Company: Burgundy Global
The story: A booking service which allows its corporate customers to book and track billing online

“We have blown away the market.” Andrew Riley's appraisal of what his business has achieved over the past year is frank if not full of swagger. But putting the internet at the heart of his business when he was starting out in 1998 has paid dividends for executive car hire and chauffeur company Burgundy Global.

When it started operations in 1998, Burgundy Global clocked up a creditable average of 1,500 bookings a month, with business confined to the Thames Valley area. Five years on that figure has risen to 30,000 individual trips in 180 cities around the world.

“To some extent we use the internet in a conventional way, as another channel. But you really begin to grow your business when you use it to redefine your business processes.”

And the numbers certainly bear that out. On the back of a total investment of £5m in the system turnover hit £1m in the year one. This has since risen to £15m for the current year and should step up to £25m next year.

Riley says he always saw technology as core to building his business and in 1998 the internet provided the solution. It's origins may have been dotcom-esque-they started by putting the front end on line so clients could use the internet to book-but online has since shaped the whole of the business. This started with the back end to allow people to see what they were paying and continued until the whole business was on the net. The system now handles everything from the initial booking through to invoicing and Riley says the company's feverish growth is 100% down to it.

Burgundy's system now allows its users to reserve journeys anywhere in the world, by internet or by phone. Once a booking is taken, the cost is worked out and details are automatically sent to one of 250-dispatch centres, enabling cars and drivers are deployed accordingly. The costs are transparent and billing is handled by the same platform. If a customer books by phone, Burgundy's own reservation staff uses the same system as internet users.

Efficiency

It's a classic case of the internet breathing efficiency into a business and allowing it to compete more keenly. Riley cites much higher driver to administrative staff ratios than competitors and lower overheads as a prime example. Quite simply he can run the same business but more cheaply.

Going forward Riley sees the company's IT system rather than cars and drivers as the element that defines the business and as the key driver of the company's future growth. The plan is simple, Burgundy will operate the bookings and billings and they will leave it to other partners to operate cars, thus decreasing the number of cars and reducing the company's costs further.

“We own about 60% of our vehicles at the moment with the remaining 40% being affiliates. In the future we see ourselves owning about 4 key cities and using having 60-70% of the work done by affiliates.”