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Why Keith Weed invested in ‘gig CX’ platform Limitless | Digital

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There’s no need to retrace the full story of Uber’s legal disputes with its drivers – they continue to be covered in many other publications – but suffice to say the gig economy has not always lived up to what it once promised: to liberate workers from the confines of conventional employment and allow them to deal directly with consumers on terms that suited them. And at a time in which almost everyone’s work is feeling insecure, the precarious nature of that kind of life perhaps looks less appealing than ever.

So why has Keith Weed (pictured, top) – the former Unilever marketing supremo now living the portfolio life as a WPP board director, charity non-exec and angel investor – decided to back Limitless, a company aiming to bring the gig economy to customer experience in major companies?

His arguments, though already well-grounded, have been given a surprising boost by one of the indirect consequences of the coronavirus pandemic: the surge in online shopping. Speaking to Campaign on a call with Roger Beadle, co-founder and chief executive of Limitless, Weed said: “The biggest impact this is going to have is [it will lead consumers] to expect brands to have a bigger ecommerce platform.”

The crucial behaviour change caused by the lockdown was to prompt huge numbers of people to try online shopping for the first time, Weed said: “We’ve basically probably got the next 15 years of people [set to come] online [to] have come online in the last 15 days.” In other words, the size of the consumer base has, almost overnight, reached a level observers wouldn’t have expected for another 15 years.

“That’s the reason you’re seeing all these problems in online grocery,” Weed said, adding that two of the giants of ecommerce, Amazon and eBay, were also experiencing problems due to overwhelming demand.

That, in turn, leads to a far greater demand for online customer service – which is where Limitless comes in. The company offers freelance customer service workers, dubbed “experts”, who work on a gig basis, meaning clients can bring them on for exactly the amount of work they need doing, helping them deal with sudden peaks in demand.

“Post-this [pandemic], the amount of online shopping will go down, but the amount of people who have now had an online experience will never go back,” Weed said. “So there will be a step change in the amount of ecommerce used – brands are going to have to think about how they engage with that.”

Beadle founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016, after a 25-year career in the contact centre industry, including founding and selling a successful company. Blue-chip clients of Limitless have included Microsoft and Unilever, where Weed first became involved as a customer.

One of Beadle’s deep regrets about the call-centre business was its low rates of pay. “The reason we founded the company [Limitless] is we were ashamed our industry pays people the minimum wage the world over,” he said. “It’s virtually impossible to break that economic model in the world of call centres, so we wanted to find a model that could strip a lot of the wasted cost away and pay people more.”

As a result, it pledges that its experts earn an amount equivalent to considerably above the living wage (the UK real living wage is currently £9.30 an hour or £10.75 in London). Beadle and Weed both set Limitless apart from the likes of Uber by stressing that it is not meant to provide full-time work to any of its experts – and that the work can be done during gaps in the day, such as while a parent is waiting to pick up their kids.

The idea is that the experts are worth paying more than call-centre employees, because unlike full-timers, they are chosen for their use and knowledge of the brand in question. Brands are able to invite their own customers (or even employees) to become experts – something that Beadle calls the “special sauce” of the operation, or perhaps one sauce of several.

“It’s not just a free for all,” Beadle said. “The very people that are helping you have native knowledge, use of the brands and the products, and are fans and advocates. You get a much richer, empathetic level of service.” The experts are provided with training and resources to support their existing knowledge.

There’s also another factor Beadle credited with ensuring high standards, and it’s a classic hit of the gig economy: a marketplace dynamic. “You’re only on the platform if you have a great rating and are helping consumers,” he said. With luck, the fact that both the brand and the consumer need to be happy with the expert’s work will protect this system from being manipulated.

There’s an obvious overlap between Limitless’ experts and the style of influencers offered by another company Weed has invested in, Tribe. It’s an interesting direction for a man who, while at Unilever, took a stand against bad practices in the influencer industry. “One thing I’ve learned is that authenticity is everything” when it comes to influencers, he said.

