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What was apparent yet unexpected at LCT Show East in October was the turnout among international operators. Although billed as a regional and national event, the Show gained a following among limousine operators from England, Ireland, Germany, Slovakia and India, to name a few places, who are looking for stronger connections to U.S. operators.
Below are two companies, one in Dubai and another India, which sent executives to LCT Show East. They prove how luxury chauffeured service is gaining in places far beyond the traditional American and European ground transportation markets.
Avantgarde Global: Middle Eastern Luxury with a European Flavor
When you hear people speak about Dubai, you conjure up the image of sheiks and oil barons, streets paved in gold from all of the wealth that came from that same oil. Orsolya Kelnoczky, Chief Operating Officer of Avantgarde Global in Dubai, just laughs: This is not the city she works in.
The world class city of Dubai is the central cultural and business hub of the Middle East. Dubai’s economy may have been built from the oil industry, but today that is only a small part of it. Tourism, the financial services sector, aviation and real estate all make up the city’s main revenues.
Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates but English is spoken throughout the region. Many American firms have locations in Dubai including Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM. Although the city is Middle Eastern, it has a Western feel due to the influence of the many American and European business enterprises.
Avantgarde Global has been in the UAE for 10 years. Starting in London 20 years ago, the company recognized a growing demand for its services in the Middle East and moved its headquarters to Dubai in 2004.
Avantgarde provides services to clients within and traveling to Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar, creating a global service. It has carefully selected partners in these various countries. Avantgarde believes it can make it easy for American limousine companies to send clients to this area as it will monitor and handle all aspects of the ride. They bill American companies in U.S. dollars to make the process seamless.
Avantgarde farms out 50% of its business to Europe and the Middle East, but does only a small portion of its farm-out business to the U.S.
“When we deal with passengers from our U.S. clients, we believe they expect quality. They want water in the car and a newspaper. They want new, clean cars,” Kelnoczky says. “When we select partners in the Middle East, we look for that same service level. Not every company can give comparable service. We do the vetting for the U.S. companies who cannot do it themselves.”
Avantgarde’s fleet consists of 22 vehicles, including German sedans such as Audi A6, A8, and the BMW 7 series, and the Mercedes Viano which they use for road shows. It does not have any vehicles older than two years. All maintenance is done at the dealership. All vehicles are kept in a warehouse.
“We believe that our chauffeurs should look like the business people they are driving,” Kelnoczky says. “They all speak English and they are all road show level chauffeurs. They know the geography. They are trained in tourism. They are taught about hygiene.”
Avantgarde has 25 chauffeurs who are continuously trained in advanced driving, directions and landmarks.
Kelnoczky explains there are cultural issues that U.S. passengers need to be aware of. “In our country, if a man and a woman are traveling together, the chauffeur will address the man, not the woman. When our clients go abroad they understand that there are cultural differences but if your chauffeurs understand that, you are elevating your level of service. We teach our chauffeurs to stay clear of religious conversations and to speak only when spoken to.
“Whether your clients are in Dubai or any other city that we service, you can be certain that they are receiving road show level service on every ride,” Kelnoczky says.
Eco Limo Brings Chauffeured Style
When Americans conjure up images of India, we think of elephants, the famous Taj Mahal and extreme poverty. If you ask Aditya Loomba, owner of Eco Limo and Eco Rent A Car in New Delhi, he will tell you that you really don’t know India. India is the second most populated country in the world. Eco Limo’s fleet of 800 vehicles is equipped to move India’s businesspeople and those doing business with them.
The fleet consists mostly of taxicabs, with 20% of it devoted to the luxury market. It serves 16 cities nationwide with centralized monitoring on its custom proprietary cloud-based software. The three major cities — Delhi to the north, Mumbai to the west and Bangalore to the south — are their primary markets. They have a diverse fleet broken down into levels starting with the economy level Toyota Corollas. In its executive segment, which is about 60% of its fleet, Eco Limo offers Toyota Camrys and Toyota Fortuner SUVs. The luxury level has Mercedes Benz E and S class vehicles. It also Level 6 armored vehicles and Chrysler 300 stretch limos.
Running the overall 800-vehicle fleet are 380 office personnel and 950 chauffeurs. Loomba is a partner in the business with his brother and sister in-law. Started in 1972, the company has experienced rapid growth ever since.
“India has many people who are visiting from foreign countries,” Loomba says. “Half of our staff is trained internationally. That means they speak fluent English and are trained in the customs of various countries. The other half of our staff speaks English as a second or third language. In our luxury division, everyone speaks English. They are trained on things such as safety, security, hygiene and how to handle emergencies. We want to be able to give concierge level service. Our chauffeurs know about the tourist sites and places that visitors want to know about.”
Eco Limo has the doors of some of the most prestigious properties in India. They are the exclusive partner for the Crown Plaza properties in Okhla and Rohibni as well as many other high end properties throughout the country. Their professional chauffeurs wear uniforms and caps.
The U.S. market is important to Eco Limo, which is why Loomba visited in October to attend LCT Show East. “I wanted to learn best practices in the industry in operations, technology and to see trends in the U.S. as we often will follow those,” Loomba says.
Five percent of Eco’s business is affiliate-related, which is why they have developed a system that allows them to bill in U.S. dollars. “We want to make it easy for our American clients to deal with us,” Loomba says.
ECO also has set up an affiliate network for the Asian market. It has expanded into Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bali, Thailand, and the Philippines to allow U.S. companies to deal with one centralized booker thus alleviating the language barriers and time zone challenges.
“We have the same challenges that you do here in the United States,” Loomba says. “We have our own Uber-type operations in India that don’t always obey the same rules we must operate by. That’s why I think it is so important to be at events such as LCT East to hear what operators are doing and what new technology is available to make our company differentiated from others.”
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