4 Sep 19

Expansionism vs. completism: two models for MaaS growth

In an ideal world, MaaS will be as seamless as phone roaming. Hopping from car to train to bicycle (and more) will be super easy (and super affordable), irrespective of the city, country or continent you’re in. But we’re far from there yet, and that creates a peculiar problem: how do you best roll out Mobility as a Service when that service is offered at greatly varying degrees of quality - or not at all?

“Basically, MaaS has to compete with car ownership. That’s not an easy task, because the car is a mobility superstar,” admits Sampo Hietanen, co-founder and CEO of MaaS Global, the Finnish mobility startup behind the MaaS app Whim. The ultimate goal - ‘global roaming’ - is not yet possible today. So MaaS providers have to pick and choose their battles wisely. 

Two strategies
There are two basic strategies. On the one hand, ‘completism’, i.e. make sure you offer the widest possible range of mobility options in one place, and then replicate that offer in another location; and ‘expansionism’, i.e. make sure you’re present in as many locations as possible, and worry about offering the widest possible range of MaaS options later.

Whim definitely is in the ‘completist’ camp, says Mr Hietanen: “If there are six mobility modes and we can only offer five, that’s not enough. The consumer ‘gets’ the concept of MaaS, and they want to have access to all mobility modes from one provider. That’s why our ambition is to take care of all your trips.”

Showcase location for MaaS Global is its home market of Helsinki, where Whim has around 100,000 customers. But while the provider has contracts across the entire spectrum of mobility modes, some providers remain elusive. “Creating cooperation with providers can be hard, but we sense a change: more and more, mobility providers are receptive to our way of thinking,” says Mr Hietanen. “That’s why in our various locations, we now have around 60 new partners that we need to integrate into our platform.”

Establishing partnerships
The easiest partnerships to establish are taxi companies, Mr Hietanen reveals: they’re naturally competitive for extra customers, thus eager to get on board. Car rental companies are also a good fit, for the same reason. Public transport companies are a lot harder to convince: they have near-monopolies, so have little inherent incentive to join, and their decision processes are generally bureaucratic and slow. Worst of all are global mobility platforms - the Ubers and Lyfts of this world - because they are (still) aiming for global, total dominance, so alliances are not part of their thinking.  

At present, Whim is available in Helsinki, Antwerp and Birmingham, but more locations are to follow soon. “Soon, we’ll launch in Vienna, and we’re working on Singapore and on locations in Japan. Plus, we have between 10 and 20 further location candidates.” 

Towards expansionism
Remarkably, for its further expansion, MaaS Global is willing to relax its ‘completist’ ideology: “Yes, we’re shifting a bit towards the ‘expansionist’ model. If for five of the six available mobility modes, we have good partners that we really love, we may go for it.” Also, the thinking goes, because greater awareness of MaaS in the market and a greater willingness to partner up means it’s much more likely that the sixth mode will fall into place that much quicker than before.  “The ideal remains that you don’t have to jump ‘out of the app’ to complete your entire journey,” Mr Hietanen concludes. 

For the near future, MaaS Global is considering enriching Whim with further mobility modes, such as e-scooters and e-bikes. As the choice of mobility modes increases and the number of locations multiplies, the relative value of the Whim app - which can be used on any location, for any mobility mode - will continue to increase - and with it perhaps the provider’s tendency to move from a ‘completist’ to an ‘expansionist’ strategy. 

Relevant offer
Olympus Mobility, a Belgian Railways spin-off that grew out of a cooperation between Belgian companies Cambio, Taxistop and VAB, is a MaaS provider already more in that other camp. Koen Van De Putte, Managing Director for Olympus Mobility: “For international expansions, we confer with local industrial partners - our focus is on Western Europe - and we see if we can put forward a positive business case. But I wouldn’t call us ‘expansionist’ per se. For us, the decisive factors are the relevance of our offer and whether it fits with our prospective partners’ vision on sustainable mobility.”  

Focused on the B2B market, Olympus has a very specific view of its target audience - corporate customers and their employees. That helps to concentrate the mind. “Apart from integrating mobility providers, we also support other mobility-related business processes for our corporate clients. On the other hand, we have also developed a B2C proposition, together with KBC bank. Thanks to our presence in the KBC mobile banking app, we reach more than a million potential end customers. Having such a customer reach is a much more important key success factor to us than a search for completism which holds the risk of getting lost in the integration of the latest electrical scooter provider that pops up. That’s important to create an economy of scale that is also relevant for our B2B market position.”

Do you want to hear Sampo Hietanen speak about Mobility-as-a-Service in person? Join the Fleet Europe Summit on 6 & 7 November 2019 in Estoril!

Authored by: Frank Jacobs