Why does Concur choose to be a 100 percent cloud company in the travel and expense management (T&E) space?
We are a company that is into automating travel booking and expense management. We provide a single platform to take care of end-to-end travel requirements—starting from raising a travel request, approvals, and bookings to expense claims and reimbursement. We also give customers the freedom to choose specific components in the platform, based on their requirements. By 2003, 50 percent of the Fortune 10 companies in the U.S. became our customers.
We were primarily competing with Oracle and SAP. We realized we had to remove the barriers to adoption in order to grow. And the answer lied in cloud technology. So, starting from 2003, our entire model became cloud-based. Let us take ERP for example. The biggest barrier for adoption has been the fact that it’s expensive to implement and upgrade. So, we realized we had to remove those barriers when it comes to travel and expense management. For some of our services, no implementation is required at all. We want our services to be fast to implement, seamless, and quick to integrate with other back-end systems.
If that’s the idea behind adopting a cloud model, why did Concur acquire its long-time rival Gelco, which followed a completely different and conventional philosophy in T&E management?
We have acquired multiple companies. In 2002 for instance, we acquired Captura, a local competitor. In 2006, we bought Outtask Inc., and incorporated travel booking technology into our portfolio. One of the reasons for buying Gelco is that they were a really fierce competitor to us and were selling audit services.
Yes, they indeed had very paper-intensive processes. But they had a great workforce with in-depth knowledge of expense reporting. So, we recognized an opportunity to offer manpower services to our existing customers. It also helped us add scale. Gelco’s approach to T&E was more back-office-focused, while we were more front-end-focused. The acquisition helped us cross-sell many services to our customers.
Fair enough. You’re very often put side by side with players like SAP as well as American Express. With whom do you see more proximity?
We are ultimately a technology company, and that’s the reason we are compared with companies like SAP. But at the same time, we are also a services company. So, people view us like an American Express. We are also a cloud company, so we are like Salesforce.com as well. But I’d say we are a combination of all of the above. We have partnership with American Express, and we are sort of a coopetitor for companies like SAP and Oracle.
Though T&E costs represent the second highest controllable annual expense, exceeded only by salary and benefits, many organizations do not feel that it is mission-critical to automate that process. So, our biggest challenge, very often, is to convince our customers to abandon a Microsoft Excel. In that sense, Microsoft Excel is our biggest competitor.
So, do you mean Concur does not really replace the travel desk?
Yes. Some companies have gone ahead and replaced the travel desk. But in my opinion, companies still do need them. What Concur does is enhance the whole T&E management process by eliminating the need to send e-mails back and forth and chase multiple requests. So, we streamline the entire process, with connectors to the company’s other applications such as HRM and ERP.
What we have really done is eliminate the intermediate steps in order to provide a single automated process for T&E. It is generally such a complex process that the management does not get to know who is spending on what. There is little or no visibility, mainly because most of these processes are manual.
What kind of customer base do you have in India?
India is now the fifth-largest country for us from a transaction perspective. We serve the Indian counterparts of many of our global MNC customers. Also, many local companies are our customers as well. So, our customer base in India ranges from Google, Ericsson, and Dell to Albert David Pharmaceuticals, and Matrix Training.
We have seen significant growth in India, and decided to invest in local sales, marketing, and implementation resources in the last two years. This team will focus on selling to Indian multinationals and fast-growing domestic organizations.
Tell us a bit about Concur’s global customers and your plans for the future.
We have more than 18,000 customers globally, and create 700,000 itineraries a day. We have 1.2 million people logged into our system daily. At this point, Concur has invested significantly in mobile technology.We believe that in the next two years, the primary means for people to interact with each other will be mobile.
Radhika Nallayam is a special correspondent for ChannelWorld India. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Though T&E costs represent the second highest controllable annual expense, many organizations do not feel it is mission-critical to automate that process.