The B2B Revenue Executive Experience
The B2B Revenue Executive Experience

Episode · 11 months ago

VAT Refunds Don’t Have to Be Painful w/ Ameer Jumabhoy


Have you ever tried to get a VAT refund when traveling abroad?

Most of the time, it’s hard to tell if it's even worth the hassle. It’s a nightmare.

But it doesn’t have to be.

My latest guest is Ameer Jumabhoy, Co-Founder and VP of Consumer Technology at UTU, a company making painful VAT refunds a thing of the past.

What we talked about:

  • The problem with VAT refunds
  • How UTU is making it easier to get your refund
  • Why the industry has been slow to change

This post includes highlights of our podcast interview with Ameer Jumabhoy, Co-Founder and VP of Consumer Technology at UTU.

For the entire interview, you can listen to The B2B Revenue Executive Experience.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, we suggest this link.

We're talking about an industry that goesback to the S, but it's an industry that has not changed in termsof process. You're listening to the BDB revenue executive experience, a podcast dedicatedto helping the executives train their sales and marketing teams to optimize growth. Whetheryou're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to theright place. Let's accelerate your growth in three, two, one. Welcomeeveryone to the B Tob Revenue Executive Experience. I'm your host, Chad Sanderson.Today we're talking about an interesting business ready for change. In invasion taxfree shopping. Anyone that's traveled overseas is seen or experience the offers of refundingsales tax to encourage tourism x forts, but the process for reclaiming those refundsis painful. I can speak from experience, having purchased maybe more watches than Ishould have from Germany last year. The offer was compelling, but inactually fifty percent of the cases I didn't finish the process for getting the refundjust because it was such a pain in my rear. So to help us. We're lucky to have a mere Jim a boy, cofounder and VP ofconsumer technology, for you to use in Singapore. I'm your thank you somuch for taking the time and welcome to the show. Hey, thanks somuch for having me chat. It's great to be here and to share moreabout what we had youtube are doing. But first I just want to sayhope you and your loved ones are doing well as we enter this pestive period. Man, it's been a wild year, it has. It has been adumpster fire every year for many. Yes, absolutely, but there arepositives coming out of it and, you know, vaccines here and Dick.You know, I don't know how anybody could truly be upset during the holidayseason. I think it's just hopefully, is a great ending to the yearfor everybody and I hope for you and yours as well. Thank you.So, before we jump into the topic of the day, we always liketo ask our guests a question to help our audience understand them a little bitbetter and, based on the year that we've had, I've recently changed thisquestion. So, when you look back over the last year, what's thelargest lesson you learned and took away from kind of the trials and tribulations thatwe had this year. Yeah, I'd definitely say that, while it hasbeen a year that's been incredibly challenging because so many businesses and lives, Ithink what I've learned is that it's so important to take the time to celebrateevery little victory, you know, even things we might have traditionally taken forgranted. As an example, I go to this little local coffee shopping inmy office almost every day and I've gone pretty friendly with the owner and Itold him one day that, you know, that we're in travel tech and outof the blue he made this nice design on my coffee phone, Cappuccino, and the design was all these wings and he wrote on my cup youknow, may two thousand and twenty one see a return to tourism and foryou Toub Sare higher and you know, it was just nice. It's asmall gesture, but it just goes along away and times like this and Istarted to really appreciate these things a lot more. It's been a a year, I would say, of reflection and a lot of introspection. Absolutely,when we work with customers, we've implemented this process, even in our virtualworkshops when we work customers of starting each day with a gratitude exercise and whenwe urge them to go beyond puppies, rainbows and UNICORNS, it's really digdeep and figure out what it is that you are truly grateful for, becauseit has such positive impacts and I think focusing on the little winds is abig lesson for everybody, from two thousand and twenty and going into to twothousand and twenty one. So I appreciate you sharing that with us. Now, for our listeners, how about we give them a little bit more contextaround you too, kind of what you do and where the idea for thecompany came from. Show. So we're a kind of funny company in thesense that my cofounder is my dad, which makes a very interesting dynamic bothat homeanded the office. So he has decades of experience and the tax freeshopping industry and he was key in building the two major players in the space. We started you tube together bone out...

...of a belief that the industry neededto go towards be to see and really create and curate human experiences around whatdo you pointed out earlier is a rather painful beat refund process. So that'skind of what got us into the space. And what we do are a coupleof things. Product wise and what I would say most importantly, westopped by giving an eighty five percent refund versus what you get today, whichis about sixty percent. It with the current system, with the cooperation ofstores and brands, we are able to actually deliver a full hundred percent valueof the refund for a second sale in store. And what kind of hasallowed us to go down this direction are the European Union statutes that really saythat the tax credit belongs to the tourist, and we know Europe push towards fremarket and customer choice. We've been able to deliver this entire package anda easy to understand mobile experience. I know that's a bit loaded. Peopleoften ask me, Oh, do you have a thirty second elevated pitch foryou guys? Do It's a very complicated and niche industry. I have andI don't, so maybe maybe that's a forty five. Well, we could. I mean, let's step them through it right, because I think anybodya lot of our audience. I mean, of course we're going pre COVID,but I mean I had a hundred sixty eight thousand air miles last year. Many of the our listeners traveled internationally as well. I myself often takeadvantage of those tax free shopping experiences, either for gifts, which I'm reallyhurting for the holidays this year, just because I didn't travel and nation.Yeah, but also because I have a watch issue. I really I don'tknow why I need as many watches as I have, but I always buythem overseas when I go. But let's start with kind of a basic descriptionfor the audience of that tax free shopping industry. What what is it?Kind of give the will start with kind of go step by step. Whatis the industry? How does it work? What was what was it designed todo? Okay, so the VAT refund industry, a tax free shoppingindustry, started because countries saw an opportunity to promote tourist exports and spending withinthe country by refunding value added tax, or what we know is VAT,and the logic for this kind of came in the following way. If youtake a cargo ship that goes to Italy, picks up a thousand handbags and leaves, that's counted as a VAT free export and if you kind of takeit one step further, it's not dissimilar to a thousand passengers, each ofwhom buys a handbag and leaves the country via plane. It's just a differentmedium. So what they said is, okay, let's extend this concept ofthat free exports to the tourism market. But there's an added benefit from tourism, what we call the multiplier effect, that tourists are not just coming toshop in your country, but they're visiting your attractions, are saying your hotels, the eating your restaurants. So there are more economic activities that accrew fromtourism. So if you think about it, it really is a added benefit tothe tourism retail industry because Europe and most of the world refunds, eightyfive percent of them are done in Europe. Europe has been very pro customer choiceand hence they have allowed the free market to handle these refunds. But, as you pointed out, Chad, it's caused over the years are verydifficult user experience where tourists are finding that they're getting very little for their refund, roughly sixty percent of what they do and as a whole manual, paperbased process, which I don't know if that would be interesting for your audienceto listen to, but oh it's painful. It's painful as hell. It's it'spain pulp. I'm even scared to stop talking about it because it's painful. And that that that's what we're really trying to take away, is thatproblem of doing a few things, one, getting less than what you deserve,to taking away the queuing up of tourists and multiple counters at the airportand, three, seeing and finding ways for us to work with governments tohelp to digitize the experience to make it a truly end to end process thatpeople can enjoy. I don't see why... and this kind of last milepiece of the tourist shopping experience should be this difficult, because you're going onholiday, you want to be in a good mood, you want to leavein a good mood, and I can't tell you the number of phases oftourist I've seen who are just upset because they've either potentially even this their flightor are running, you know, from randoms to the gate to make thesight and it's just something that we're trying to solve in our own way.Well, and I remember, I mean literally last year I bought a tagour watch and I they the gentleman was attempting to explain to me the threeplaces in the airport I was going to have to go and I'm like,I just basically said, you know what, I like the watch enough that Idon't want to deal with that and just split, like I was likeI'm out. And so I'm curious. This is it seems to me tobe such a huge potential economic driver for the for the countries that embrace it. Why do you think this point it's lagged behind other industries in terms ofembracing a mobile friendly, customer experience centric approach. Yeah, so I thinkthe first thing I would say is countries are taking a forward thinking approach andI'm starting to see many countries actually embrace the digital piece on the custom side, and that's something that we're very appreciative for. So Italy, France,for example, those governments are pushing towards digitization for their government processes. Ithink where, say, the bottle necks have started to come in have beenon the tax free operator side, and these are private companies who are fairlysizeable. In our industry, there are two large companies that control, youknow, ninety plus percent of the market and I think you know to goback to your question, why has this industry like behind others? I seethe two reasons. The first is that the industry was born in the s. So we're talking about pre IPHONE, pre smartphone, and the only placeto get refund poms to tourists was in shops. So current processes have beenbuilt on top of this logic. So paper palms are still handed out instores. This will change and has started to change. But I think thatsegues into the next components of this question, which is the business model. Sobecause of various costs associated with running, you know, these manual systems thatwe've been talking about, the operators, and you can count them on lessthan one hand, have liberally taken more from tourists of the have goneby. So you know that. The second real issue is this entrenchment ina business model that may not be the right one in a world that hasgone to be to see, that has gone mobile and that has leverage digitaltools to empower people to make choices, so that that would really be it. And so when you think about so, so as I approach it from thethe tourist standpoint, right from somebody who's going through these shops. Igo to Ireland or Singapore or wherever and I spend a lot of money inthe country as well, seeing the sites and doing that, but also thatcon tax free shopping is very attractive. But what I have never understood iswhere's the intersection between the brands? You know, Tad, I'm going touse watches this because that's what I know. I don't I don't carry bags.So so tag you, Omega and and all of these types of brands. Where's the intersection between the brand, the government and the consumer in termsof I mean it seems to me it's very convoluted and creates a friction point. So do you have to not only get the government's on track with this, or is this where you have to also marry brand influence as well?So this is why it gets really interesting, right. So, on the customside, in order to operate a VAT refund system, you need tobe integrated with the customs of that specific country and you have to work withthe government's to be able to do that and, as I that governments havestarted taking a very proactive view on this and and ill digitizing fairly quickly.When it comes to the brands, it's...

