Mike Eberhard, President, Concur Technologies in an interview with BW BusinessWorld discusses the changing times of business and the increase in demand for business travel.
Concur Technologies over the last 15 years have gained 38500 customers and 46.5 million end users globally. The technology company that focuses on business travel and connected spend has entered the Indian markets of international travel with the increase of globalization and rapid growth of businesses in the country.
Concur Technologies with their current focus have achieved 38500 customers with 46.5 million end users in their journey and have now entered the Indian markets which according to Mike is the fastest growing markets with demand for business travel. He also mentions in the interview that India has a very manual based system to control spends of their companies. By providing a digital experience to their customers Concur Technologies aims to facilitate this procedure by providing their API’s (Application Program Interface).
What does Concur technology do at the global level?
We have over 38500 customers with more than 46.5 million end users at the global level. For the rest of the world, this change has been happening for the last 15-20 years. Business travel is growing and everybody's business is becoming more global. Demand for Concur as a global platform has grown with business travels becoming more global to manage connected spend. It has worked extremely well for our Indian customers because of their growing global outlook. They are turning into MNCs themselves. Our ability is not only to help them in India but also in different tax situations and regulations all over the world.
According to you, what is the status of global market in business travel?
On business travel, over U.S. $1 trillion is spent worldwide every year. It is certainly one of the reasons why Concur was founded. There is a significant part of spend made by companies, most of it, is not well managed. Our first foray in the business was to track this spend from the expense claim. Then we had the customers asking us if we could help them manage it. This also meant influencing the buying decisions and to provide integrated booking of travels. Since then, it has evolved significantly since then.
How do you see Concur evolving in India?
India is one of the fastest growing markets as Indian customers are growing to be more global. They have a similar interest into the visibility of spend to control and manage this spend. The Indian companies additionally have other challenges, things like GST, where the landscape is rapidly changing. I think that we have made our point. The entry of spend into the system is important. We think that we are extremely well positioned to now be able to say that the entry of things like GST in India, we need to take full picture of it and how to enter the GST items into the system and process so that these can be properly accounted for, moving forward.
What is your view on the new tax reforms such as GST coming into India and how has it played out for the India companies? Where do you see a gap that needs to be bridged?
I think it is too new to have a full opinion. What we know is that it is still relatively dynamic and it is being refined. It appears that everything is done for the right reasons, but the 'how' is still being determined. The important part is that everyone needs to capture GST in such a way that they can properly account for it. We think that this is a perfect role for Concur, whether it is expense that you may reimburse or the invoice that you may need to pay for, we are really well positioned to ensure that the company has the information to be able to process it properly. As we look at the future, we know that India's push towards digital invoices and receipts is a brilliant move. This is something that Concur has been facilitating. We started about seven years ago and our vision was to become a platform and open our system digitally using APIs to get technical. We wanted to begin to receive information instead of punching in. A good example is taking an Uber or Ola or even My Taxi in Germany, when you book and pay, it is linked to your account and you receive a digital receipt. There is no data entry. In our perspective, as India move towards being more digital, whether for tax for any other reason, we are going to take the platform approach for our customers.
Is the growth of business travelers in India a reason for it to be considered a key market for Concur in 2018? Or are there other reasons as well?
We consider India an important market for many other reasons too. The process for many companies has been extremely manual. A lot of corporates still use paper or Excel based system. They are now focusing on digital employee experience to not just be digital with their customers but employees as well. I think that manual has a significant cost, lack of transparency, and potential possibility of errors. Even if the market was not necessarily growing, the ability to solve this problem has grown locally within India. I think that our first understanding of the Indian market was without really having a presence here because our global customers were deploying Concur’s services in India. Then they started to say that the travel practices in India are different, the approval process is different and the payment process is different. We began developing capabilities specifically suited for the Indian market. It allowed us to grow with a lot of global India companies. Especially, with the Indian companies which had the intentions to become global.
What are the kind of customers that Concur has been looking at in India?
Our customer base in India is everything from the large IT services companies to other financial services companies to retail. This is one of the problems we have, regardless of the industry. If you are a company who has employees spending your money, customer facing, travelling for customers, that is just about every type of business. Our customer profile in India has been broad in terms of industries and verticals. When we first focused on Indian companies back in 2010, there were still companies, which did not have mobile phones for employees. Some did not even have laptops. Those companies were not ready for Concur. It is very rare now for companies where people spending company's money do not have a device. The barriers to digitization have now gone.
How do you monetize your assets?
Since we are a cloud application platform, one of the things that is advantageous is that there is no big upfront cost- whether it is implementation or licensing and then wait for a long time to get returns. Cloud allows us to be much more consumption based. For example, customers would have a certain number of expense claims. Based on this number, we determine the price. They pay on monthly basis on the number of claims that are being used. It allows the value to be more aligned with the receiving value. It has accelerated our growth significantly.
It is the baseline for success of cloud applications. You do not have huge upfront investment in hardware, infrastructure and consulting. That has helped us to be successful in India.
Is the company planning to do any investments in India? Could you please elaborate on the business plan as well?
India is one of our fastest growing market. We have two aspects to our presence in India. One of which is just about every function of our business that is helping us operate the business at the global
level. We have different functions and suites specifically tailor made for Indian customers. All of these has been very successful from an investment standpoint.
How does Concur plan to increase the employee productivity during the automation process?
The feedback we get from our customers is the response from the users, i.e., the travelers. This is because now everything is on the mobile. They are taking pictures of the seats. It is becoming easier for them through this process. The efficiency has gone up significantly for the employees. It fairly takes many hours more for the customers who have not automated their travel and expense management. We consider this a significant time investment which might take a considerable time away from the family or your personal time. Then you are filing your expense claims. This goes away after automation. So, the best benefit is for actual travelers and employees.
Where do you see your company in the next 5 years?
Our goal is very much around growth. This is our responsibility as a part of the SAP. In the next 5 years, we will be automating all the pain points for our customers. It will be really connecting the aspect of digital in the way they spend company's money. It will be facilitating the solutions to allow for the regulatory compliance, visibility and truly managing the expenditure.