Ikea is buying TaskRabbit, but does this mark a move into the gig economy or the sharing economy?
Sharing is a much more positive word than gig – at least it is if you suffix the word economy. TaskRabbit is an app that enables people with specific skills – often with some kind of DIY theme – to provide services for people who lack those skills.
So, let’s say you have bought a new wardrobe from Ikea, and five days in, it is still in bits – or worse, you have assembled it, but it is as wobbly as a six-year-old’s tooth, there’s some wood left-over, but you can’t work out where it should go. Who do you call? No, not Ghostbusters, you whip out your smartphone, call up the TaskRabbit app, and find someone in your area who is a dab hand at assembling Ikea furniture
It has been suggested elsewhere that TaskRabbit is an app for the lazy, which is a very easy thing to say if you have lots of spare time on your hands, and you have a knack for assembling things. But some people have neither.
Of course, it’s not Ikea's only high-profile move into the world of apps of late. It also provides the most talked about augmented reality app for the iPhone X – an app that allows you to see Ikea furniture adorning your living room.
The synergy between Ikea and TaskRabbit is good. And it’s the kind of a move that a company trying to ensure it does not get disrupted by new technology should be making.
And what a great idea TaskRabbit is, on paper.
It is just that the gig economy is not getting such a good rap. Uber denies it is part of the gig economy, it is just a way for people to top-up their income, from time to time. You could say ditto for TaskRabbit, but it too has been on the receiving end of criticism.
Truth is that supplying a service via an app, with your fee calculated by the algorithm, is the purest form of capitalism. Capitalism can be incredibly efficient, but as workers back in Victorian mills would no doubt have testified, it can also create an awful lot of strife.