...kind of interesting because, as Isaid, the brands have traditionally been the place where the tax refund operators formhas been handed out to tourists. But again, this is we're talking abouta concept that goes to pre iphone. What we actually did over the summer, and what I would say is Youtube has used this here quite wisely,is to really drill deep and understand the regulations around who owns the tax credit, and so we raised a inquiry to the Italian Anti Trust and monopolies commission, and my apologies, are not going to even try to pronounce the Italianbecause I don't potentially ended any of our Italian audience. But we raise theinquiry to ask, you know, to whom does a tax credit actually belong? And what we found out is that, based on the European Union regulations,that tax credit is owned by the tourists and the tourist is free tochoose or not to choose a refund operator. So that unlocks the beach to seeopportunity where today. What we're saying is, you know, dear isthe tourist. Yes, you can get your refund from the shop, butyou don't necessarily have to use the refund operator who gives you that piece ofpaper, because it is just a credit and it's a credit that you own. So you should theoretically be able to assign it to any operator who givesyou the best deal. Right. Don't forget this is about driving tourism exports, it's about getting people to spend more in the country. So what wedo when working with brands, and this kind of goes back to the wholevalue chain, is we want to work with the brands by doing two things. One is we want to help tourists to receive more of their refund,right, but we also want to help brown brands to sell more, becauseyou're going to just buy that tag foyer one night. Right. Let's goback to your example, right. What if I told you, Chad Hey, on this tag hier watch, you're going to get the full value ofyour refund and you can use this immediately to buy a wallet that I'm goingto set sell you. That's also a taghoyer wallet. Now I know Taghoiredoesn't necessarily make wallets. No, but I'm like, I'd buy and wewant you to spend more at Taghoyer. Right. So I've achieved the objectiveof the band, which to sell another item. I've achieved the objective ofthe tourist, is to feel like they have got it more for their shoppingin terms of the refund amount, and I achieved what the government wants todo, which is to keep money being circulated in the local economy. SoI've actually been aligned everybody's in incentives in a nice intersection through a mobile experience. So complicated answer, I know, but the ideas to really stitch thesethree actors together to bring a lot more value to each well, and Ithink for of anybody who's experienced, and some, I'm sure some listeners arelike WTF, like what? But for anybody in the audience who's traveled internationallyand you've done this more than once, I'm because I know I have overthe let's just not talk about how many years, but a lot of yearsthat I've traveled internationally. Every time that I get that little piece of paper, I literally do a mental calculation. Do I want to go through?Is Is it a refund enough that I want to go through all the stepsnecessary, whereas to your point, let's I mean let's change it. Ifit were a different brand and and right there in a mobile experience, rightthere in the shop, I can receive that credit, I would eighty fivepercent of the time be more inclined to add to my initial purchase. Sothe size of my purchase goes up, the bundling for the brand goes up, the economic impact for the country goes up. And the question I've alwayswondered, because I mean I think you and I probably been a digital aboutthe same amount of time, why in the world did somebody not figure thisout before? I'm kind of curious and I know I'm off script here,so this is a totally unscripted question.

