UBER: Disruptive taxi app firm stripped of licence by London’s TfL

London – VIJAY SHAH via SARAH BUTLER, GWYN TOPHAM and The Guardian

San Francisco-based taxi app company Uber has had its application to renew its public carriage licence turned down by Transport for London (TfL) after its business practices and safety record were called into question by critics, the Guardian newspaper reported today.

The company, founded by Travis Kalanick in 2010, operates in 400 cities around the world and is well known for its cheap prices, its large pool of contracted drivers and its ease of use. But the company has come under fire in London its ‘lack of corporate responsibility’, and its disruptive effect on the city’s indigenous ‘black cab’ licensed minicab trade. Uber has been accused of not properly vetting its drivers’ criminal records and for not doing enough to investigate alleged sexual assaults by contracted taxi drivers.

The move by TfL has created a massive shock in London, with many customers and drivers of Uber condemning the decision not to renew the firm’s licence, which enables it to operate on the city’s streets. Black cab drivers and motoring safety groups however, have expressed support for the decision, blaming Uber for increasing traffic and stealing trade from established cab firms.

 

TfL is said to have rejected Uber’s licence renewal on the basis that it is not a “fit and proper” private car hire operator, according to the Guardian newspaper. The current Uber licence will expire on the 30th of September and the company’s UK arm plans to launch an appeal against TfL’s decision.  Uber works with 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million users, called ‘riders’ in London alone.

Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi in a message to the app’s staff issued yesterday said: “The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation,” he wrote. “It really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours.

“It’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in. That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles – we will vigorously appeal TfL’s decision – but rather building trust through our actions and our behaviour. In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.”

TfL was supported by London’s city Mayor, Sadiq Khan, employment rights campaigners and a federation of black cab firms. Uber has in the past been slated for not giving its drivers full employment status and not paying them a living wage, according to its critics. Uber’s customers and drivers have expressed dismay, along with Trade Minister  Greg Hands.

TfL said it had rejected the company’s application to renew its licence because “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks. TfL has also accused Uber of employing special cloaking software to make it difficult for authorities to access the app and records for such purposes as law enforcement.

Khan said he fully supported TfL’s decision, saying all companies needed to “play by the rules”.

He said: “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.

“However, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers.”

But Hands, who is also minister for London, said: “At the flick of a pen Sadiq Khan is threatening to put 40,000 people out of work and leave 3.5 million users of Uber stranded.

“Uber must address safety concerns and it is important there is a level playing field across the private hire market.

“But a blanket ban will cause massive inconvenience to millions of Londoners, all while showing that the Mayor of London is closed to business and innovation.”

Sam Gyimah, a Conservative justice minister and MP (Member of Parliament) for the East Surrey political constituency, said it was “possible to have effective regulation of Uber without penalising the consumers who benefit from more choice and lower prices”.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents London’s black cab drivers, said the mayor had made the right decision.

“Since it first came on to our streets Uber has broken the law, exploited its drivers and refused to take responsibility for the safety of passengers. This immoral company has no place on London’s streets,” he said.

Uber said in a statement the decision would “show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”.

“3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision,” the company added.

Uber’s maverick business model have caused it to get in hot water in numerous world cities. There were protests against the app in places as far apart as Rio de Janeiro and Paris. Last year, its founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick was forced to step down after allegations of sexual harassment at the company’s headquarters and a fiery exchange with one of his company’s drivers, caught on camera. Many observers say that the decision by TfL could deal a fatal blow to Uber.

SOURCES:

Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/

“Uber stripped of London licence due to lack of corporate responsibility” – Sarah Butler and Gwyn Topham, The Guardian/Guardian News and Media Limited (23 September 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/22/uber-licence-transport-for-london-tfl

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Uber app” – freestocks.org, Flickr (12 January 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/freestocks/23707913564

 

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GOOGLE SEO: What are the SEO trends in 2017?

London, UNITED KINGDOM
MEHFUZ HUSSAIN (writer) with VIJAY SHAH (editor)

 

This article was written by Mehfuz Hussain, a digital marketing specialist based in London with expertise in online marketing concepts and Google Analytics.

Search Engine Optimisation has seen many changes in 2016 thanks to Google. From the launch of its ambitious AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project in February 2016, Google has shaken up the way traditional SEO worked. Understandably, Google knows well that the best way to dominate the industry is to be aware of how search engines are changing, and strategising SEO and content techniques accordingly. The world of SEO continues to evolve at high speed. While some SEO techniques have been a staple for several years, there will be many new ones that you will have to pay attention to. Here are some of the game-changing trends to help you stay ahead this year.

