By Krista Huhtala-Jenks, Head of Ecosystem & Sustainability at MaaS Global
You go for your well-deserved holiday, and what happens? The MaaS-debate of the year (yes, I’m calling it) NOT concerning COVID takes place. You go through all the articles, (starting from David Zipper’s piece on Bloomberg followed by blog posts by the likes of the one and only Sampo, Boyd, and comments by many more e.g. here, here, and here) all at once and come to the conclusion – Are we really still here?
In 2016, at the Verge conference I described the transport sector like the Lord of Rings. In the quest of getting hold of the “Precious”, you have two old dudes with long white hair shouting “You shall not pass” and it’s hard to say who’s really Gandalf and who’s Saruman.
Feels not much has changed in our big little transpo world.
B2C, B2B, B2G, B2BYXZ – is it essential to debate which business model will crack the nut first or be the prettiest of them all? No. Why? Because this will only keep us distracted from the real conversation we should be having.
As long as I’ve been working on MaaS, irrespective of my employer, the basic principle has been that MaaS will and should have many different forms in its offering and business models. MaaS isn’t a simple machine to put together and sell but the shared goal and common good we strive for is far too big to be limited to one or even a handful of “MaaS X”. We all have our vision of the precious but there’s plenty rings to chase in this market.
However, there is a big hairy BUT (so tempted to add another t) attached to this. In order to reach our common goals, and to give several MaaS models a real fighting chance to be sustainable, financially and in every other way, there needs to be fair rules for entry. This is currently not the case.
Due to several reasons, the transport market is still widely occupied by local, regional or national monopolies. There is also the very possible threat of creating global monopolies in our industry especially with the constant you shall not pass-malarkey.
It is simple. If you control one essential good, utility, or a service, in your market dominant position you have a particular obligation to ensure fair market conditions. You do also have the possibility to exercise that power to more or less actively hinder others even entering the market. Whether public or private, subsidized or profit-driven, the same responsibility or temptation to abuse this power applies.
I’m very happy David’s article started the discussion. It is important to talk about profitability. Or talk about financial viability, a matter often overlooked when more or less fruitful discussions of B2C vs. B2G2C commence. Even if the bottom line is slightly different for the public sector, those subsidies still come from the customer aka the taxpayer and there has to be financial viability.
Don’t get me wrong. Plenty wonderful things are cooking in the MaaS market. We at MaaS Global have recently brought new products to the market, and many more of our colleagues are doing a cracking job (such as Skipr, Iomob, SkedGo, Tranzer…). To not only shift the needle but to leapfrog into the sustainable future we desperately need, we need to take ownership of the real issue at hand.
I have another one of my favourite analogies for MaaS. Particularly fond of this one so don’t bash it.
To me MaaS is like an awesome heavy metal band. In the band public transport is the drummer, setting the beat we all mosh to. A fun fact – in metal bands drummers burn the most calories during gigs. Personally, I’m a sucker for some serious blast beasts and double bass drumming. The axe-man, the lead guitarists, that’s all the new and old mobility services people need to get thrilled about. Then you have the often-ignored bassist. But try and listen to Iron Maiden without bass. Hell, there is no metal without some seriously heavy bass. In MaaS the authority, the legislator is the bassist. Setting the groove which you can feel in the deepest depths of your gut.
The front(wo)man is the MaaS operator. Being able to go from the deepest death growls, to angelic clean vocals to ear piercing screeching, captivating the listeners. The crowd, this is the one you do it all for – the tormenting writing process, the endless touring, before fame and glory selling cheap merch from the back of your van. You slave away to give the audience a hell of a show people are willing to pay and ask for more. Before the rockstardom bands need to work their asses off, together, through every single aspect.
Now, my ultimate love affair Slipknot (yes, love them more than MaaS), they are a nine piece! NINE! They have a drummer and two percussionists. Those guys have been playing the sickest tunes for over 20 years already. Bet they’ve had their ups and downs but man they put up a show like no other and they are still here.
Seems like we, as an industry, are still debating do we want to play doom or trash. We are already hiring the private jet when we haven’t even been able to decide who takes on the singing duties.
My Precious – A framed picture in my bedroom of the former bassist and the singer of Slipknot hugging pre-gig.
I’m not sure about you guys but my neck’s all warmed up for some moshing and jamming.
P.S. As a token of my appreciation for the continued discussions by all you amazing MaaS-Gandalfs out there, I made you a playlist to get in the mood.