But but from your perspective, what'skept this from happening before now? I think you know again, we're talkingabout an industry that goes back to the S, but it's an industry thathas not changed in terms of process, but the people who have helped tobuild up the industry have changed, where I would really kind of ten verythankful to have somebody like my dad who's actually owned and built both the twobig companies in the space right and he's essentially taken his experience and knowledge tocropped, you know, these products like our hundred percent refund proposition, rightto be able to understand that the right of the refund belongs to the tourist. And then it's a question of think, how do you reward the tourist fora second spend? So it really takes a nuanced understanding of the industryand no one's understanding of how the industry got here, to be able tocreate a different suite of products that are built for today's world. And Ithink really the secret sauce is because my dad understood the concept of the factthat the tax credit belongs to the tourist that has allowed us to build theconcept of the hundred percent refunds the second sale and really, theoretically, ifyou think about it, start to harmonize and take advantage of the tourism multipliereffect by bringing in a whole host of other actors into the refunding ecosystem,you know, such as restaurants attractions, and allowing them to give tourists areason to shop or spend their money at these attractions at these restaurants. SoI think it's really a question of experience chat more than anything. When Ithink you have then the the perfect combination, right, somebody who grew up inthe industry, helped define it within your father and then somebody who,I'm going to assume, and if I am incorrect, please I mean nodispect for correct me, but who grew up in a digital world and understandsthat it really can break down those friction points between individuals and businesses and thoseexperiences and I think that's a great confluence of experience, talent insight that Ithink youtube benefits from. That I'm not seeing as a tourist in any ofthe other solutions or attempted solutions that are out there. And so when Ithink about how you go to market, when, when you go to marketto get the tours on board, to get the brands on board, doyou have do you have a partnership group? Is it partnership based? Is itreally pushing the mobile platform like? What does that go to market strategylook like? Yeah, so the the go to market strategy. I'd liketo think about platform as multi sided. Does a be to be component andthere's a be TOC component and each needs to be treated differently. Yet wethink that the human experience across both sides needs to be empathetic firstly, andempowering secondly. On the be tob side, we hold a deep belief as acompany that it's going to be local people who understand their own markets,and so we have tended to hire local and contribute to the local economy bybuilding local partnership teams. So we've been spending a lot about time building lean, small, technologically enabled sales teams for on boarding tourists and user education.You know, I think social media is great, for sure, but it'sa little bit of a scattergun approach sometimes. So, you know, what webelieve in is partnerships with companies who believe in our mission and I lookingto make a difference in the human experience of cross boat travel as well.You know, I have to I have to tip my hat to I meanbecause I was literally I was talking to Stephen Denny or earlier today. He'sone of the CO authors of unfiltered marketing and they did a four year quantitativeresearch project on people living in a digital world. Kind of all of asudden giving up trust, like there's this declining sense of trust with institutions asa result the digital and and one of the things that we talked about extensivelywas this concept of extreme credibility and a...

