The MaaS Alliance is very pleased to welcome their 100th Member, UK based Car Rental Gateway, a company that has been steering SaaS-solutions to car rental distribution since 2001. Their experience lies in bringing together mobility providers and travel distributors, including online travel agents, comparison sites, airlines, and car rental brokers. In this interview we talk to Martin Kallasmaa, the company’s Commercial Director.
Tell us more about you; your business, and how the idea of creating your company came about.
Martin Kallasmaa: The initial company Titanium Systems that preceded Car Rental Gateway was founded in 2001. The founders, just college students at the time, were young people keen to travel. They noticed that planning for the trips can be time-consuming and tedious. This made them brainstorming on how to make planning more comfortable and finding good deals easy. Car rental industry was just a random idea. Back then there really were not a lot of options for booking in advance. You could book a car either by phone or go through rental providers’ web pages one by one. IT-sector was new, exciting and promising. And before long the very first “search and book” site was launched.
The growth from “3-guys-in-small-apartment-building-software” to global Software-as-a -Service company with a staff of 60 has had its ups and downs. Classical car rental distribution business did not bring the expected success. Developments were specifically targeted to the car rental industry and technologically well advanced, but we lacked the know-how necessary for e-commerce. We decided to continue with only technical developments. The first two generations of our products called CRBMS (Car Rental Broker Management System) were bespoke systems for car rental distributors. Solutions and connections were created and delivered individually to every customer. The system grew bigger and got so complicated that managing this burden started to overwhelm the small company. The turning point came in 2015 when standardisation and unification of data was the only way to stay efficient, flexible and to keep ahead of the competition. Then we launched our third generation software — Car Rental Gateway. With that step we started to operate on the B2B SaaS model. As of today, we are the leading online connectivity and content provider for car rental mediation platforms with access to over 160 suppliers in 170 countries (ca 4 M cars), 60000 locations and 22 language options. Hard work, consistency and strong will to build the best product has got us to where we are today.
You mention on your website that you “can turn car rental service to Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)”, how so?
MK: With the technical capabilities and solutions we already have, we could quite easily consolidate most of the operators on the market into a unified customised service line that covers all biggest language groups and considers principles of any locale in the world. This means that either on-demand or pre-booked rental/sharing service can be combined into a single full service platform or into any MaaS provider platform via API. From the end customer’s viewpoint, all individual travels could be planned from one single source.
Where do you see the main opportunities for you when entering the MaaS business?
MK: We see our opportunity in merging distribution services into full-cycle B2C services. It is known that in the rental service, almost 30% of end-customers experience failure or some sort of inconvenience after the booking is made (due to aspects like language switch, tense upselling, unfamiliar currency and time formats, and complicated Terms & Conditions). While newcomers in the market offer high-quality customer experience, they are often regional in scope, covering one or some countries and selected cities, offer booking possibilities in only a few selected languages and have a single supplier fleet. We could bring together high-quality customer experience and large-scale unified content in multiple languages.
Despite the fact that individual travel is the most independent option available and still preferred in many use cases, to our knowledge, none of the stakeholders in the mobility sector have so far succeeded in merging distribution services into full-cycle B2C services. In a technology driven environment, the end user needs highly personalised and preferably a 360-degree service cycle to be provided by one trusted source and this is exactly what we could offer.
How did you hear about the MaaS Alliance? What made you interested in joining?
MK: We monitor and analyse constantly not only the market but also everything related to it: media, governments’ policies, organisational stakeholders. MaaS organisation as one of the opinion-leaders came into our focus together with our own ambition — to become a globally leading technology provider in the car rental industry and to contribute to the wider mobility ecosystem. MaaS Alliance gives us the opportunity to be involved and exchange know-how and experience on a wider scale. We also feel that now more than ever there is a need to think ahead and prepare for the after-Covid world. Technological solutions have become critical in a way we cannot even imagine.
Which part of the development of Mobility as a Service ecosystem interests you most? With which players you would like to get more in contact with?
MK: For us the most undiscovered areas are the technological solutions that are related directly to end customers, such as customer identification and personal data management. Also, as we are looking for improved usability and convenience for the end customer and at the same time try to bring all stakeholders into one service line, the insurance solutions become more and more relevant for us. Therefore, we see that there is a lot we could learn from other members and hope to offer our experience and knowledge in return.