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Boots On The Ground: Dublin-Headquartered RentalMatics Expands Into The Middle East Launched in 2015 in Ireland, RentalMatics has rapidly expanded its footprint to include clients from Europe, North America, South America, and is now moving into our region.

By Tamara Pupic

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

For many startup founders, attracting highly skilled senior management talent who can identify and address specific pain points is an opportunity that leads to a com- petitive advantage for an enterprise in the long run. And that's a strategy the Dublin-headquartered RentalMatics, a provider of fleet management solutions for the rental industry, is using as it makes its entry into the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. "We are not engineers who built something new and are attempting to adapt it to the environment- it is rather, the reverse," says Bob Barton, President of Global Mobility, RentalMatics, as he describes what makes his company's offering stand out. "We're coming at this from the perspective of the car rental business, we're realistic and pragmatic, and we have been putting a focused effort into addressing specific pain points with rental fleets, using our experience and now, our technology, to address the challenges of a new normal."

Launched in 2015 in Ireland, RentalMatics has rapidly expanded its footprint to include clients from Europe, North America, South America, and is now moving into our region, with Barton bringing in Sunita Gomes as Vice President, Mobility Sales and Marketing, Middle East and Africa. Barton, who previously served as Senior Vice President, Global Franchise Operations for The Hertz Corporation, and holds several board positions to advise enterprises and industry groups in the sector, says that Gomes' wealth of experience in the region made her the right person to lead the company's business development in the MEA. Explaining his reasoning behind Gomes' inclusion in RentalMatics, Barton says, "It is very simple- boots on the ground. You can have the best products and software known to the market, but if you do not have a local, professional team with experience and a strong reputation in the market, you will not be successful. Understanding Middle East culture and business etiquette is paramount. Relationships and mutual trust are key for any successful business interaction in the region and can be best developed through face-to-face meetings. It is important for us to spend time and ensure future meetings take place to continue cultivating the relationship." As a former Senior Director at Hertz Middle East, Gomes is already well known in the region, Barton says, and is, above all, very well trusted in the market. "Culture is key, and that's why this pandemic has been so hard," he adds. "This is a market where face to face interaction and trust is so important. There really is no substitute for just sitting in each other's presence, even if you're not saying anything."

Bob Barton, President of Global Mobility, RentalMatics. Source: RentalMatics

From Gomes' point of view, her decision to join a four- year-old startup is based on a realization that the RentalMatics solution is a perfect fit for the region given the rental and leasing activity here. "In talking to customers, we discovered that many have already established telematic solutions, but what they don't have is high quality data to feed those solutions and make the data work efficiently for their businesses," Gomes says. "Fleet managers are amongst some of the busiest people we've ever met, and what they really need is clear insights into what they have to do to keep operating safely, legally, and efficiently. They don't want too much data, they just want those critical things that keep them operating profitably."

Barton observes that most of the rental car companies in the region concentrate their activity towards long term leasing- few companies want to own a fleet of cars and manage them, which gives rental companies a focus in the evolving car ecosystem. To corporate fleet procurement managers, he explains, several things are of critical importance: the location of the vehicle, a checklist of sanitization practices, and how the vehicle is being operated, and so on. "All this behavioral and vehicle data may be available, but there is so much of it," Barton adds. "We find it's the combination of all the data and the relevant insights that we generate to key people in the car rental business, from the frontline customer service executives to fleet and operations managers, that is the most valuable. Fleet telematics has been around for the best part of 10 years, so tracking movement and behavior of vehicles is not new; however, combining this with driver data as well as environmental factors and providing real-time insights based on data is. Rather than focus on the technology itself, I'm more fascinated by the business model that it can enable. This is about a car rental company leveraging telematics to empower its value proposition."

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to car fleets being largely inactive during March, April, and May of this year, and Barton notes that several forward-thinking car rental companies have been taking this time for a strategy review and preparing for a new touchless future. "Changes that would in pre-pandemic times have generated weeks and weeks of discussion, postponement, hesitation, opposition and delay, turn out to be possible overnight," Barton says. "So, while the global economy has literally been placed in intensive care during the lockdown, this has been the perfect time for our company to understand and take a new path on how we operate our business and where one can add or enhance client solutions in order to increase efficiencies where they are most needed."

Related: Why Remote Work Makes Teams (And Leaders) Better

Sunita Gomes, Vice President, Mobility Sales and Marketing, Middle East and Africa, RentalMatics. Source: RentalMatics

The reduction in transactions and lower car utilization at present allows car rental companies to revisit their methods and install new technology without being disruptive to the business, Barton says, adding that RentalMatics can help those car rental companies collect data, analyze the data and act on it. In addition, the RentalMatics team wishes to constructively participate and work on the right regulations per country, per region, in order not only to help develop technology responsibly, but to safeguard it within the framework of the regulatory authorities in the countries where their clients operate their businesses. "It's tough to run a fleet- based business, because even before the pandemic, a few car rental companies were struggling," he explains. "You have to deal with all kinds of costs; you have to deal with utilization; you have to deal with regulation. Dealing with all these challenges is tough for a fleet-based business. And most of our customers are franchise operators of global brands. Our software really helps them manage these things. It helps them reduce their costs; it helps them reduce their risks; it helps them improve their safety. These are really important to these businesses. In essence, we help them thrive, so that's what our business is all about– helping fleet-based car rental businesses survive and thrive. As they try to manage their way through the crisis, car rental companies, local and global, need a way to link current moves to future-proofing outcomes."

Looking to the future, Barton adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked the accelerated adoption of technologies that promise enhanced safety along with opportunities for greater social control (a contactless rental solution) as the entire travel sector grapples with new solutions to provide comfort and security to consumers. "Touchless car rental will now roll out quicker and be of greater demand by the consumer globally. Car rental locations have suddenly become less relevant, car rental delivery options are on the rise, and ultimately, the point of arrival for all car rental companies is where a customer can book a car and sign a rental agreement on an app, locate their assigned car, unlock it, and drive away safely."

For that reason, the RentalMatics offering is a good response to changing demands of consumers. "We recognize that there's no going back to normality," Barton says. "That train has left the station. Companies are learning now to build supply chains with resilience built in. White collar workers will have discovered that they don't have to do as much commuting as before." To that end, the RentalMatics team has been investing their time in developing and accelerating solutions that will significantly benefit their car rental customers in the long-term. "Our philosophy is not that we are going in to disrupt the industry, but we are there to partner and help the existing car rental companies become more successful," Barton concludes. "This helps to start the conversation."

Related: To Get Ahead In Trying Times, Empathetic Leadership And A Growth Mindset Are Key

Tamara Pupic

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

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