House Rules or Regulation: What Does the Future Hold for Ecosystems?
Ecosystems can create products and services that people need
There’s no doubt that ecosystems, as typically strong organizations, can create great products that benefit people. This applies to both consumers and manufacturers. This is a very good and important feature. These companies simply have the resources, technologies, and expertise needed to create new, useful things. This is a very good aspect of ecosystems — Alexander Shulgin, General Director, Ozon.
Russia will have several large competing ecosystems
Will we see two or more services that customers will back and forth between? The answer is whatever customers want and prefer. Do customers want it to be multiple services or to put all their data in one basket? I think all these Asian examples [...], where there are 2-3 [ecosystem] companies, and the European example, where there are several companies at once. This reflects the development of the market as it evolved. It was a progressive development or it was more of an abrupt development [...] In Russia, I think there will be something in between: not two players, like in China, for example, but the market will not be as fragmented as it is in the West — Neri Tollardo, Strategy Director, Vice President, Tinkoff Bank.
Economists have yet to study the role of ecosystems in the modern world
There are large systems. I think there are several of them on the Russian market. Of course, there is Yandex, Sberbank, Mail.ru with Alibaba, and I think Ozon is in the initial stage [...] and Tinkoff is in the initial stage. This is a kind of starter kit. In addition, there are foreign ecosystems on the Russian market. Sorry, it’s Google and Apple, and at least [...] two major ecosystems that seriously affect the market. Now the question is how to live with it at all [...] Unfortunately, scientific thought around the world has not yet come up with any consistent holistic solutions. However, it’s not all that bad, particularly on the Russian market. There is a lot of competition between all these companies on the Russian market. If you try not to look at industrial competition, but at the inter-ecosystem, the ecosystems are currently fighting in different forms [...] for the user’s time or for the user’s wallet — Tigran Khudaverdyan, Managing Director, Yandex Group of Companies.
There is no clear concept of an ecosystem
I think it’s somewhat difficult to talk about ecosystems because the concept itself has not been defined. What exactly are ecosystems? Well, for myself I’ve defined it as a company that operates on several markets at the same time. On one market, it probably has a large share, while on others perhaps it has a large or small share. I wouldn’t classify Ozon as an ecosystem yet. We don’t view ourselves as an ecosystem. We offer a set of services, services for the organizations that produce or sell goods, and services that improve the quality and efficiency of these organizations. These services must be offered. By us or not by us – it doesn’t matter. And whatever doesn’t help our clients doesn’t need to be done. That’s the simple approach we have — Alexander Shulgin, General Director, Ozon.
Competition between ecosystems will disappear without government regulation
What would I do if I were the director of any major company that is already an ecosystem or is about to become one? [...] Each of them [representatives of ecosystems at the session] has fears that, given the technological development and the absence of a regulator that would introduce the rules of the game, they may perish themselves in competition with both foreign systems and with large domestic ones. Of the six ecosystems that were cited [at the session], roughly only three or two are even Yandex and Sberbank, are not monopolists, but rather major powerful players, so, of course competition is important to the rest. And if I, for example, were Yandex or Sberbank, I would say: ‘Really? We self-regulate with total peace of mind. Let’s make our own rules of the player’. In principle, this approach is also possible. But we believe […] ecosystems nevertheless need to be regulated — Vladislav Fedulov, Deputy Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation.
Governments need to prevent ecosystems from abusing their positions
There is a downside [to ecosystems]. It’s no secret that in China the regulators [...] are now restricting abuse by Alibaba. A crude example is when Alibaba says: ‘You have to sell [using the platform of] Alibaba. If you don’t give the best price on Alibaba, then say goodbye to our platform’. Obviously, this is not a good practice. Amazon is doing something similar. There was also recently a report about a trial in which Amazon was accused of abusing their market power. In fact, [this practice] applies to any major organization — Alexander Shulgin, General Director, Ozon.
The government creates a competitive environment without interfering with the development of ecosystems
I think the market is developing by itself efficiently through competition. So, if we stimulate and create a competitive environment, everything else is the role of the market, not the regulator [...] If the state doesn’t provide a fair competitive environment, then distortions begin to accumulate. [In this case], the market power of individual major players can suppress economic development and the innovative development of consumers and suppliers [...] Our consultative report [...] asks the following questions: ‘How does the network effect accumulate?’, ‘Is it dumping or not?’, ‘While [the network effect] is accumulating, prices are low, but as it has accumulated, prices have risen. What’s this all about? Is it good faith or not?’ On the other hand, we understand that ecosystems without a network effect do not exist in principle [...] Do we like ecosystems? Of course, we do, insofar as consumers like them. This is a business model that does more than just exist. It is proving its appeal. Is this the last business model in which development will stop? Of course not — Sergey Shvetsov, First Deputy Governor, Bank of Russia .
Companies develop ecosystems to maintain an appealing consumer experience
Let’s look at what’s happening in the world in terms of fintech. It hits home for us. For example, 6–7 years ago, everyone [...] chose some kind of service or some function and built a really cool product and began to gain a client base. Everyone quickly realized that either they had chosen a product that was difficult to monetize, or the cost of attracting a customer was already very high. To keep this customer, you need to build additional products in this system. The strategy [of ecosystems] is absolutely reasonable. For example, we need to make the maximum profit for the money that has been spent. That is, it’s more of a question of how far it’s worth going when you are building an ecosystem — Neri Tollardo, Strategy Director, Vice President, Tinkoff Bank.