“The [influencers] that are less interesting are the big names that have clearly been bought to talk about brands,” Weed explained. “Consumers are very forgiving around stars in ads talking about brands – the difference [with influencers] is that people are looking for something more personal and real.” People were “genuinely interested in other people’s opinions”, he said, but “after that, what’s important” when it comes to influencers is: “Are these people real users of the products and are they really knowledgeable?”

On the broader impact on brands of the coronavirus crisis, Weed said: “I believe and hope we’ll see more brands thinking about society, and the roles of serving society, than we had before. Already, a lot of brands have had to rethink what sort of brand they are in a moment of crisis. Post-this, most brands will say we’ve got to think about a multi-stakeholder approach, how we influence the environment and society, and not just think about our P&L.”

And what role is Limitless trying to play in society? “We’re trying to think about how work is done in the future,” Weed said, echoing wording used by Beadle. “The exercise the world is going through right now in working remotely will change the way people think about how they work. We need to think through new models around how people are going to work to ensure brands don’t find themselves becoming irrelevant and left behind.”

The argument that great change is coming to the way we work is unanswerable. Whether or not Beadle and Weed have the right answers, they seem to be asking the right questions.

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Food delivery deaths show why gig economy workers need more rights

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Australia’s gig economy road toll is growing, with five food delivery riders killed in the past two months – and those tragic deaths have ignited debate over the rights of workers.

While the companies behind the apps rake in pandemic profits, workers’ advocates warn we will see more delivery riders die and be injured on our roads, with limited rights to compensation if nothing changes.

Hungry Panda delivery rider Xiaojun Chen died after being hit by a bus while delivering food in Sydney on September 29.

Last week, representatives of the firm failed to front a NSW parliamentary inquiry looking into the death, with no explanation given.

Mr Chen’s widow, Lihong Wei, was told by Hungry Panda that they considered her husband to be an independent contractor, not an employee, so she would not be entitled to compensation.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Jasmina Mackovic is now representing Mrs Wei and pursuing a death-benefit claim under the NSW workers’ compensation scheme.

“They’ve lost the breadwinner and they don’t want this sort of thing to happen to any other family, especially given the state of that industry, and the fact that there’s all these loopholes, and there’s really no proper compensation,” Ms Mackovic said.

Mr Chen was the sole income earner for his family back in China, and his death has left Mrs Wei to support herself and their two children with no guarantee of financial compensation from either Hungry Panda or the state government.

Like many gig economy workers, Mr Chen was a migrant on a temporary visa.

These workers are not entitled to the federal government’s pandemic safety nets JobKeeper and JobSeeker, and they have little option but to take on low-paid, insecure and risky gig economy jobs to survive.

Gig economy companies have a history of pouring large sums into lobbying against workers’ rights.

In California, Uber and Lyft recently spent more than a-quarter-of-a-billion dollars to successfully fight law reform that would have seen gig economy contractors classified as employees.

In September, a Transport Workers’ Union survey of delivery riders in Australia showed that average earnings after costs were just over $10 an hour.

More than one in three riders said they had been injured on the job, with the vast majority (80 per cent) receiving no support from their companies.

The NSW government this week set up a taskforce to investigate the four delivery rider deaths on the state’s roads in the past two months.

Delivery riders in Australia earn an average of $10 an hour, the TWU says. Photo: Getty

But gig workers’ rights are a national issue and need to be addressed by both federal government and state governments, Ms Mackovic said.

“Both state and federal governments have a role to play to ensure that these companies don’t avoid their responsibilities, and to ensure they adequately protect the people that work for them,” she said.

Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Michael Kaine also called for the federal government to step in and “acknowledge its role”.

“It’s not good enough that states are in a piecemeal way trying to address the problem,” Mr Kaine said.

“We need the Federal Government to act and regulate.”

Hungry Panda did not respond to questions put to it by The New Daily.