 

Photo credit: BigOakInc.com

 

1. Mobile-first Approach by Businesses

With ongoing improvements in the mobile computing field, browsing on mobiles has become equivalent to desktop browsing if not more In many countries, mobile browsing is more popular and dominant than via traditional desktops and laptops. In the last few years, the plethora of new smartphones with internet capabilities has changed the way search engine look at them. Remember Mobilegeddon?

A few months ago, Google said, “To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” This influenced their latest search algorithm which prioritised ‘responsive’ websites at the cost of older, mobile-unfriendly sites.

So, in 2017, your top priority is to separate your desktop and mobile measurement plans to account for the fundamental differences between mobile and desktop behaviour.

 

2. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Google Rank Brain

There is no doubt, Google’s main focus in 2017 is on Artificial Intelligence. If you followed the Google I/O event 2016, most announcements were related to AI. Google also said that the speech recognition errors have reduced from 25 to 8 percent. It’s been officially named Google’s third-most important ranking factor. Voice search will grow even more in 2017, with better voice recognition and understanding.

 

3. Infographics

Infographics make complex information eye-catching, shareable and easily digestible. An image coupled with information tends to stay in the minds of readers. Such content generates more social shares and also generates leads. Of course, your content should also be suitable enough to add Infographics to it, and they can really make it pop.

 

4. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) takes centre stage

A great way to ensure better user experience is switching over to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). More brands are using this option as Google also has begun to favour the use of AMP. It contains three sections – AMP HTML, AMP JS, and Google AMP Cache. Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) allows websites to make pages equipped for loading right away onto mobile screens. Interestingly, sites that have switched over to AMP are given more visibility with a special icon in Google searches.

 

 

5. Branding gets personal

There is no denying the power of personal branding. If used strategically, it can be a powerful tool in ensuring the success of SEO campaigns. Even social media platforms like Facebook refine their algorithms to favour individual posts over branded posts. Also, once you have a personal brand in place, it gets much easier to boost user trust and engagement. This, in turn, will up the traffic to your site.

 

6. HTTPS Everywhere

Google has inducted https as a ranking factor in its algorithm. Since then many companies hurriedly made the transition from HTTP to HTTPS in order to protect their own and their users’ privacy. It helps even more if there is money transactions happening on the website (e-commerce) and gives consumers extra confidence about their privacy. Let’s expect more websites switching to HTTPS than ever before in the history of the Web.

 

7. Focus on Content Curation

Though many people do not realise it, content marketing and SEO needs to work together for better results and visibility. Include all types of content in the mix: press releases and newsletters as well as articles and blog posts. A good content mix will help you increase backlinks on authority websites and establish you as an expert in your field. This strategy will help you boost your business to the top of Google’s SERPs.

 

2017 will see a massive hike in Internet usage. People are more concerned about the content they read. Now is the right time to prepare a well-developed strategy to survive in the market and beat the competition. As an SEO marketer, you have to be prepared for changes. Keep an close eye on SEO trends in 2017. All the best everyone!

 

IMAGE CREDITS:
“Google SEO Magnifying Glass” – BigOakFlickr, Flickr (1 July 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/31682982@N03/27940989741
“Free illustration: Seo, Web Page, Responsive – Free Image on Pixabay – 2016484” – Templune, pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/seo-web-page-responsive-web-design-2016484/

ONLINE TRANSLATION STUDY: English-language websites becoming more popular for foreign language speakers

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London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via the Open Business Council

A recent survey by an online translation company has discovered that English-language websites are becoming more and more frequented by speakers of continental European languages, particularly French and German, the Open Business Council reported this past Thursday.

One Hour Translation, an online translation agency which self-describes as the world’s largest in this sector, and which provides translation services to global e-commerce companies, conducted a research study of 4,000 e-commerce translation projects during late November 2016. The projects stretched from a period beginning in 2015, and up until November this year. The agency’s research discovered that the first language of choice for translation of Anglophone sites was French, with German coming in at second place.

 

 

Several international tongues were examined in the study. The analysis ranked target languages according to the rate of translation projects opened for them, against the total annual number of translation projects for English-language e-commerce websites.

