Data is increasingly 24/7. As employees do business in different time zones, with an eye on growing sales and profits, it’s important to keep a lid on expenses. Ravi Rishy-Maharaj, chief executive officer and founder of GigSky, the mobile data service that recently inked a pact with Concur to help companies expense mobile data use, spoke with PYMNTS recently. Here’s his take on the needs of far-flung employees in the field navigating an increasingly global environment.
PYMNTS: What trends have been evolving in corporate travel that open the door to a service such as GigSky’s?
RR: The advent of apps as a substitute for voice and text is really spurring a “data for everything” movement. The corporate travel industry and data, especially international data use and payment, has really changed a lot. Now, many mobile workers can use data for all their communication needs while they work abroad, from Skype or WebEx, and so we see a decrease in traditional voice platforms.
Today, the device that an employee has during travel is no longer a phone. It is more a minicomputing device, with the ability to do all work from that one device. It’s indispensable for business travel.
So the question before us at GigSky and for the industry is: How to connect all those devices?
The trend had been, at least earlier on, “Let’s roam.” Then, it has been more recently using a local SIM card. But that can be hard to do when you’re an employee and you land in Greece at 2 a.m. and finding a place to get a SIM card proves a bit hard. So, the push has been to get the end user to WiFi, where they can be connected, say, at a hotel, but that has inefficiencies, trying to find a place that is connected and where you can stay connected.
Now, the trend that is setting up is having data services built into the device, with the ability to be international, and, for example, with us there is a setting on the iPad and the ability to do pricing for data that is local to wherever you are. This is all managed through the device using the GigSky SIM and the app.
PYMNTS: What are the needs specific to business travelers that have been unmet and that you strive to meet, especially in expense management?
RR: GigSky came about in 2010 as a result from my own experiences in corporate travel. I had been going back and forth to Australia a fair bit, going back as far as using the iPhone 1. And the pricing was just horrendous. The data had been measured in kilobytes per second, with, let’s say, pricing at about $.10 a kilobyte, and so a megabyte of data would round out to about $20 to $30.
So, with roaming services and the data costs, I would come back to my previous employer and be filing a $1,000 expense report tied just to that, and it felt wrong to do that and wrong to use data like that.
For expense management, for corporate travel, total visibility is key. You want to know upfront what your travelers use, how much they can use and with prepaid you get to set a limit.
From an administrative perspective, a single account can manage multiple SIMs within our app so that a company’s administrator can manage an entire group of SIMs based on team or company department. Most companies have corporate cards, and so this allows data plan charges to be allocated to the general ledger correctly and efficiently, especially for our existing Concur customers.
The key overall for expense management is to make buying data and managing data across businesses as efficient as possible, with the ability to buy data as needed for a given location. For corporate customers and for us, it’s a matter of linking across a SIM or app and tying that as a link that brings the purchase to expense management.
For expense management, let me give you an example. An employee is in Hong Kong and is out in the field. He or she can take photos of expenses and receipts. The traveler is already linked to the account and comes back from the event and within roughly 30 minutes can send those details by email, which then gets an OK from the accounting department.
That means hours saved for an employee.
PYMNTS: Speaking of the recent deal with Concur, what can corporate travelers expect from the GigSky/Concur partnership?
RR: We’re already an international company, with coverage across more than 90 countries. The aim is to expand that coverage in the future and to places where Concur is that we may not yet be. The coverage and pricing will continue to get better as we go along. For expense management, the process is that eReceipt can go right into the Concur expense app.
PYMNTS: What about cross-border transactions, as companies become increasingly global?
RR: The major currencies supported right now include the dollar, the euro, the pound, the yen. We’ll aim to move that forward, with some under consideration to be, among others, which include the Singapore dollar, the Chinese yuan, the Indian rupee. Those are just a few examples.
From the standpoint of cross-border, the payments are done through either corporate credit card or the consumer card. And with using the app that I mentioned, the expense management is dictated by the end user input. But what we’ve done is gotten payment processors that can do transactions across pretty much any currency, anywhere in the world, such as First Data, to name just one processor.
The app itself is priced in local currency, such as euros, or in the U.K. in pounds. And with the local pricing, say in Japan, the expense or data charge is 1,000 yen, that is what it is.
There are no extra fees and no rate conversion. We take care of all the conversion, because, after all, when it comes to data and expense reporting, no one likes a surprise. For larger companies, such as airlines, that truly are global, there are “post-paid” plans that move across zones in which they do business, such as Europe or APAC.
On the payments side, the ability to have the data that is needed pre-approved, through the backend and the IT departments, saves time. After a business trip, for example, it can take three to four hours for someone to sit down and just reconcile all the expenses they had incurred related solely to data and expenses.
PYMNTS: In the age of BYOD, what are the important aspects of managing data security and transaction security?
RR: Well, in our case, the app use, or data buying, is limited to prepaid for smaller to midsized enterprise, and the limits are set at $50 or £50 or less, so there is never a major transaction through consumer products (that is, the app). The security aspect is a login, a PIN and then there is tokenization. There’s also the ability to shut off data easily from the corporate side, so if a device is lost or stolen, there is that level of extra security, along with the fact that everything is managed in the cloud.