...value based approach and having companies thatactually do have a value based backing for the way that they execute. Andthat, to me sounds like exactly what you're doing and I just wanted torecognize it and applaud it because I think it is going to set the stagefor the types of brands that companies engage with as we go into two thousandand twenty one and beyond, not only because of what we've been through,but just because the digital medium itself can sometimes be a little bit convoluted,shall we say, and not particularly trustworthy. So I just wanted to recognize thatand applaud that for you bringing to life of value base. What I'mviewing is a value based approach to the business, feeding the local economies,making sure that you are enabling the tourists, and you're speaking my language when youtalk about that customer experience. So so hats off to you for thatand I just as a tourist myself, just wanted to take the opportunity tosay thank you. Thank you. You know, Chad. What I whatI really do believe is business is done between people. It's done on ahandshake. That's how it was done twozero years ago. It's still how weshould do things today, and I think that is so much value and somuch learning we can get from each other once that handshake is made, thatyou don't get, you know, through social media or even sometimes, tosome extent, and I know on the zoom right now, through zoom,but your quality time with people, being able to understand their pain points andfor them to time to send you all pain points really helps to develop abetter relationship and from that comes better solutions that we can then, you know, bring to market as well. Absolutely, absolutely all right. So let's ChangeDirection here a little bit. We ask all of our guests kind oftwo standard questions towards the end of each of you. The first is simply, as a cofounder of you two, that makes you a prospect for alot of people. So I'm sure, like many others out there, you'regetting requests, more and more request for time on your calendar, and I'malways curious. We know that referrals and introductions are obviously the most effective wayto get into organizations to talk to people. But when somebody doesn't have that,when they don't have somebody walking in the door and said hey, youreally need to talk to this person, what do you find to be mosteffective at capturing your attention and earning the right to time on your calendar?WHOA Chad? It's a pretty loaded question. I'll try. I'll try my bestand here it is limit. So you know, you know that therethere are times when I pitched to other people and there are other times whenI'm being pitched to. So in the second scenario, what I really appreciateis someone who has taken the time to learn about my business and perhaps playaround with my APP or read my website before they make their opening pitch.And I say that. I say that because I'd like to think that Itake the same level of care when I am pitching to a perspective brand,for example. You know, I asked myself questions while doing my pre salesresearch, such as, what are the issues that is this brand facing intheir tourism retail business? Can My technology help them? What are the stonesunder their feet. And you know what is perhaps preventing them from thinking differentlyabout the tax refund space? What is the customized pitch that I can maketo them? Let me tell you an experience I had this morning, infact quite timely, where I was pitching our business to a top tier venturecapital firm and the first thing the person Noel speaking to said was, Hey, I love your Uiux and I've spent the past half in our checking outyour APP. And I can't tell you how much this meant to me,because I could tell this individual was a real pro even though I was pitchingto him about our business, and that just puts, you know, thingson the right foot. It develops that sense that, hey, the otherperson cares about me and I care about them, and I think it's soimportant not to lose that as we, you know, make our relevant salespitches. Well, let's let's talk about your APP for a second, me, because I have to say now, just between your and me, ouraudience is putting on their ear muffs right now. I'm not really a tealguy and we use a lot of too. We use a lot of teal inour stuff, but I do have... tell you your APP is quiteimpressive. So if anybody listening does not understand the concepts of what we're talkingabout when how this tax reworks, if you download the UTU APP, you'regoing to notice that there's videos in there that very simply point out how thisworks how it's going to benefit you. You want to talk about seamless andfocused on you as a tourist or a traveler. Highly recommend that you downloadthe APP. It is very slick, very well designed. I mean thejoke inside of the designer community and those that listen, I've heard me saythis before, is we can argue about should it be blue or should itbe toal, but the design of it itself is extremely informative, extremely easyto access, and so really highly recommend anybody who's not following what a mereand I are talking about download the APP. It'll answer a lot of your questions. So I appreciate that response to mere. Thank you for sharing that. So when you think about sales and marketing people in general and you thinkabout one piece of advice, just just one yeah, you could give themthat you feel like would help them crush their targets. What would it beand why? So you know, I really love sports. Chat. Youknow, I played sports and school. Yeah, not just sports. Youcome on now, I think you're being a little I think you're holding backthere. My understanding is you're pretty impressive. No, you know, I've alwaysgrown up with a sports culture in my family. I slay soccer formy school, and what I love about sports in general and almost every singlegame you play, is that there are constantly changing dynamics and I genuinely believethat success comes about by being able to adjust and adapt to these ever changingdynamics. So I would say if I were to have one bit of advice, and maybe these are a few words of advice, I'm going to takea little bit of a liberty here. Oh please, do, be flexible, adaptable, but, most importantly, be empathetic when you're trying to makein close a sale, and I think that this would empathetic becomes even moreimportant as we look to adjust to post covid world. You know, oncewe get back to a point where we're all healthy, where we're all meetingeach other again, just remember to be empathetic and understand what the other personhas gone through, what they're going through, and craft a specific response that willhelp them and I think your sales target will come about through that,because I always believe that you hit your targets by making the right decisions.Absolutely love it and could not agree more. I mean, I can't thank younever taking time to be on the show. It's been absolute pleasure.Thank you again for taking time so close to the holidays. I really appreciateit and just again want to say thank you, no, and thank youso much, Chad. This has been a great discussion. I'd like totake this opportunity, just before you know we close, to wish everybody who'slistening health and safety for this festive season and I hope that two thousand andtwenty one will be a new chapter for all of us and I can't waitto meet you know some of you perhaps on your travels next to Europe whenyou're trying out out tax free system. Absolutely, and so if there area people that are interested in learning more about youtube or or speaking with you, where they where would you like is to send them show. So youknow, listeners can follow us on Youtube's social media and we're on pretty muchevery major platform. But if people are interested in listening to my rons aboutmy soccer team, point doing terribly. That and the occasional nuggets of wisdom, or I don't even know it's wisdom, but but thoughts about our industry.You can find me on my personal twitter handle as well. Perfect.Thank you so much, me. I can't thank you enough. Hey,thanks, Chad, and happy holidays. Happy Holidays to you, my friend. All right, everybody that does it for this episode. You know thedrill be to be read exactcom share the episode of Friends, family, Coworkers. Let your kids listen to it instead of getting their faces stuck inscreens over the holidays. Everybody, have a wonderful holiday season a great newyear. Until next year, we have...

...value selling associates, with you allnothing but the greatest success. You've been listening to the BB revenue executive experience. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show andItunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Untilnext time,.

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