In 2016, translations from English to French ranked first, with 13.5% of the total relevant projects, followed closely by German, with a rate of 13.4%. Unexpectedly, Dutch was placed at third, with 11.3% of the projects. The languages that ranked 4th to 10th in 2016 were, respectively, Italian (10%), Korean (9.8%), Japanese and Spanish (both 9.3%), Polish (8.5%), Norwegian (7.8%) and Swedish (7.1%).

French and German also topped the 2015 ranking, with 19% and 17% respectively. However, in 2015, Spanish was ranked third (15%), Dutch fourth (12%) and Italian fifth (9%). Ranks number 6 to 10 were Swedish (8%), Korean (7%), Norwegian (6%), Polish (5%) and Japanese (2%), respectively.

One Hour Translation’s chief marketing officer and co-founder Yaron Kaufman commented on the study results “…the fact that the French and German markets top the priorities of global e-commerce players immediately below the English-speaking markets is not surprising, since Germany and France are the strongest economies in Continental Europe. French and German are also spoken in other strong economies such as Canada, Switzerland and Austria. Dutch came third as a target language in 2016, compared to number 4 in 2015, and this strengthening demonstrates the resilience of the economy and purchasing power of the Netherlands compared to other European countries.”

Kaufman added: “Another notable fact is the sharp rise in the ranking of Japanese, which rose from number 10 in 2015 to number 6 in 2016. This development demonstrates that e-commerce players are also targeting the significant purchasing power of consumers in Japan.”

English is the most dominant language on the web, with more than half of sites written in that language. While English is widely used on the net due to its founding and dominance by Anglophone countries such as the U.S., other language communities like Chinese and French are also strong internet users. 

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
intelligentHQ.com, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/intelligentHQ
“English Language E-commerce Websites Target French German Dutch Markets” – Open Business Council (15 December 2016) http://www.openbusinesscouncil.org/2016/12/english-language-e-commerce-websites-target-french-german-dutch-markets/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:WMF Fundraiser 2011 Translation Project-1.jpg” – Victorgrigas, Wikimedia Commons (29 December 2011) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WMF_Fundraiser_2011_Translation_Project-1.jpg

5G WORLD: Post-Brexit strategies webinar

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London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH

KNect365, a subsidiary business of leading multinational events company Informa, is releasing a webinar for telecoms organisations figuring out their next steps in the aftermath of the 24th June referendum that saw the United Kingdom vote by a slim margin to leave the European Union.

In what is an uncertain time for many British businesses, the webinar, which is being held as part of Informa’s telecoms.com e-magazine, will help players in the telecommunications industry explore their post-Brexit strategies, as upcoming negotiations over the UK’s eventual status concerning the EU leave the country’s firms wondering what is in their future, and the direction of the national and international telecoms market.

 

 

Currently the UK regulatory framework for telecommunications is partly underpinned by the EU Regulatory Framework with Ofcom acting as national regulatory body for companies based here such as Sky and TalkTalk. Should the UK Parliament honour the outcome of the referendum and trigger Article 50 for withdrawal from the EU, then it is expected that all telecoms regulation will pass completely to Ofcom.

In addition to regulation, UK telecoms firms are also concerned about other implications post-Brexit, such as increased roaming charges for British tourists travelling in the EU and the termination of EU funding which support research and development for 5G networks in British laboratories and investment into alternative network providers.

The webinar, entitled What’s Your Post-Brexit Strategy?” will also examine other core issues such as the impact of Brexit on fixed and mobile phone operators, corporate preparation work in regards to the split from the EU and the potential changes in Ofcom’s regulatory set-up and directives once EU law ceases to be valid here.

Speakers lined up to offer their advice at the webinar include Mike Conradi, a partner with law firm DLA Piper UK LLP, who specialises in dispensing commercial and regulatory advice to telecoms firms. His speciality is regulatory matters, telecoms and IT outsourcing and in telecoms infrastructure projects. Joining him will be Malcolm Corbett, the chief executive officer of Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), the trade association for private, public and community sector organisations building next generation fibre and wireless broadband networks in the UK, and Informa’s own Tim Skinner, head of intelligence for telecoms.com, who is in charge of  delivering editorial content on client services, such as white papers, reports, webinars and surveys.

The event is free of charge but requires registration via KNect365. It is scheduled for Tuesday, August 2, 2016 at 3 pm British Summer Time, lasting one hour. To register, please see the sources link below.