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Pearl Thusi Bags A Huge Gig After Getting Booted Out Of Netflix

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Pearl Thusi Bags A Huge Gig After Getting Booted Out Of Netflix, She Has Partnered With Yvette Davis’ Sitota Collection

Pearl Thusi Bags A Huge Gig After Getting Booted Out Of Netflix. She Partnered With Yvette Davis' Satota Collection
Pearl Thusi Bags A Huge Gig After Getting Booted Out Of Netflix. She Partnered With Yvette Davis’ Sitota Collection

It seemed like a dead-end for Queen Sono lead actress, Pearl Thusi when the show unexpectedly got booted out of Netflix’s streaming service amid production for season two – but sis fell, stood and brushed herself fast enough.

She bagged herself yet another gig and continues to secure the bag.

She has partnered with American legendary music industry’s biggest icon, Yvette Davis Gayle to produce a new luxurious home fragrance, called the BlackRose under Sitota Collection.

Sitota Collection is one of the big home fragrance companies in America and abroad.

They boast in producing hand-poured soy candles and artisan soaps made with natural oils and kinds of butter.

The new fragrance is said to combine Bulgarian rose with blackcurrant and sweet berries.

Speaking on her recent big win after the Netflix flop, Pearl Thusi said the opportunity came at a right time for her and has always been a dream of hers to get into such business.

“The partnership with the Sitota Collection came naturally and it felt right. I am a businesswoman and venturing into luxury home products has been a dream of mine, who better to partner with than the best in the business?

I can’t wait for the local community to experience what we have put together. I feel this is my full-circle moment.

The collaboration is incredible because the soap and candle used my favourite scents and ingredients,” she said.

Yvette Davis Gayle is one of America’s legendary music icons.

She is well known in the musical circle for overseeing the day-to-day media and public relations efforts for such standout recording artists as 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, The Game, Diddy Dirty Money, Keyshia Cole, and Keri Hilson as well as various artists that graced the rosters of Aftermath and G-Unit Records back in the day.

She ventured into the fragrance collection business back in 2011 and her company, Sitota Collection has won her a fortune.

Pearl Thusi Bags A Huge Gig After Getting Booted Out Of Netflix


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Gig economy: Panacea or a silent killer?

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Image Credit: Agency

You probably never heard of Jang Deok-jin. And now you never will, because he’s dead.

27-year-old Jang, a former Taekwondo enthusiast in South Korea, was of the millions bit by the bug of the ‘gig’ economy — the new-age system typified by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. The biggest employment this has created is in the online marketplace — where millions of bike or vehicle drivers deliver packages of goods bought over the internet.

No doubt Jang thought that this would help him earn big bucks. He did, for a while. In the process, he lost 15kg after doing 18 months of night shifts, according to a BBC report. One night, he came home from a night shift last month at around six in the morning and headed for a shower. His father found him dead an hour later.

Master-slave. Landlord-serf. Bourgeoisie-proletariat. And now — Aggregator-partner.

By whatever name you choose to call it, throughout human history, the relationship between the oppressors and oppressed has always remained the same. The terminology may have changed over time, the levels of oppression may have varied, but the essence of the relationship still continues as they have been through the millennia — a miniscule group of people calling the shots, and the starving millions toiling for their lives to eke out a meagre existence.

We all thought it was a momentous event when the ‘Iron Curtain’ of communism came crashing down three decades ago. The 1990s were heralded as the beginning of a new epoch of liberty, human rights and prosperity, as the stifling conditions of the communist bloc gave way to liberal democratic regimes, championing the free market and industrial progress.

But are we really free?

With the advent of globalisation, free movement of goods followed as a natural course. The companies’ profits also ballooned as a consequence. As a result of globalisation, the factories moved from the industrialised states to countries where labour was cheap and plentiful, and more importantly, less likely to complain about low wages. So, while the workers in the West lost their jobs, the workers in the East gained employment under poor conditions. The classic example of this situation gained worldwide attention in 2013, when Rana Plaza, a building housing garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh, came crashing down, killing over 1,100 people, who were all sewing clothes for multinational brands.

