I want you to think about this statement: “Amazon is just a start-up, they have a long way to go.”
Do you agree with it? Well, I don’t. Yet this is exactly Amazon’s understanding of themselves. They state that their revenue currently only accounts for 1% of the world’s retail volume, i.e., they have big goals of taking over the world and are just beginning to do so. And, they are not the only ones. For years now, big companies and larger businesses have been taking over entire industries causing a power imbalance that eventually benefits very few shareholders while, in my opinion, disadvantaging employees and customers, often harming families, and communities as a whole.
From a customer perspective, larger companies eventually gaining the power of monopolies or duopolies will raise prices beyond what may be affordable for the average person. Enabled to set prices, they will choose profit maximizing prices rather than watching out for customers who may not have sufficient financial ability to pay. And while this situation currently applies mostly to luxury goods, knowing that the greater part of the retail industry is being taken over by large companies, I fear that this will – in the future – also be the case for basic suppliers.
This situation is unacceptable, and as someone who cares about community, it encouraged me to apply for the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), to travel across the country in order to research problems and challenges that small (retail) businesses are facing, and find national and international similarities so that they can learn from one another.
Why am I doing this with MTP and not by myself? Well, if Fulbright has taught me one thing in this past year, it’s that we are so much stronger as a community. Whenever I meet fellow Fulbrighters, I am impressed by their passion for community, by their knowledge of the most unique things, and how everyone is aiming to apply their knowledge to the single goal of making the world a better place. (Sounds cheesy, but I mean it!)
Now, three days into the trip, I am convinced that being on the MTP was the absolute right decision. But what is the MTP community and why is it so special? Well, on this particular journey, we are about 25 students and young professionals from all over the country (and including us Fulbrighters, from all over the world) with the most amazing projects – from increasing literacy among young kids and improving national playgrounds, to engaging young adults in politics, and women’s rights and community building: Very different people, very different ideas, yet one common conviction: We need change!
As Patrick Dowd, the founder and CEO of MTP made very clear at the beginning of our trip in Pittsburgh: This is both an inner and outer journey – and with this community on board, the inner journey is equally valuable to us. I am very much looking forward to the next couple of days en route to Albuquerque and Los Angeles. Stay tuned!