DISCLAIMER: The writer is an employee of KNect365.
SOURCES:
Informa Accounts, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/informa-accounts
5G World Series, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/5GWorldSeries
“Event Registration” – Knect365 & telecoms.com via ON24 https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=reg20.jsp&partnerref=KNect365&eventid=1226515&sessionid=1&key=61D49E9A99BB88FDC13D0053BF883671&regTag=&sourcepage=register
IMAGE CREDIT:
5G World Series, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/5GWorldSeries

PEARLS OF EXCELLENCE: Newham Business Awards this October

gb

London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via the Newham Mag

While often labelled as one of the poorest areas of London, the east London borough of Newham is also a place where people aim to rise above the difficulties of deprivation, and one way where it is obvious is within the Newham business community. Newham is home to hundreds of small and medium-size businesses, ranging from decorators with white vans through independently owned boutiques and restaurants, through to major national businesses such as Tesco and the Wetherspoons gastropub chain. The borough is home to a long tradition of independent entrepreneurship stretching from the ‘rag-and-bone’ men of days gone past to modern web designers and consultants operating out of their bedrooms, providing services to thousands of people and companies inside and outside the London region.

Now Newham businesses have a chance to place themselves on the local stage and show that Newham is a great place to trade and reach out to customers with the help of the Newham Business Awards, happening this October. The Awards, which aim to recognise the achievements of local businesses, and are being sponsored by the borough’s council, will take place at the Old Town Hall in Stratford on the 13th October 2015. Stratford is one of east London’s modern business success stories. The district is home to two shopping centres, the Stratford Shopping Centre, and the newer Westfield Stratford City, which formed part of the Olympic legacy regeneration bequeathed to Newham after the London Games of 2012. Stratford is also home to hundreds of companies mainly involved in the retail and services sectors.

The Newham Business Awards are taking on nominations in ten categories, including business and business person of the year, innovation, e-commerce, new business, green business, sole trader and micro-business, training ad education, and community involvement.

The awards are being organised by the Newham Chamber of Commerce, which is located at the Stratford Town Hall, a Victorian historical building close to the district’s retail area, and are receiving heavy backing from businesses such as Asper’s, the operator of the wildly popular Asper’s Casino in Westfield, London City Airport, local newspaper the Newham Recorder, Tate and Lyle, a sugar and sweetener manufacturer who maintain a factory in the Silvertown area of southern Newham, alongside the local government representation.

Speaking with council publication the Newham Mag, the borough’s chamber secretary John James said “With 7,500 new businesses established here during the past five years, there are pearls of excellence worthy of the community’s attention.”

Councillor Joy Laguda, who met recently with members of the Chamber of Commerce, added: “We are pleased to be able to recognise businesses and especially the efforts of young entrepreneurs”

The Newham Chamber of Commerce was established in 1967, shortly after the borough was created from the merger of two earlier areas, West Ham and East Ham. As the official business voice of the new borough, the NCC sought to give a voice to local businesses and traders and strengthen their cause through support and representation. The NCC has close links with local government and regularly campaigns on local and city-wide issues affecting business, such as increased Thames crossings and a possible Crossrail 2 train link through Newham to neighbouring Barking. The chamber now has 200 members with 800 business people receiving its news via email.

SOURCES:
“Awards are just the business” – The Newham Mag, Newham Council [Issue 345] (15 July 2016)
“ABOUT NCC” – Newham Chamber of Commerce http://www.newhamchamber.com/about-ncc/
IMAGE CREDIT:
Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/photos/award/

CENTRAL OR RURAL?: – Consider starting up your start-up outside the city centre.

This article was written by Chris Linn, digital marketing manager with Minicabster, who recently brought you the London Cab Infographic. 

Chris Linn from Minicabster considers the importance of location for a start-up business.

https://www.minicabster.co.uk

The Telegraph’s Christopher Middleton recently considered the benefits of rural start up locations for budding entrepreneurs and used the particular example of alpaca farming in the West Country. For my part, while I’m not explicitly advocating such a rural location – or, indeed, such a ‘hands-on’ vocation – the idea of moving out of Central London is certainly a pervasive one. Typical business opinion may dictate that a company can never be too central; yet it’s certainly questionable whether such a location is the absolute best choice for a birth of a start-up. Does Central London really offer the business the best chance of surviving its incubation period? Are city-based businesses really more convenient for their customers?

