"In times of crisis, don't cut budgets - invest"
According to Sanjit Biswas, co-founder and CEO of Samsara, cutting investment in times of crisis - such as the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and geopolitical instability - is a mistake companies must avoid. Samsara, which has over 28,000 customers in industries that make up 40% of global GDP, explained why IoT (Internet of Things) and cloud-based data analytics are critical for mid-sized and large fleets and why you should be investing in them.
Below the interview you can also relive our webinar with Samsara about the way connected fleets can drive radical improvements in business efficiency and sustainability.
How do you improve your mission with investment?
"I think about real-world problems businesses face: labour shortages and all-time high fuel costs while customers want to be notified in real-time. These are the challenges businesses are trying to process manually. They want smarter route planning, better customer experience and help in recruiting and retaining employees. If you can digitise all that and bring it to the cloud, it will provide fundamental improvement. You may save 5-10% on fuel. You can improve the mission with the investment. The question is: how do you make that happen? Especially when businesses are super busy, their budgets are limited, and they are looking for practical solutions. We are quickly bringing an IoT platform to the table to provide value, solve real-world problems and improve businesses' competitiveness and safety."
Do the services and products you deliver go beyond fleet operations?
"A big part of a fleet operation is visiting customers. But once a representative gets there, there are documents to be signed, safety inspections to be performed, and maybe they have distribution warehouses where they're trying to improve employee safety. When thinking about physical operations, the fleet happens to be the entry point to the rest of the business."
The uptake of technology is higher in the USA, how are you encouraging it for European fleets?
"The US market is large, and it's a single market with the same language and regulatory sets from a compliance point of view. As a result, products and services can diffuse in the market faster. We can sell what we sell in CA, NY, Texas and elsewhere. When you think about the European market, there are many regions, many countries, and language barriers. Regulatory compliances and culture are different. So products spread more slowly. For instance, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure took off in the US five years ago and then did the same in Europe. It's just a matter of time. In the coming decade, we will see the same level of digitisation, maybe a little earlier in the US because the tech is more readily available."
Do you think ongoing challenges incentivise multinational companies to adopt new technologies?
"Companies are cautious about budgets, but this drives them to our technology. Many of these challenges are cost or inflationary. It is harder to get your hands on vehicles due to the chip shortage. So companies are trying to be smarter, more efficient and investing in tech to solve problems. It is good to have a solution that enables customers to use fuel efficiently while operations are ongoing. When I think about large companies in the US, which have thousands of cars in their fleet, their problems are actually magnified, because their fuel consumption and labour force is huge and they have thousands of customers. So the interest in tech is highlighted due to size of the challenge."
How does your tech support the trend towards sustainability?
"When I say that the USA is a little ahead of tech compared to Europe, it's the opposite when we talk about sustainability goals. You have all these new regulations in Europe, like abandoning diesel-fueled vehicles by 2030 and low-emission-zones (LEZs) in major cities. We started to see the need for EV adoption. At Samsara, we built the tools to help our customers make the transition. For instance, our customer with a 2500 (Cali Group) vehicle fleet want to know which cars can be changed to EVs, based on their mileage, charging duration and place of operation. We have tools to help our customers identify such vehicles. Once they transition to EV, we can show them the state of charge and other information with the tools we have, basically giving them visibility as to how to deal with fuel consumption. We do the same thing with charging and electrification."
You are partnering with other companies; why is that important?
I think any modern tech platform doesn't exist in a silo. Compared to the '90s, now all systems are connected, and the value of data is really the exciting part. We can connect our system to the OEM cloud to understand vehicle fault codes and what's going on with the asset. We can connect payroll and enterprise resource planning (ERP) to customer management systems. The value of the data increases exponentially, and the customer can do even more. So we have around 150 tech partnerships, and I think we are the leading company in terms of partnerships with all kinds of other providers because data exchange is crucial for customers."
Some companies fear that while technology makes operations seamless, their own job becomes redundant. Are there companies that hesitate to adopt your technology?
"I think that's a fear you would have with any tech advancement. And when you think about the fleet manager, there are many things he or she would rather not deal with: spreadsheets, managing the assets, tracing the cars and drivers, maintenance. So these are the things we're trying to accelerate, the strategic work. How do we think about fleet strategy, the customer experience, and where we are going in five years instead of thinking about where driver A is? At this point, the tech becomes a very practical tool, and when everything is rolled in an email, no one wants to go back to spreadsheets and send letters. That's the crucial thing because it saves so much time and is so useful."
Are there any criteria for becoming your client?
"Customers that are most successful with Samsara are the ones who have broader physical operations. If you have dozens, hundreds, thousands of vehicles, you're operating at scale. That's where the real value is in technology. From midsize to large companies, we have many multinational clients - from construction to transportation. It's a spectrum, but I think you must have a broader scale of operations to make the most of our technology."
What's next for Samsara?
"We are gradually expanding in Europe and also in Mexico and Canada. We are in active product development mode. We have multiple applications on our platform. And what's great is that customers have multiple uses of Samsara, not just GPS or safety or equipment. We are actively investing in R&D to build more apps for customers."
What are the biggest challenges the physical operations industry is facing today? And what are the steps to overcome these solutions through digital transformation? Our Fleet Europe webinar with Samsara holds all these questions and more. Relive it below: