Finally in Stockholm!

After our first stop in Gothenburg, we were finally heading to Stockholm! Stockholm is known for being the ‘silicon valley' of Europe. Since we both have visited the San Francisco, we were eager to see the differences between the start up culture in Stockholm versus San Francisco.

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During our second day in Stockholm, we visited Keolis. Keolis is one of the world's largest public transport operators. We were surprised to learn that Keolis is a French company, based in Paris. Keolis provides Sweden's public bus transport. Before visiting Keolis, we were unaware that a private foreign company could provide public transportation in other countries.

Currently, Keolis operates in North America (USA & Canada), Europe, India and Australia. Annual turnover is 5.6 billion euros, working in 15 countries on four different continents. They not only provide buses, but trams, metros, sea shuttles and bike sharing as well. 70% of its owner is from SNCF, the national French railway company, and 30%, the Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund. (The Caisse) In Sweden, they generate 450 million euros with 1,600 buses, which uses 100% of renewable fuel. Keolis claims they have the most satisfied passengers of all operators in Sweden. 99.90% of planned trips are delivered.

We wondered how Keolis sustains a competitive advantage not only in the global market, but also in the Scandinavian market. It is more difficult to sustain a competitive advantage if a company provides a service rather than a product. A company, which provides services, must create brand awareness through the quality of customer experience. Therefore brand equity depends on the entire experience of riding a Keolis bus.

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As we took a tour of the company, we were both amazed of the corporate culture. The employees (in all levels of the company) were not given a certain desk in the company. They implement this type of “office culture” in order to promote interactions within all the employees. The employees were able to choose a different desk within the company every day. This allows Keolis employees to interact with all the various departments in the company and diminish employee hierarchy.

We believe that this form of corporate culture could in fact give Keolis a form of competitive advantage. Since there is less of a “hierarchical culture” in the company, it allows ideas to flow more naturally. For example, a newer employee is easily able to interact and communicate with a higher-level manager about ideas. These ideas can include how Keolis could be more productive in updating and improving their bus services in Sweden. Exchanging ideas between all employees is extremely important to Keolis. This allows the company to communicate more efficiently.

Additionally, Keolis's focus on renewable energy is an important factor of its competitive advantage. Overall, Scandinavia is very environmentally friendly and Keolis would not be able to sustain its competitive advantage without having an earth-friendly business plan. Swedish citizens care very much for the environment they live in.

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During our tour, we also learned that employees in the operations department were former bus drivers. We believe this helps Keolis sustain a competitive advantage because understanding the customer experience is vital in building brand equity for service companies. If the employees in operations understand the experience of the customer, they are not only able to satisfy the needs of their customer, but to go beyond the needs of their customers as well. Keolis also emphasizes on motivating the Bus drivers in order to provide quality service. The companies 3 top values include, safety, putting the passenger in focus and taking the responsibility to respect each other. Overall, Keolis's internal corporate culture and focus on the customer experience allows them to sustain a competitive advantage in Sweden.