THE LAST TWELVE months have been busy for Addison Lee CEO Liam Griffin.
The Camden based firm may be the largest private hire company in Europe but it is currently locking horns with a disruptive tech sector that appears to have unlimited cash.
As the 41 year old said, “We are in an industry that has seen more change in the last 12 months than it probably did in the last 20 years. And we’ve been there every step of the way.
“We’ve led this market for a long, long time so there have not been that many surprises.
The technology and what-not, we’ve had many of these things in place for the last five years anyway.
It’s just that somebody’s obviously come along with a whole new approach and that has certainly made quite an impact.”
That ‘somebody’ is Uber, who went from operating in 60 cities at the start of 2014 to over 250 just 12 months later.
The growth of the California based tech company has been more than matched however with bad news and negative publicity.
The American company has been accused of not checking the safety background of drivers thoroughly after several passengers were attacked and a woman in New Delhi, India has alleged that she was raped by an Uber driver.
The drip drip of bad news has not damaged the company’s value though, which rose from $17 billion in June 2014 to $40 billion just six months later.
“It is quite phenomenal that if you said, ‘What was the fastest growing company in the history of all companies’, it’s a minicab company.”
“You would never think that it was a minicab firm. Which, however you dress them up, they are still a minicab company.
“They are no different to us. They’ve got an app, we’ve got an app. They’ve got a PCO licence, we’ve got a PCO licence. They recruit drivers, we recruit drivers and we all go and get the same customers.”
“The value of Uber will fall when the novelty factor wears off.”
“We’ll come back to reality then. It does get the brain waves working though. What should we do and how can we do it? They’ve clearly nicked a fair chunk of our ideas, so we’ll happily go and reciprocate.”
Liam also finds it amusing, that because of Uber, Addison Lee and London’s black cabs are now on the same side. “We would never have thought that would happen. I sympathise with their protests against Transport for London.
“TfL should not have given a licence to Uber.”
“And I am still a believer in the need for drivers to be heavily trained. London is a complicated place and being a minicab driver is not as simple as everybody thinks.
“We’ve had lots of Uber drivers come to Addison Lee, about 48 this month alone. And of that 48 we’ve taken on eight or nine.
“That is because there is a big difference in quality. And we believe that people are prepared to pay for that quality.”