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Taxi Times International - January 2015 - English

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  • Oftedal
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PORTRAIT PORTRAIT OLE OFTEDAL AIMS AT MAKING HIS ‘FORGOTTEN SERVICE COMPANY’ MORE INTERNATIONAL SWEDES GO FISHING IN EUROPE Investing in a cab company in this day and age? Ole Oftedal, the interim CEO of one of Europe’s biggest taxi groups, Fagelviksgruppen in Stockholm, thinks it’s a good idea. “Taxi companies are like forgotten service companies. They have a good cashflow, but they need sprucing up, they need much more attention – especially to quality. And in five year’s time Fagelviksgruppen will be new, doubled in size and much more international.” Sitting behind a desk clearly isn’t Oftedal’s favourite occupation. It’s like the youngish 61 year old can’t wait to get out of FVG’s modest headquarters at Instrumentvägen in Stockholm’s somewhat grey suburb of Hägersten – on to a new challenge. “I’m a temporary CEO, we’re looking for a new one”, he grins. And although the interim-CEO has his hand firmly on the tiller he is not really a ‘taxi-man’. One shouldn’t be deceived by the few typical taxi knick-knacks and new taxi design elements in his office. They happen to be there more or less by accident, left from a previous meeting. “That’s the new logo of our upmarket car service”, he explains, pointing at the slick ‘T’-logo. It’s not the logo that drives him, it’s the sales potential of the new swish Top Cab-service. Oftedal is as much a taxi man at FVG as he was a bus man at Linjebuss or a travel man at Swedish travel company Thomsen – all three he restructured thoroughly and profitably. “Our new owners, HIG Capital, want us to be more efficient and grow organically and by acquisitions.” MONEY MAN Oftedal is a money man, an organization man and above all a salesman. A company doctor, anxious to restructure and to turning FVG into a manageable company and particularly into “a lean and professional service organization.” Like he did at Swedish bus company Linjebuss which went from 300 buses to 3.500 under his stewardship. “From the previous owner I inherited 42 different companies with 12 separate organisations, 12 separate call-centres and 5 or » It is a service industry – a forgotten service industry « 6 other entities. I want to turn it into one company, cut costs and increase income. There will be big changes. But also large investments. Like we bought taxi dispatch and IT-company Taxisystem which we are bringing together with our own Cabonline. With the help of our IT-people, creating white label apps and a sturdy dispatch system, we want to create a similar but legal system like Uber in the Nordics. That’s why we are also looking at companies that look promising and could do with our financial help. So far we have looked at 6 and there are about 25 on the back burner. We need to increase volume. We know how to run the taxi business. We can also offer them great back office facilities.” IMPORTANT: DRIVER TRAINING The new CEO aims at opening new markets and both simplifying and unifying the service concepts: “There is not much difference between running a taxi operation in a small, medium or large city.” One of the main issues in deregulated Sweden is the quality aspect which clearly needs a boost. It is also a depressed market. “That’s why we are putting more and environmentally-friendly cars on the road. We just signed a deal with Volvo for 500 hybrid saloons. There will also be a follow-up deal for 700 more. And of course we are also talking to Mercedes-Benz and others for similar deals, particularly in stationwagons. We want to invest in the next level of clean technology. Most of these cabs will go to Top Cab here in Stockholm, to Taxi Skane (an area in Sweden’s south-east, close to Denmark - WF) and they will be used for our ‘T’-premium segment. The kickbacks from that Volvo deal will go straight back to the drivers because we need to invest both in the driver and in the owner. So we are investing in a higher quality level for the driver with e-learning here and outside education programmes. Those last programmes are particularly aimed at foreigners who are starting in the taxi industry. PHOTO: Wim Faber We will offer 2.000 of them a job and good education. There are not too many Swedes who drive a taxi. In our company alone we are dealing with 55 different cultures.” YOUNGER PEOPLE His experience from different industries has taught Oftedal that the ‘customer interface’, the service in the taxi trade should be much better. “We need to be much better, not just as a company but also as a trade. Behind the scenes everything is very wellorganised, but our ‘customer interface’, our driver, could do much much better. We need to correct ourselves and treat people differently from what we do now. A basic decent quality, that’s what we need.” Fagelviksgruppen is very much a product of its creator, Rolf Karlsson, who started in 1989 with the idea of setting up Taxi Kurir as a taxi franchise in the Nordic countries. “We have known each other for quite some time”, says Oftedal. “And he brought me and the investment group in. When I started as interim-CEO in April, he left, as agreed. But whereas he had all the data of the different companies in his head, we now really need to interview for a new CEO, for younger people in training and on the IT-side and for a CIO of the next generation. Marketing and sales are also departments which need to be strengthened too with younger people. Those are areas where we definitely need to do more. For instance in the business segment, where we » We will offer 2.000 foreigners a job and good education « are not doing so well as for instance Taxi Stockholm. We also need younger drivers, who are willing to do more evening shifts. Often ‘taxi’ is seen as a somewhat old-fashioned form of transport. That’s where we need younger ideas and younger people.” SUPPORTING OWNERS AND DRIVERS “I have also invested money in this company”, says Oftedal, with a glimmer in his eye. “In five years’ time from now I hope to see a whole new and fresh company. Perhaps doubled in size, who knows. But with a standard operating system that allows it to provide a quality and efficient service in towns and cities of any size. We have the know-how to turn this FVG into a very efficient and lean production company that grows more quickly and provides not only us but particularly its car owners with good profits.” Within FVG there are no less than 2000 one-cab companies. Oftedal wants to start up a system that “provides all these small companies with proper administrative support in such a way that it helps them run their business more efficiently and at the same time they don’t have the feeling FVG knows all about them. Make sure their leasing and financing deals are organized in such a way that they don’t need to worry about that. We can take care of the capital intensive part. We will also attract new business for them. Compare it to the way London’s largest private hire firm Addison Lee takes everything out of the hands of its drivers. Not by giving money away to its drivers, but by working with a clever system of rebates.” LIFE IN THE INDUSTRY? So there’s still life in this industry? Despite the moaning and the groaning about Uber here and apps there? Would you really like to sink all your money into the taxi trade? Oftedal looks up, a bit surprised by the negative line of questioning: “It is a service industry - a forgotten service industry.” He stresses the word ‘forgotten’. “There is a good cashflow. It is also an industry which lends itself quite well to a franchise model. Add to that an owner-driver who pays into this model and it is not all that far away from the Uber-model, don’t you think?” But it is not an industry that should aim itself necessarily at the single trips: “Tenders for social trips, for instance, will get larger and larger. You have to have a lot of cabs to service 7.000 to 10.000 trips every day, like in the Stockholm Fahrdjänst-system, the largest social transportation system in Europe. For that system we have to show 94% on-time delivery and well over 80% happy customers. We are tendering for this system and last year we had 84% to 86% happy customers. Here quality and service are most important.” As soon as “we have our house in order” Oftedal is going for a fishing trip – casting his nets to find taxi companies that like his style and would like to belong to the same group. “We’re fishing in Sweden, in Norway, in Finland, in Denmark, but our trips are not limited only to the Nordic countries. You said 8 JANUARY / 2016 TAXI TAXI JANUARY / 2016 9

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