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Industry disruption

Being left behind

The evolution of the internet has brought about a lot of disruption. From the way we share information to hospitality, there are the obvious big players in the industry that we have all come to know and understand. This piece will focus on some of the industries that have been affected by the evolution of the internet and some that have not yet.
Brett Terespolsky, CEO, Switch Innovation
The entertainment industry is an obviously disrupted one. Movie theatres are struggling to remain relevant. Movie sales and rentals are mostly a thing of the past. Music albums are also becoming a thing of the past. The likes of Netflix, Hulu, Apple Music, YouTube etc. have made all movies, series and music so easily available to everyone, everywhere. This has obviously brought about a lot of challenges around piracy and royalties to artists, but any real disruption will bring about some new challenges.

In my opinion, one of the most pertinent disruptions is in communications. First the post office was disrupted by email and subsequently email has been disrupted by social media and instant messaging. This has had a major effect on people’s communication ability. I don’t believe that we have really responded in a suitable way to these changes. People are very loud and outspoken on social media but struggle to have a face-to-face conversation. We also lose the ability to properly read people’s body language because we tend to send messages. Again, these are some of the new challenges to look at.

Retail is an interesting case. We all know how big Amazon and Alibaba are but when you look at their numbers in earnest, they are not making a fortune from retail. Online shopping is still picking up but there is still a massive need for brick and mortar stores that people can go into and get what they need. I don’t believe that this industry has felt true disruption yet.

Travel agencies have been disinter-mediated in a big way. With so many sites available to get best price on various travel packages, airfare, hotels, etc., there is no real need to talk to a travel agent anymore. Linked to this is the hospitality industry. Where we once had the options of hotels or hostels for accommodation, we can now stay on other people’s couches for a quid pro quo type of agreement. The options are becoming multiplying and the hotel industry is feeling the pressures of this. I think some of them have responded by making themselves available on these various platforms which is outside of their normal operating model.

I don’t think we even need to go into detail of how shared rides services have disrupted the taxi industry. When you have entire organisations pleading with the government to ban the use of Uber and others in certain countries you can be sure that they are feeling the disruption and have no idea how to respond.

Lastly, I want to talk about data storage and how we no longer need to have expensive server rooms that we need to upgrade constantly, pay rent for, etc. Now I can log onto an online portal and all my data is there for a pay-as-you-use type of price.

Waiting for an upgrade

There are some industries that have not yet really felt the pressures of the internet. Some of them may not be right for that kind of disruption and others might just not have the right people working in those industries to disrupt them.

Farming is an interesting industry. It makes use of some of the latest and greatest technology and it uses some of the oldest methodologies around. However, particularly in Africa, the internet has had no real effect on farming. Farmers still work on a “gut feeling” that they will not replace with technology. I think the internet has a big place in farming yet to be seen.

Property ownership laws and procedures date back to the ancient Romans and some of the methodologies that they devised. This industry needs a serious update. I believe that there is a massive opportunity here, but the governments and regulators are blocking these changes constantly. I am excited to see the changes that will be coming in the next couple of years.

The legal industry is another one that is due for a revamp. There are now companies that are starting to use technology to create self-help legal services. This is going to be a very exciting space to watch over the next year or so as things evolve, and new precedent is set.

The result

There has been a lot of disruption since the introduction of the internet, but I think we have just begun. Clearly with every new disruption (self-driving cars, etc) we see new challenges and problems arise. I prefer to see that as more opportunity rather than problems and reasons not to proceed. On the flip side there are industries that are really outdated and in need of a facelift. I don’t really believe that any industry is safe from disruption and with the rise of blockchain and the “Web 3.0” some of these undisrupted industries could leap-frog into a new era. I do think that for some of these industries to change, we need to get other skills into them. In other words, don’t ask a lawyer to disrupt the legal industry, use them as a guide.

About the author

Brett Terespolsky is the CEO at Switch Innovation.
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