I recently attended the Dutch Transformation Forum. The topic of discussion was the platform economy. Developments in this field are taking place at a rapid pace. Amazon’s market share in the global e-commerce sector increased from 43 to 48% last year. A figure that’s perhaps just as important: 30% of their turnover is derived through recommendations from Amazon’s own search engine. This figure illustrates the importance of data and the strength of the algorithms used by companies like Amazon, Booking.com and Bol.com.
What became clear at this forum, is that basically every organisation is exploring ways to take part in the platform economy. At a commercial level, when they’re looking for new business models, but also at a legislative level.
An interesting discussion evolved at my table. There’s an ongoing debate in society and among politicians about the social consequences of the platform economy. Take Uber. Are Uber drivers self-employed, or are they completely under Uber’s thumb? Someone suggested Uber should become a cooperative in which the taxi drivers can become members, along the lines of our model at Royal FloraHolland. Would that change the business operations, because the platform is set up by the taxi drivers?
Platforms are often perceived as a technological concept. But one of the speakers explained how he views the platform as a way of thinking. He used the Port of Rotterdam as an example and argued that the Netherlands must invest in logistical technology and strengthen the harbour through a platform that digitalises all warehouses, lorries and delivery locations throughout Europe. That would really help the Port of Rotterdam maintain, and further improve, its position.
It’s an idea that can be applied to floriculture too. As a sector, we’re in a good position to take the lead. If we’re quick, we can consolidate our current advantage. If we do nothing, there’s a risk that someone will overtake us. A concern that was widely shared at the forum. Europe is falling behind, compared to China and the US, when it comes to investments and innovation.
Our great strength is collaboration, so let’s use it to our advantage. We can only make use of all the available data in a platform economy when there are clear guidelines and agreements that are respected by everyone involved. All from one digitally linked eco system. The floriculture sector as a platform. That’s something I’m working on every day.
Steven van Schilfgaarde
CEO Royal FloraHolland