A digital economy and physical moves coming together

by Nicolas Trepanier

Francis Roy of vHub

MONTREAL, Que. – As digital as the economy becomes, there will always be a need to move goods from Point A to Point B. But Francis Roy, director at vHub, stresses the need for business models to evolve.

Consider the rise of Amazon and the fall of Sears, he said during a presentation at the ExpoCam trade show in Montreal. Each company has a similar business model. One relies on an online catalog and the other a print catalog.

Customers who once relied on a seller’s advice, however, now rely on comments from a community of strangers, he said.

“The mentalities evolve a lot. People started to shop based on the comments of others, now they start using the business of others. It was the next step,” he said. It all links to a sharing economy, which he likened to a train that has left the station and will not stop.

According to his statistics, 38% of millennials have already used a sharing economy platform, 23% have participated in a social fundraising campaign, and 29% have made their assets available to other users. People over 40, who do not participate in large numbers in the sharing economy, are starting to make their assets available on different platforms, too.

“What’s important, accessing or owning the resource?” Roy asked. “If we take music as an example, the pleasure of listening to it is greater than the pleasure of owning CDs.”

What is overused, what is underutilized?

In Canada, there are about three trailers for every tractor in circulation. The trailers are empty for 15-25% of the distance they travel, and are underutilized during about 30% of the trips, he said.

That’s what pushed Finloc, a Manac financial partner, to develop the vHub intelligent trailer platform.

vHub allows trailer owners to make their equipment available to carriers who would like to use it. The opening of the account is free, as is a trailer’s listing. Charges are then collected if there is a transaction between a trailer owner and a user.

“The owner has access to the user’s certificate of insurance and he has the last word on the transaction,” said Roy. The trailers can be returned to their point of origin or another location established by both parties. “It’s also the owner who determines the price … some lend their trailers for free just to bring them back to a particular place.”

An application like NEXT, which takes an approach similar to Uber, could see drivers share their time in another way.

“Take care of your drivers,” he said. “Drivers are becoming mini-entrepreneurs, and they will be more and more tempted to leave your company if they are not treated well.”

  • Quotes in this article were translated from a presentation in French

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