5 tech companies disrupting global multi-billion industries  

February 5, 2016
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, It’s no longer business as usual as the world becomes more connected via the internet. Social media, apps, digital media, connected devices makes the world a global village and in the process, altering life as we know it.

Six of the 10 world’s most valuable brands are tech companies according to a Forbes 2015 ranking with Apple, Google and IBM leading the pack.

Thanks to bold, often lean and innovative start-ups, the business world is now experiencing disruption only compared to the industrial revolution. Old business models are being challenged, traditional channels are made obsolete and service delivery is redefined. We look at 5 tech companies disrupting conventional business across the world, including Kenya.

Uber – How we get around

The on-going threat by Nairobi taxi operators to paralyse the city over what they deem as Uber’s unfair pricing practices is a perfect example of the disruptive force tech companies have. Taxi-hailing app Uber is arguably the technology that is causing most urban transport upheaval in many regions in the world.

The app, which allows users to pick a cab at the tap of button on their smartphones, is causing so much disruption around the globe to a point courts are stepping in to resolve conflicts between Uber on one side and conventional taxi associations/authorities on the other.

Uber is available in 58 countries and over 290 cities including Nairobi but has faced innumerable bans, demos, court injunctions and suspensions in a number of cities. In spite of the stiff opposition, Uber is now the biggest taxi company in the world without a single cab. 250,000 people have signed up as Uber drivers, making 140 million rides in 2014 alone. According to Business Insider, Uber generated $10 billion in revenues in 2015.

Airbnb – How we take vacations

Airbnb

Air bed and breakfast, or Airbnb, provides a web platform, android and iOS app that connects owners of apartments, houses or holiday homes with people looking for short term accommodation. Airbnb has 1.2 million listings spread in 190 countries including Kenya, making Airbnb inc. the largest hospitality network within a span of 8 years, yet it doesn’t own a single room. The company, founded by friends Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, charges service fees of up to 12 percent of the booking. Although Airbnb has not faced widespread resistance as Uber, it has nevertheless disrupted the hotel industry by providing alternative accommodation to over 35 million guests that use the platform.

The company, founded by friends Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, charges service fees of up to 12 percent of the booking. Although Airbnb has not faced widespread resistance as Uber, it has nevertheless disrupted the hotel industry by providing alternative accommodation to over 35 million guests that use the platform.

Netflix – How we watch TV

netflix

Netflix turns any internet connected device – computer, tablet, smartphone, video game console into a video-on-demand service. What started off as a video renting company in 1997 grew into a DVD renting business through mail, and then later, added a video streaming service which now has over 60 million subscribers who pay a flat rate to watch unlimited videos. Netflix, which is now the largest movie rental service, has grown rapidly in the last 5 years and is available in 40 countries. Netflix’s debut in Kenya in already causing discomfort to regulators like the Kenya Film Classification Board saying Netflix is ‘a threat to national security.’ Netflix is essentially encroaching the space of traditional TV channels by giving consumers the choice to watch what they

Netflix, which is now the largest movie rental service, has grown rapidly in the last 5 years and is available in 40 countries. Netflix’s debut in Kenya is already causing discomfort to regulators like the Kenya Film Classification Board who have termed Netflix ‘a threat to national security.’ Netflix is essentially encroaching the space of traditional TV channels by giving consumers the choice to watch what they want, when they want.

Alibaba – How we shop

Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has been overtaken as China's richest man according to a new wealth survey/AFP
Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has been overtaken as China’s richest man according to a new wealth survey

Former English teacher, Jack Ma, started Alibaba.com in 1999 with the aim of creating a business-to-business online marketplace. Today, Alibaba is the world’s largest online trading platform for SMEs and is available in more than 250 countries.

What makes Alibaba disruptive is the fact that it has captured online shoppers in the biggest single e-commerce market in the world, China, and is rapidly spreading across the globe. In Kenya, Alibaba is currently the most visited trading website and in the top 25 most visited sites according to website ranking tool, Alexa. Alibaba, with 350 million active users and $420B in sales, has eclipsed more established players like Amazon and Ebay.

Alibaba Group has expanded to include a consumer to consumer e-commerce platform, a third-party online payment platform, a comparison shopping website and a cloud computing company, all challenging

In Kenya, Alibaba is currently the most visited trading website and in the top 25 most visited sites according to website ranking tool, Alexa. With 350 million active users and $420B in sales, the e-commerce platform has eclipsed more established players like Amazon and Ebay. Alibaba Group has expanded to include a consumer to consumer e-commerce platform, a third-party online payment platform, a comparison shopping website and a cloud computing company, all challenging long-established businesses and models.

WhatsApp – How we communicate

whatsapp

Before Facebook bought Whatsapp for $16B, it was inconceivable how a messaging app could sell for so much, considering Microsoft bought Nokia mobile for $7 billion. But looking at the numbers behind Whatsapp, it is easy to see why Facebook splashed billions to acquire a two-man startup who had earlier applied (and were rejected) for vacancies at Facebook.

Zuckerberg has just announced WhatsApp has crossed 1 Billion active users sending and receiving messages, images, videos and audio clips via the internet. Whatsapp announced users can make calls via VOIP.

This is likely to eat into mobile operator’s voice revenues as it is already doing with SMS. Whatsapp has obliterated other chat apps by simplifying registration where only your phone number is needed, deliberately making it ads-free and a simple user interface. Whatsapp is free to use but Facebook is exploring ways of integrating the app for businesses, potentially raking in billions for the owners.

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