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The line between technology and mobility companies is blurred

Aktualisiert: 29. Nov. 2022

Our mobiliser of the week lives in Estonia, where the number of adults often equals the number of cars in a household. Annemari Muru is CEO of Liigu, a company that provides novel car-as-a service approach. The company has been active for 1 year and is operating in France. Germany is also to follow.

Our mobiliser of the week is CEO of the startup Liigu, a car-as-a-service service provider from Estonia. Inspiration for starting Liigu is closely related to what we see in our home-market Annemari says: "In Estonia, it is very common to have your own car - or even two, three or more cars per household, depending on the number of adults living there." Although people's mobility behaviour is slowly changing in the cities, she says, the market is still on early phase to offer convenient alternative to owning a car. In Estonia, there is not much business for such initiative limited due to the small number of inhabitants. "Of course there is Bolt, an Estonian company, and on-demand sharing is quite popular. But because the market is so small, these sharing services are only offered in the capital but their profitability is questionable. There are some attempts in my hometown and other places, but my hometown, the second largest city in Estonia, for example, has only 100,000 inhabitants," Annemari says.

Estonia is known for being very digital and we know how to develop software. But our domestic market is really very small, so if we want to achieve something, the only option is to think globally from the beginning. So that was and is our strategy: to focus on global markets.

Annemari Muru, CEO of Liigu

The startup is already active in France, with Italy, Portugal, Spain and Germany on the roadmap. "We started in France because it was the easiest to set up there. But the others will follow," says Annemari.

She has accompanied Liigu from the very beginning, Annemari says. Before encountering mobility sector she has worked in the public sector for most of her professional life. "I worked in the administration of the EU Structural Funds, so basically in public funding. I was a civil servant for many years. But all this EU legislation and extensive paperwork, the slowness of things eventually bored me and I looked for a change."

Some people call it a mid-life crisis. At some point, you know, when you approach your forties, people start asking existential questions from themselves. I stated: "I have a nice job, I have a family, I have a house, a car, now I want to really achieve something".

Annemari Muru, CEO of Liigu

She applied to Car Rental Gateway Limited, an IT company that develops software for car rental distribution. She became a Business Process Manager there, which she remained for two and a half years. Liigu was the company's first attempt to enter the B2C market. "I was there first to help with recruiting for a leader for this project," Annemari says. "I was there when the basic concept was shaped, when we discussed branding, which markets we wanted to target." When the project became a stand-alone company, the founder and angel-investor of Liigu told her, Annemari, this is now when Liigu needs you: you can choose to take the opportunity or say yes.

"He gave me a weekend to think it over, which I used. Or at least I lie to think so. It was clear to me that I would say yes! immediatelly and it felt natural for me to take it on. And of course I was attracted by the enormous opportunity to start with an empty folder and build everything from scratch."

Liigu works in a similar way to other car sharers: customers select a vehicle via app, choose the payment model, open the vehicle with the app. "We like to see ourselves as a car-as-a-service provider or mobility service provider," says Annemari. Accordingly, she could also imagine integrating Liigu into Maas platforms in the future. "The APIs are there and we practise an open approach."

But first she wants to win customers in several markets. This is already taking time for bureaucratic reasons. "We opened the bank account in Portugal for six months, and it seems to take even longer in Italy."

This is where consistency, strong nerves and enthusiasm are needed, she says. "We say to ourselves, 'We have to prove to ourselves that we can do it and make a competition out of this paperwork. We can't have some Italian bureaucracy slowing us down." She and her team are nott letting frustration and anger to get to them. "We are willing to win, and at some point we will."

Liigu receives extremely positive feedback from the clients, which encourages the whole Liigu team to move forward.

Most of the users are between 35 and 55 years old. The vehicles can be booked by the day or on a subscription basis. According to Annemari, customers from the USA or Canada in particular often use the car subscription for three to five months.

Of course public transport is good, micromobility is really needed, but there are still use cases where the car is the most reasonable choice. We are able to offer our services in 16 languages. This makes car rental easier for our customers than if they had to talk to a car rental agent at the airport in a foreign language.

Annemari Muru, CEO of Liigu

Customers can book the vehicles via the Liigu app or via intermediary portals such as Skyscanner or Kayak. "Such platforms are partners for us through which we sell," says Annemari. Many of these online marketplaces, however, have reservations about start-ups like Liigu, she says. "Some are afraid that customers will stop going to the platform to compare offers if they like our app. One of our biggest challenges is to convince these companies that keyless access to a car via app is something that is here to stay. Digitalisation of services is no longer a choice. It is a necessity. We are sure that the future of any car usage service is contactless and better adjusted to customers’ lifestyles and needs.”

Scaling is also not easy, she said. "It often happens that customer satisfaction drops sharply when the company grows fast. To take our business to a next level, we need to scale up the fleet and our team next year. We are trying to figure out the secret formula of how to scale up the operations without alienating the customers."



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