London
London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Well, perhaps – but it ultimately depends on your business. While some may need to be based centrally, for most companies it’s no longer the case. For an essential visit, Central London is reachable for a day trip from even the most remote locations. The case for building a start-up outside the city centre is further strengthened by the looming implementation of HS2. And, with access to the internet and a phone number (this, too, can be internet-based, which will remove area codes), most start-ups could feasibly be run from away from city offices. Who would know?

The Minicabster office moved from Central London to North Harrow last year. While not strictly ‘rural’ – being situated on the most Western strand of the Metropolitan line – it’s certainly far-removed from the chaos of Baker Street and Embankment. By occupying office space in a cheaper location – an Microsoft report from last year indicated that Central London is the most expensive place in the world in which to rent office space due to a shortage of new space – MDs might choose to give greater remuneration to their workforces. This can only help to increase motivation, morale and will make it easier to retain valuable individuals in a time when job hopping appears to be at an all time high.

English: Westhall A rural 'small business' centre.
English: Westhall A rural ‘small business’ centre.

That’s not to say it’s recommended for start-ups to go too rural, though; last year’s study by the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) observed that 60% of rural businesses are hindered in some capacity by their broadband speed.

Is it risky to start up outside of Central London? Sure. But, then again, it’s risky to start up anywhere. Wherever you choose to set up shop, careful research is absolutely crucial. If nothing else, in a rural location you’ll probably be able to park your car with greater ease. If not, you can always book a minicab!

IMAGE CREDITS:
“London” – @Doug88888, Flickr (15 May 2010) LINK
“File:Westhall – geograph.org.uk – 364673.jpg” – Stanley Howe, geograph.org.uk/Wikimedia Commons (13 March 2007) LINK
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FIGHTING THE RECESSION: UK business confidence at a 13-month high

As the business environment in the United Kingdom fights off the effects of a triple-dip recession and an all-time low in consumer confidence, and as higher costs/rents and falling sales are killing off many businesses big and small, there is a small whiff of hope. At least if a report recently published by a firm of business advisors and accountants is to be believed.

English: Logotipo de la compañía BDO
English: Logotipo de la compañía BDO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the report, produced by BDO, confidence among British businesses is at its highest in just over a year, based on an evaluation using BDO’s own “Optimism Index” which has risen higher for the fifth consecutive month in June 2013.  Figures released by BBC indicated that the Optimum Index, a predictive indicator looking at business performance six months ahead, showed a rise from 93.6 to 94.3, which is a 13-month high. Additionally, the company’s Output Index, which measures sales volume predictions in the next few months, also showed an increase. The Index rose from 94.4 in May to 94.9 last month. Despite being an obvious improvement, the figures fall slightly on the wrong side of growth rates. Growth is indicated by figures of 95.0 and above.

BDO’s report states that the spike in business confidence has been at its highest among firms in the manufacturing and services sectors, despite the British manufacturing industry having been nearly decimated by competition from cheaper markets and lower manufacturing costs abroad, particularly in the emerging superpowers of India and China.

Despite these fresh shoots, BDO also warned in its report that recovering markets are still experiencing volatility particularly in the Eurozone (European countries with the euro as their currency). This has joined forces with declined spending by U.K. customers being held down by stalled wages and the Government’s widely reviled austerity cuts, and moves by the United States Federal Reserve to wind down its program of stimulus measures for ailing businesses across the Atlantic. Figures released by the agency show that growth has been slower than expected and have actually been underperforming. BDO has advised its business clients not to acquire false hopes of a total financial recovery in the interim.

English: The City of London skyline as viewed ...
English: The City of London skyline  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter Hemington, a partner at BDO, said in an interview with the BBC  “While it’s encouraging to see confidence continuing to improve, we should be mindful of the zig-zag trend that has characterised UK business confidence since 2008.”

“Periods of improved confidence have ended before growth has really begun to get going.

While BDO’s figures do make optimistic reading for British businesses, the stark reality of post-recession life has still made life difficult for business and consumer alike with even Government departments forecasting job losses in the public sector running into the tens of thousands. In a stark trading atmosphere, while any positive news is to be welcomed, the see-saw demeanour of UK economics and the fickle nature of customer spending, coupled with financially crippling austerity measures enacted by governments across Europe, means that UK plc is not quite out of the woods yet. The tough times are far from over.

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SOURCES:
Vijay Shah on Twitter LINK 
Casey on Twitter LINK 
“UK business confidence reaches 13-month high” – BBC News Business (8 July 2013) LINK