News & Views

Opinion / It’s Not You, It’s Me

by Contagious Team

Uber has landed in Brazil, and with it came the extremes of love and hate for the brand. Stories are running daily on the news about taxi drivers attacking Uber cars, drivers, passengers and executives. And social networks abound with younger generations appealing to them to leave Uber alone.

I understand there are myriad questions underlying these discussions, but besides all that, one thing caught my attention. No one in the taxi industry is asking 'Why do people prefer Uber? What is lacking in my service? What I could do better? Should I change something?' And if you've ever taken a cab in Brazil, especially in Rio, you know how easy it is to come up with answers to these questions. 

Amos Genish, president of Vivo, one of the biggest telecom companies in the country, said that WhatsApp is pure piracy and only works in Brazil because of the lack of more strict taxation and laws. I agree with him when he says that all companies should be judged and ruled by the same competitive framework, but are we asking ourselves why telecom companies always lead the ranks of the most hated companies in Brazil?

I’m not advocating Uber or WhatsApp, but I’m sure they bring much more to the table than just the ability to exploit legal loopholes. They, like many, many others, are disrupting, blurring, destroying and creating categories. And their fellow competitors are focusing their energy on how to stop them rather than on how to surpass them.

Brands and business are built and run by people (so far, at least!). And people have this liberating yet unproductive behaviour of blaming others. Your girlfriend, boss, mom, neighbour and Obama (damn Obama!) are always wrong. And you, a self-aware and evolved human being, are always right. Brands that are collapsing because of the emergence of new technologies and ideas are also behaving in exactly this way. Attached to the old ways and using legislation as a buoy to keep them from sinking.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story on August 6th was How Google Lost Europe. It is a fascinating story about the debate between Google’s lawyers and the European Union about whether the search giant’s monopoly is harming the European economy or not.

The discussion has many layers, but the way it was judged by U.S. regulators highlights a really interesting perspective. Contemporary notions of U.S. antitrust law seek to protect consumers, not competitors. It’s no longer about how the market is open to competition but about how consumers are benefiting from it. This means it will be harder than ever to stop the change.

Everyone wants better services and products; new companies are showing people they can have them. And now new laws are turning our genuine desire to be spoiled into a right.


Janaina Borges is president and director of content of Contagious Brazil