Let us take a peek into the moulded pages of history to gauge how the present situation has come about.

In the 18th century, as the global economy was moving from an agricultural dominance towards industrialisation, it also became necessary to get the labour for the factories. The so-called ‘emancipation of serfs’ was nothing but a ruse to take the farm workers away to the assembly lines. The worker’s wellbeing was the last thing on the mind of those championing their liberties. It is no coincidence that the French Revolution — 1789 — occurred just 25 years after the first cotton mill opened in England.

As the factory owners pounded the labourers with more and more work, the issue of labour rights began to come to the fore — championed foremost of course by German philosopher Karl Marx. This explosion of the communist movement saw rising demand to improve workers’ rights, and increasing popularity of left-leaning movements.

As these movements caught on, it was in 1936 that France became the first European country to grant paid vacations for working class employees beyond national and religious holidays, with the post-war consensus steadily expanding those privileges. Other Western countries followed suit, establishing the social security network that forms the bedrock of social organisation at present in those nations.

However, by the end of the past century, two global events shook the very foundations of society as we knew it. One, the communist block crumbled, effectively removing the opposition to unfettered capitalism. Second, the advent of the internet ushered in a new world of connectedness like never before.

New ideas exploded. And as a natural consequence, new industries too. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution under way, a plethora of new work opportunities resulted. It was thought to be the ultimate panacea — knowledge-based industries.

And so it did — for a while and in some places. But then, the dark clouds gathered.

As it is with globalisation, manufacturing had largely moved from the assembly lines of the Western nations to cheaper locations in the Eastern hemisphere. The same happened here as well — with distances no barrier, companies moved a major part of their operations to similar places. A new term — ‘Bangalored’, referring to the city in India — made its way into the English lexicon, which refers to a person losing his/her job because that position was outsourced somewhere else. The ‘Business Process Outsourcing’ companies flourished in the less developed countries as a result, India being a major gainer.

But did it really mean the people working in these countries go better off, at least economically? For a while, yes. You suddenly saw 20-somethings with no skill to speak of but a rudimentary knowledge of computers and a smattering of accented English break out in the socioeconomic space, buying apartments, fancy cars and bikes. However, as this group reached the next decade of their lives, it was increasingly seen that they remained stuck to those positions. There was hardly any movement up the corporate ladder, and with unearthly working hours thrown in, the situation quickly became desperate.

And then came the ‘gig’ economy. The internet-based businesses were hailed as the solution to the masses being laid off due to the blue-collar jobs vanishing. But as the millions of bikes rode out to deliver parcels, the stark aspects of this new phenomenon —zero holiday pay, and employment only when there’s work available — became increasingly visible.

These are now becoming the default employment terms in what’s now considered the developed world. Governments have struggled to create a safety net of the same strength for this workforce as that being provided to people in traditional employment models, which is becoming increasingly scarce. This insecurity “has likely led gig economy workers to continue working, even when they perhaps should not, as the alternative risks substantial shortfalls in income,” Lazard Asset Management wrote in a recent note.

Thus the entire globe is increasingly moving towards an informal employment model, where there is unlikely to be any form of permanent labour benefits. This is bound to have ripple effects — not just for workers’ health. For example, if a worker does not find stable employment, will he/she think about setting up a family? How is he/she to support such a family without the knowledge of what he might be earning in the near future? Without a social security net, how will the children be educated? Without company-provided insurance, how will the health care of the workers and their families be taken care of?

No concrete answers have yet come up on these questions. Movements have begun in parts of the world for greater rights for these ‘partners’ in the gig economy, but hardly anything has been achieved yet. And the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, has worsened conditions for these workers while beefing up the ‘aggregator’s’ bottomline.

So the next time you sit in the cocoons of your home, sitting in front of your laptop and order that next round of food or anything else from the ‘aggregator’s’ website, spare a thought for the ‘partners’ like Jang Deok-jin, who gave his life in the process.

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