in the competitive industry.

Competitive Rivalry

In the Five Forces model, competitive rivalry refers to the force pertaining to competitor influence in the industry environment (Porter, 2008, p. 85). In the case of Uber, the intensity of rivalry among competitors is quite high. There are various car hire service providers competing with Uber on regional, national, and international levels. Although most of the traditional cab operators offer comparatively higher prices, they are more favored by host governments due to their citizenship status (Wallsten, 2015). Evered (983) argues that strategy is important for organizations, with Uber relying on investing heavily in branding as a strategy for differentiation. It uses different forms of segmentation, including geographical and demographical, to identify changes in customer needs. The company uses different car models with differing price charges to cater to the high- and low-income earners.

Although Uber has several competitors, such as Didi Chuxing and Curb, Lyft remains the core rival of the company. Lyft tends to operate using an almost similar pricing model, which threatens Uber’s existing marketing position (Cannon & Summers, 2014). It also follows similar business management ideas and procedures compared to that of Uber. The two companies compete for the same market share and suppliers. Given the strong brand recognition of Uber, the company remains the key shareholder in the market. Uber has maintained a strong reputation in more than 50 countries, managing to overtake major automobile brands, such as GM, Ford, and Honda (Wallsten, 2015). However, it must continue to improve its innovative techniques to maintain competitive power. Moreover, the U.S. transport sector has several competing and alternate entities. In order to survive, Uber must lower its operational costs to maintain fair customer charges.

Uber also faces immeasurable threats from traditional taxi drivers who believe their expectations have not been met. A review of research carried out in various Uber destinations across the globe shows undue disregard for these shareholders’ expectations by Uber, which goes against the call by Lazonick and O’Sullivan (2000) for the maximization of shareholder value. Most have complained about the loss of customers due to the very low prices charged by Uber (Dudley, Banister, & Schwanen, 2017, p. 493). As a result, the traditional taxicab drivers resort to physically abusing their Uber counterparts and threatening them against going on with their operations in various cities. This is an issue that, if not handled on a timely basis, could negatively impact the company’s future earnings.

Bargaining Power of Uber’s Customers/Buyers

According to Porter's Five Forces Model, the force of buyers' bargaining power is based on the influence of consumers on the business environment (Porter, 2008, p. 83). As opposed to the force of competitive rivalry, the bargaining power of buyers in this market is very high because of the low switching costs. Uber buyers are price sensitive and would not move to the other low-priced substitutes offered by its competitors. As the taxi market grows, the number of substitutes also grows exponentially, which results in the low costs of switching to alternatives (Wallsten, 2015). Customers are able to choose from Curb, Lyft, Uber, and other ride-sharing brands. The industry has also witnessed a growth in private cars over the past few years. Even though there have been problems associated with parking spaces, individuals continue to uplift their status by owning personal vehicles. This rising alternative means that the demand for Uber services is threatened.

Bargaining Power of Uber’s Suppliers

This force refers to the influence that suppliers have on a company and the industry in question (Porter, 2008, p. 82). The bargaining power of suppliers in this industry is quite high because the company does not own any vehicle to operate its serves. It relies on its suppliers who come with their cars and drivers. Unfortunately, amidst the rising number of suppliers in the industry, Uber has stringent requirements for hiring. The stringent requirements lower the number of suppliers willing to work with the company (Dudley, Banister, & Schwanen, 2017). Uber has put in place huge set-up costs for any potential supplier. Uber issues specific vehicle models and maintenance requirements that have to be met by all suppliers before registering as an Uber driver. The requirements address various factors, including the type of people that can operate an Uber taxi or limousine, the mode of contacting service providers, fare structure, as well as the labeling and appearance of the vehicle. The drivers must use their own cars, which must be well maintained, fully insured, and armed with all the licenses. The car must also be a 2006 or more recent model in order to register with the company (Dudley et al., 2017). Since all drivers meet these stringent requirements, it is undeniable that they have stronger power in influencing the performance of Uber.

Another key provider of the company is oil and gas suppliers. Since 2015, the prices of oil have been fluctuating, with the lowest recorded price being $30 (Dudley et al., 2017). The changing prices have a significant effect on the transportation industry as it creates uncertainty and non-predictability of oil availability. When prices rise, Uber and its competitors either make losses or transfer costs to the customers. Lack of oil and gas may, altogether, prevent the functionality of Uber. The suppliers, thereby, have high bargaining power in the business.

Threat of Substitutes

Uber experiences a strong force of substitution. Porter's Five Forces model describes this force as the effect of alternative products on a business and its environment (Porterv, 2008). In general, Uber experiences high substitute availability and low switching costs. In the industry, several transportation brands offer similar services. Taxi cabs, for instance, are a potential substitute serving the traditional transportation industry. According to Dudley et al. (2017), cities that have ride-sharing operations prefer taxi services because of efficiency, low-costs, and user-friendly designs. As such, their prevalence can curb elevating Uber service fees. It is also noteworthy that any rise in Uber prices can make customers shift to cheaper alternatives like taxicabs. Furthermore, because of existing alternative means in public transport, including private cars, trains, and self-driving cars, the existence of Uber will be threatened.

The Threat of New Entrants

The position of a business can greatly be affected by the ability of new enterprises to invade the market (Porter, 2008, p. 80). Considering its technological capability, Uber can provide the needed services that bridge the gap between transport and customers. The digitized transport industry requires high capital for startup, and although Uber invested millions of capital in becoming the dominant brand, new rivals are jumpstarting their operation with lesser amounts, thereby easily penetrating the market (Cannon & Summers, 2014). Additionally, being a technology-based company, Uber finds its services easily imitated by other firms. It is easy for the digital driving concepts to be copied by competitors, thus, increasing competition.

The company’s greatest challenge is the continuous legal problems and negative press and fines imposed by government agencies in India, Netherlands, Germany, the UK, and France (Dudley et al., 2017). The constant controversies make new entrants cautious about considering the business. This has reduced the number of businesses penetrating the market, giving Uber an upper hand in dominating the industry.

Conclusion

Uber remains the leading transportation service provider in the U.S. and other countries. Due to its technology, the company offers fast turnaround services to consumers across the world. Research indicates that Uber has strong forces impacting its operations and success in the industry. However, the management should perform an analysis of its core competencies and capabilities to continue excelling. The analysis should also focus on the company's internal weaknesses upon which opportunities can be built. Uber's topmost competency is its ability to incorporate new technologies into its products to solve a market problem. The company has an effective operations team that performs a market analysis to forecast market demand. Unlike its competitors, the company does not use a fixed pricing model but instead uses data analytics to forecast demand and adjust prices accordingly. 

 

References

Cannon, S. & Summers, L.H., 2014. How Uber and the sharing economy can win over regulators. Harvard Business Review13(10), pp.24-28.

Dudley, G., Banister, D. & Schwanen, T., 2017. The rise of Uber and regulating the disruptive innovator. The political quarterly88(3), pp.492-499.

Evered, R., 1983. So what is strategy?. Long Range Planning16(3), pp.57-72.

Grundy, T., 2006. Rethinking and reinventing Michael Porter's five forces model. Strategic Change15(5), pp.213-229.

Lazonick, W. & O’Sullivan, M., 2000. Maximizing shareholder value: A new ideology for corporate governance. Economy and Society, 29 (1), pp.13–35.

Porter, M.E., 2008. The five competitive forces that shape strategy. Harvard Business Review86(1), pp.78-93.

Wallsten, S., 2015. The competitive effects of the sharing economy: how is Uber changing taxis. Technology Policy Institute22, pp.1-21.

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