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Making business travel seamless

Mankiran Chowhan, MD, Indian Subcontinent, SAP Concur

Across the globe it’s expected that by 2020, millennials will form 50 percent of the global workforce.

By Aditi Roy

March 22, 2020(IANSlife) With a whooping milllenial population, the business travel market in India is set to grow at a rate of over 11 percent over the next 5 years, according to Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

That underlines that there is considerable scope for Indian companies to adopt latest technologies in the segment. Mankiran Chowhan, Managing Director – Indian Subcontinent, SAP Concur tells us more the technological advancements, ensuring travel and more. Excerpts:


Q: While travelling for business, is employee safety at times compromised over business needs?
Mankiran: As business travel becomes common, it becomes crucial for organisations to ensure safety of their employees and step up their duty of care. According to a recent SAP Concur Survey, 28 percent of business travellers in India put safety as a priority while 29 percent put business first. So, a lot of Indian business travellers de-prioritise safety despite their experience on the ground.

 

Q: What technological innovations is SAP Concur driving in India?
Mankiran:
For more than 25 years, SAP Concur has taken companies of all sizes and stages beyond automation to a completely connected spend management solutions encompassing travel, expense, invoice, compliance and risk. 

We are committed to understanding today’s travel and expense priorities; balancing compliance, safety, and productivity needs; making travel and expense easy for employees; and creating the intelligent enterprise with a proven solution. SAP Concur is focused on delivering experiences that meet users where they are. 

As we move towards a cashless environment, the initial frenzy and confusion have given way to a paper-free work environment. 

Digital initiatives have captured the imagination of a cashless economy thereby reducing our dependency on paper. In the corporate world, this could signal the beginning of a paperless culture.

Companies that have adopted electronic expense reporting have experienced a whopping 58 percent reduction in processing costs and greater ROI. The automated system enables employees to book travel plans that are compliant and cost-efficient, manage expenses without having to keep track of paper receipts or fill out spreadsheets and gain approvals and in-turn reimbursements more quickly. No more collecting paper receipts, filling out paper expense forms and trying to get reimbursed.

Additionally, India has a fast-growing millennial Workforce (Digital Natives). Even across the globe it’s expected that by 2020, millennials will form 50 percent of the global workforce. One of the defining characteristics of the millennial generation is their comfort with the digital world. They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media, and are accustomed to instant access to information.

This is a great opportunity for organizations to attract a younger workforce by providing them with good and efficient technology tools.

With reference to duty of care for employees we have solutions that can enable organisations to protect employees by staying aware of events and travel itineraries. Whether it’s a simple change of plans or an emergency, our solutions enable you to fulfil your duty of care. 

It empowers you to identify risks and assess their impact, pinpoint employees’ locations and know their travel plans using machine learning, leverage multiple options for two-way communications and deploy local response teams if necessary.

 

Q: Any new business/corporate collaborations with other channels in India? Who are your current partners in India?
Mankiran: 
We recently announced a partnership with HDFC Bank and Mastercard, that will enable Indian corporates of all sizes to reimagine the way they pay for, reconcile and manage company spending. To help facilitate this,

HDFC Bank will be offering a corporate credit card for business travellers, providing a one-stop solution for payment and expense management during business trips. The corporate credit card will enable seamless integration of all business-related spend into SAP Concur offerings, enhancing employee experience, increasing visibility, saving money, and improving corporate efficiency. The card is supported by Mastercard. 

SAP Concur provides a global ecosystem in which travel, expense, and invoice processes can be automated and interconnected whether they be cab aggregators, hotels chains, travel agencies etc. for an enhanced user experience. We have partners like American Express, Thomas Cook, Riya travels to name a few. 

If you are looking at Service providers we have the likes of VAT IT, EY, Fintrans Solutions etc and if you are looking at ground transportation then we have the likes of Uber, Ola etc.

 

Q: How have Indian companies adopted technology in business travel segment?
Mankiran:
There is great potential in the Indian market for the adoption of latest travel technologies. Since India is an evolving and fast-growing business travel market, it’s imperative to ensure a safe and secure environment for all business travellers. 

Millennials are soon going to be a major part of the workforce in India and this tech-savvy generation expects the same experience during business tasks as they get on a consumer app. While business travel market in India is set to grow at a rate of 11.3 percent over the next 5 years, according to Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), there is considerable scope for Indian companies to adopt latest technologies for effectively managing expenses and ensuring employee ease and safety.

Many Indian companies still rely on old paper-based expense processes. The negative impact of the same is clearly demonstrated by the 31 percent Indian business travellers who say they are stressed about filing an expense report after a business trip in the middle of a busy workday (according to the recent SAP Concur Business Traveler survey). 

There is huge scope for Indian companies to adopt intelligent spend management solutions that ensure higher visibility into employee expense, ease for travel booking, seamless claims filing and better employee safety.

 

Q: Can you talk about inclusivity and safety of biz travellers (women, trans, LGBT) that SAP Concur is committed to?

Mankiran: SAP Concur is committed to provide intelligent spend management solutions that help organizations streamline their business travel, expense and invoice management. We believe in technology for good of all users. Today, technology is being used to help employers have better visibility of spends and ensure safety of their employees at the same time.

Things are also deeply difficult for LGBTQ+ Indian business travellers, nearly 3 in 4 (73%) of whom have hidden their sexuality on a business trip out of concern for their safety. 

Technology provides safety for everyone, especially to more vulnerable communities/groups of people by offering an additional safety net. So, the benefit of having an integrated travel and expense management solution can ensure that you can pinpoint the employee’s location anywhere in the world at any time(using the travel booking and expense data), predict the risks in those locations and initiate real-time communication with the employee for immediate assistance.

 

Q: What are the new trends in business travel?
Mankiran:
In today’s technology-driven and hyper-connected business world, changes in customer expectations, societal shifts and industry disruptions prevail. Some trends in business travel basis the recent developments in economics, travel and environment scenarios are as below:

> By harnessing technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Data Analytics, automation will deliver greater productivity and intelligence to operations.
> Technology would also be leveraged to provide superior experience to travelling employees in terms of ease, safety and seamless claim processes.
> There will be a bigger emphasis on implementing corporate travel systems to get better deals
> Owing to the consumerization of workplace tech, organisation would endeavour to meet employee expectations about how workplace technology should evolve. >Mobile-based solutions will be preferred to drive employee satisfaction and retention.
> B-leisure trips will be on the rise. Indians rank 2nd among B-leisure travellers globally according to a survey conducted by Booking.com. People are increasingly approaching travel with a sense of purpose and companies are expected to factor this into their travel policies, providing breathing
room and additional programs for their employees to make a difference.
> Safety will go hand in hand with employee satisfaction. The issue of traveler safety overall – for all employees, will reach critical mass in 2020 owing to more awareness on personal safety. Workers will increasingly demand more information and resources to stay safe during their work trips.
> Paper receipts will decline as smart receipts rise - A significant increase in the number of digital
receipts provided by suppliers will be witnessed. Employees will benefit, as receipt data flows more easily into expense reports, eliminating frustrations about lost receipts and helping employees get reimbursed faster.
> Hotels and other travel vendors will make wellness amenities the new norm – Business travellers worry about the impact on their health. Hotels, airports and other vendors will offer various wellness services to help travellers maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road.
> Environmental concerns will accelerate eco-conscious travel. As discussions around climate change intensify, travellers and companies will continue to strive for more sustainable traveling options.
 

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Aditi Roy can be contacted at aditi.r@ians.in