“This new mindset on the part of clients is directly linked to digitalization”, according to Piet Maes, co-founder and CTO of the Ghent software company Sofico. “Certainly among young people, the need for long-term commitments is declining. Interchangeability is the new normal. We see this not only on the labor market, but also in terms of mobility. Owning a car is no longer considered essential. What young people are most interested in is to be able to rely on an efficient mobility solution exactly when they need it. New technology facilitates the fast-growing sharing economy.”
For more than 30 years, Sofico has supported car leasing companies in their services to clients. With Miles, the firm has developed a unique software platform for the purpose. The focus has remained the same for many years now, but of course the people at Sofico are not blind to the rapid pace of change. “We are keeping a finger on the pulse. We not only follow the most recent trends, but we also try to anticipate them by developing our own future vision of mobility”, says Piet Maes. Sofico proactively takes advantage of the latest trends in mobility, leasing, sharing and ownership. One of the most significant developments is the rise of multimodal mobility. “More and more cities are banning cars from the center, meaning that people have to find other alternatives to reach their final destination. It is the first and the last mile that form the greatest stumbling block. Micromobility is an interesting option for these. We are thinking here of innovative, often electric means of transport such as bikes, scooters and mopeds. Sofico wishes to help the consumer and accompany them in finding the most efficient mobility solution by combining several different modes of transport. In other words, we offer consumers solutions.”
The driver experience is front and central
Certainly, the purchase of an electric car takes a significant bite out of the family budget. In addition to environmental considerations, there is another important reason why people no longer wish to invest in owning a car, but prefer to go for Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The car is no longer central here, but rather the driver experience. Sofico offers an extensive range of services for all these innovative forms of mobility. “What all these forms of usage have in common (leasing, financing, rental, sharing, subscription) is management across various contracts, and using the car fleet on the one hand, and the customer relationship on the other. We call this fleet & customer life cycle management. By managing this process to perfection, we are able to harmonize all types of contract and usage within a single hybrid management platform.”
BattMobility is one of these innovative players, with a 100 per cent electric mobility offer organized per neighborhood group. This is a form of peer-2-peer sharing in which people can enter their car or bike into a sharing system. Each BattMobility vehicle has a fixed charging station and is part of a regular community of some fifty first-line users. The owner can determine when he or she wants to make the car or bike available to this community. The nice thing for the consumer is that BattMobility’s offer also includes some more exclusive cars such as a Jaguar I-Pace or a Tesla X. This is one of the advantages over traditional car sharing networks such as Poppy and Cambio, since some users attach a great deal of importance to the emotional aspect of driving.
“Sofico developed the sharing platform for BattMobility, including the mobile app”, says Piet Maes. “This is a user-friendly system in which the user pays a fee to the owner of the car. Payment is made automatically, and the amount owing is deducted from the owner’s invoice. The more the owners lend out their car, the cheaper it is for them to drive.”
The automobile sector is in full transition. To survive, car manufacturers have to reinvent themselves as well. In 2021, the aim is no longer just to sell cars, but about offering mobility solutions. Sofico has close relationships with many big names such as BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen. Sofico works in co-creation with these companies on developing new mobility solutions. The subscription concept Care by Volvo is a nice illustration of this. The consumer can take out a car subscription online without having to pay an advance. There is maximum flexibility, as opposed to leasing, where one is bound to a given period of time. As a client of Care by Volvo, you can end your subscription with a notice period of just three months. You can also change your subscription. Would you like to have the very latest car at all times? That’s no longer a problem. Another opportunity for car manufacturers is to offer special options at the client’s request. Imagine that a driver wants to use the Lane Departure Warning, a safety mechanism that sounds an alarm if you accidentally begin to move out of your lane. The manufacturer can activate this from a distance. This is interesting, since this brings it a regular source of income. “The future lies in offering multimobility and all sorts of services. We wish to facilitate that as best we can”, concludes Piet Maes.
Sofico, a fine story of growth
Keeping up with growth is one of the most important challenges to software company Sofico, founded in 1988. Today, the company serves customers around the world from 8 different locations spread across four continents. In order to support rapid growth, the company entered into an arrangement last year with Ergon Capital, an independent investor with a proven track record in innovative niche companies.
Sofico has a turnover of 50 million euros and has around 400 employees around the world. The most important limit on growth is undoubtedly finding the right people. “We are continuously looking for software engineers, business developers and many other profiles”, says David De Beukelaer, who is responsible for marketing and communication at Sofico. “We invite students at a young age to take part in the Sofico Ghent Marathon, or to come and listen to an information session with a former student who is working with us. Many businesses are actively exploring the digital talent pool, but we try to distinguish ourselves by investing in our community.”