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Car service is more than a fleeting fad Uber, ever the disruptor, is now changing the game for corporate travelers, too

Jorge Peralta, founder and CEO, WorldGround, in one of his Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.
Jorge Peralta, founder and CEO, WorldGround, in one of his Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. - ()

Jorge Peralta, founder and CEO of Teaneck-based WorldGround car service, gets right to the point when it comes to companies like his that have their own app.

“Anyone who tells you Uber wasn’t the catalyst for developing their app is lying,” he said.

WorldGround was started nine years ago in the era when “uber” was just a German word for extreme. Today, the traditional corporate car and limousine service has an Uber-like platform that allows customers to book a reservation online, see the current location of the car before it arrives and view details about the driver.

In other words, he’s not fighting Uber — he’s benefiting from it.

“I was taught there is always a positive in everything, and the (Uber) technology is a positive,” Peralta said. “There are some good things about Uber, like the GPS tracking so you can see how far your car is.”

Peralta admits he sees all opinions.

“I do understand the other side of the issue and that the lax insurance guidelines and chauffer requirements make for unfair competition for the limousine industry,” he said. “But, now Uber put technology at the forefront of the industry and everyone has to keep their eyes out for the next great thing.”

The next great thing may be using Uber-like car services for business travel rather than taxis or rentals.

 

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In June 2014, Uber launched Uber for Business to serve corporate accounts.

With the Uber for Business service, businesses create an account on the site. The company administrator just adds employees to the account and rides are automatically billed to the corporate account and all the receipts are electronic. To be added to an Uber for Business account, employees must already have an individual, personal account.

Uber spokesman Craig Ewer said companies can save up to $1,000 per year per employee when they use the rideshare service instead of taxis or private car services in some markets.

According to a report compiled by the corporate travel and expense management software company Certify, in the first quarter of 2016, Uber and similar ride sharing services accounted for 46 percent of the business road travel expenses, while car rentals accounted for 40 percent and taxis only 14 percent.

Collabera, a Morristown-based global IT staffing and recruiting company with 10,000 employees, was one of the first local businesses to sign on with Uber for Business.

“We suspended car rentals and have gone full-time with Uber and it’s helped us big time,” said Jayant Abraham, Collabera’s director of operations.

“The primary reason we went to Uber for Business was for the convenience and productivity. We can’t have employees driving around a new location trying to figure out the best way to go, stopping to fill the car with gas and finding parking. If an employee just got off a flight, we’d rather they spend that time getting focused and preparing for their meeting instead of driving.”

Collabera has rolled out Uber for Business to all of its 35 locations across the U.S.

Uber for Business is also being used as a perk. Companies are offering employees rides home after a late nights in the office. The interface allows administrators to set parameters around when and where this perk can be used.

So, an employer could set the account to only allow employees to reserve rides within a 10-mile radius between the hours of 8 p.m. and midnight. Companies can also gift employees with discounts on Uber fares, like $10 off a ride home from the Christmas party.

Uber drivers are capitalizing on this trend and creating strategies to target business travelers.

“For the driver, it's the same experience and they don’t know if the reservation is for a business passenger or for an individual account,” said Harry Campbell, an Uber driver.

Campbell quit his engineering job at Boeing to become a full-time Uber driver on the West Coast and now produces a podcast and blog, The Ride Share Guy, about the business side of being a rideshare driver.

“But, the really interesting thing is that it’s becoming a strategy for Uber drivers to target business passengers,” Campbell said. “They will hang out in areas near conference centers and hotels where business passengers might be staying.”

Campbell said the idea pays off.

“There is strategy involved for Uber drivers,” he said. “They want to be out at the busiest times — rush hour and when the bars and restaurants close on the weekends. But they also want to find times when there are very few drivers out, because even if there are fewer requests, they still have a better chance for getting those requests. Those early morning weekday airport runs at 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. are a perfect example.”

 

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Peralta has been booking early airport runs in the limousine industry since 1989 when he was just 19 years old.

And, he said, ridesharing is not the first technology he’s seen create a sea change.

First, dispatchers got access to real-time and automatic flight information online, ending the drudgery of endlessly calling the airlines to check on delays and gate numbers. Then, GPS made getting passengers to their destination on time and without incident easier.

But rideshare and mobile technology have not been as readily embraced industrywide.

“Some people at limousine companies feel that Uber is unfair competition, and I understand where they are coming from,” Peralta said. “But, Uber has really forced my company and others like it to step up our game. As is the case with Uber, people from outside the industry can come in and use technology to really upend us.”

Peralta believes Uber is a pioneer in the transportation industry in the way that Amazon pioneered e-commerce.

“Much like when Amazon first came out, people weren’t comfortable buying things online,” he said. “But Amazon made people feel OK with putting their credit card information online and buying things. When people got comfortable, more companies — more niche retailers — came into that online fold. I think the same will be true for transportation.

“There are many niches in this industry, such as corporate or leisure and weddings, and if you find a good niche, people will become more accepting of using an online limousine service.”

E-mail to: dariam@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @dariameoli

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