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Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 15 : 32 PM [IST]

‘American Express is keen to partner with companies that are driving the change of B2B travel bookings’

With business travel in India poised to grow rate at CAGR of 11.5% through 2019, American Express is offering customised solutions to corporate entities to meet their travel demands. Saru Kaushal, VP and GM, Global Corporate Payments, American Express, in an interaction with P Krishna Kumar sheds light on their various products for business travellers and corporate entities to manage their travel expenses.
Q. How is American Express engaging the Indian market to educate on the value of your travel solutions?
A. With the change in the Indian business landscape, increase in internet penetration, technology innovation and government’s focus on digitization, the whole paradigm of Indian corporate entities and their business priorities are evolving. Businesses today demand digitized solutions, decreasing the dependence on the traditional modes of transactions, leading towards a digital revolution.

In terms of expense management, companies in India want to do away with the traditional methods, and want to focus on investing in automated software capable of managing expenses across verticals, reducing the manual effort of making bookings, raising purchase orders, filing reclaims and involving in other tedious formalities.

We conduct exclusive events for both existing customers and prospects to understand their needs and communicate insights and offerings to deliver optimised solutions. The brand holds a great social media presence across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn platforms helping potential clients to become aware of AmEx’s customised solutions for expense management. We also do survey reports, in collaboration with research firms to gauge the upcoming industry trends, key challenges and requirements of corporate entities, which help us tailor our solutions and products as per the demand. This helps in instilling the importance of digitized expense management solutions, and its benefits for businesses for ensuring top and bottom line growth.

Realising the current demand of the corporate entities and their focus on digitization, American Express focuses on building customised offerings catering to various needs of large number of corporates and engaging with them basis the current value proposition and new products and solutions.

Business Travel Account, Corporate Meeting Cards, Platinum and Gold Corporate Cards are a few examples of the comprehensive Travel and Entertainment expense management tools available. These automated solutions help companies render better control over their expenses, monitor the trends of expenses and manage these as per the company’s budget and priorities. These solutions clearly give corporate entities the advantage of ‘smart working’ enabling complete visibility and control and helping reduce controllable expenses.

Q. How are Indian corporate entities evolving to global business travel management tools and solutions?
A. As travel decisions clearly migrate from corporate-travel desks into the hands of individual travellers, companies are changing their behaviour accordingly. In particular, they are developing a clearer understanding of the needs of business travellers and are addressing these directly. Corporate companies now wish to offer their employees more flexibility in managing their travel needs. As a result, employees can adopt mobile tools for research and booking and will no longer have to go to a fixed internet location to manage their travel. On their part, entities will use their data intelligently to understand traveller behaviour and also encourage the use of user generated content to improve the overall experience.

Companies also partner with Travel Management Companies (TMCs), outsourcing their business travel bookings and travel expense management, investing in additional cost or commission charged by travel companies. Struck by the digital revolution, many companies are moving from email-bookings to self-booking through laptop or mobile phones. Many companies are adopting automated travel booking portals to keep a track record and transparency of travel expense.

Realising the significant need of business travel for the growth of companies and their focus to control travel cost while ensuring visibility on overall travel and entertainment spends, American Express is globally partnering organisations across SME, Large Market and Global Multinational clients.

Q. How solutions like Business Travel Account are beneficial for corporate travellers?
A. Business travel technology solution adoption has significantly increased across the globe. The focus for most companies is to make the business travel platform robust, easy to use, transparent and operationally efficient.

Through American Express Business Travel Account (BTA), a virtual centralised billing, reconciliation and payment solution, a corporate traveller gets the opportunity to better consolidate air expenses.

The corporate gets the benefit of monitoring and managing the travel expenses of infrequent travellers without issuing cards, while reducing the complicated need for cash advances or reimbursement. BTA makes travel expense management easier for corporate entities while eliminating the requirement of reconciliation of individual travel expenses, and providing comprehensive travel trends data and reports. Companies also enjoy advantage of monthly billing for extended payment terms and improved expense visibility with a single account number. The BTA rich data provides companies added advantage of ensuring preferred supplier and travel policy compliance.

In addition to air, our solutions offer capture of related expenses like hotel and guest house stays, visa expenses, car rentals and travel insurance. Within this, travel insurance often ends up being an additional expense burden. With American Express’ Business Travel Accounts, INR 30 lakh of air accident coverage is provided apart from coverage for loss of checked baggage/passport. In addition to that, all our other travel related card products come with a complimentary travel insurance coverage of maximum up to INR 5 crore.

The traveller also enjoys world class customer service of global legal and medical emergency referrals while travelling via American Express Global Assist Hotline.

Q. How are American Express Business Travel solutions helping business travellers manage their travel well within the parameters of the travel policy of the organisation?
A. American Express business travel solutions have been designed keeping in mind air, cab and hotel bookings needs, corporate meetings, seminars, etc. With AmEx’s travel solutions like Business Travel Accounts and corporate travel cards like Jet Airways American Express Corporate Card, American Express Corporate Meeting Cards, American Express Platinum Corporate Card, a business traveller gets the convenience of ensured seamless travel experience. The business traveller is able to manage his/her additional expenses like dining and entertainment without spending a single penny from his/her personal pocket. Using corporate cards avoids the hassle of claiming reimbursements or reclaims. Thus, without burdening their own personal pocket, employees can enhance the business travel experience, focusing more on the business requirement and preparations rather than juggling in a new city or country, booking flights and hotel rooms.

American Express is keen to partner with companies that are driving the change of how B2B travel bookings are happening. American Express being a payment partner with these companies is ensuring to drive these solutions among corporate entities to simplify and digitize the B2B travel customer journey.

American Express last year partnered with Uber under its corporate travel offering, ‘Uber for Business’ ensuring easy cab hailing and digitized payment for the same.

The customisable travel solution also gives corporate cards advantage to put a cap on certain expenses, avoiding unnecessary expenditure and limiting the expenses within the necessary bracket. The automated corporate travel expense management solution with superior, flexible reporting analysis helps companies consolidate business travel expense data for review, helping them spot expenditure trends and ensuring compliance.

Q. What are your expectations in terms of business travel spends by Indian corporate entities in this fiscal compared to the last year?
A. According to Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), India has been witnessing the highest growth rate in business travel across the globe. If the trend continues, it is quite possible that in the next 15 to 20 years, India may acquire the second place after China, thereby surpassing US in the process. Currently, business travel is approximately a USD 25 billion market in India which will grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.5% through 2019 to USD 45 billion. Also, the inbound MICE segment of India is growing at an annual rate of 15 to 20%.

Many companies are targeting meetings as the next significant area for indirect cost control. American Express’ Corporate meeting card helps corporate entities to gain visibility and manage meeting related expenses. For organisations which would like to tie-up with a hotels and event management for hosting conferences, BIP which is our online platform enables seamless linking of vendors to who can be paid well in time.

With government’s effort of building better foreign relations with neighboring countries and introduction of schemes like UDAN, to enhance regional connectivity and get more people flying, business travel is expected to increase to become a USD 33 billion market. The growth of the sector is expected at the rate of 12% by 2019. Moreover, inbound MICE segment is also expected to grow at a rate of 15 to 20%.

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