The Next Gen of Tax-Free Shopping, with Ameer Jumabhoy at utu

The Next Gen of Tax-Free Shopping, with Ameer Jumabhoy at utu

Episode Overview

Episode Overview:

Episode Topic:

In this episode of Travel-Preneur, we are focusing on revolutionizing tax-free shopping experiences for international tourists. Our guest, Ameer Jumabhoy, Co-founder of utu, shares insights into how technology can streamline processes and enhance the retail journey for travelers worldwide. From reducing customer drop-off points to fostering a more delightful shopping experience, we explore the innovative approaches reshaping the landscape of tax-free shopping.

Lessons You’ll Learn:

Listeners can expect to gain a comprehensive understanding of how tax-free shopping operates and how it differs from traditional retail models. Through Ameer’s expertise, they’ll discover the concept of VAT refunds as country rewards and how utu is redefining this system by providing immediate value to shoppers. Furthermore, the episode highlights the importance of a mobile-first perspective in developing digital solutions and the significance of user feedback in driving continuous improvement.

About Our Guest:

Ameer Jumabhoy brings a wealth of experience to the table with his role as Co-founder and VP of Consumer Technology at utu. With a focus on disrupting the tax-free shopping and global rewards industry, Ameer’s innovative approach has led to significant advancements in enhancing the retail journey for international travelers. His expertise lies in leveraging technology to navigate the complexities of tax refund systems while maximizing benefits for both shoppers and retailers.

Topics Covered:

Throughout the episode, we cover a range of topics, including the traditional VAT refund process, utu’s unique approach to tax-free shopping, and the challenges faced in creating a digital solution within an industry accustomed to traditional methods. Ameer shares insights into the evolution of tax-free shopping, the benefits of providing immediate value to shoppers, and the strategies employed to keep pace with evolving UI/UX demands. Additionally, we explore the global scope of tax-free shopping operations and the complexities involved in navigating various tax refund systems across different countries.

Our Guest: Ameer Jumabhoy- Co-founder of utu, A leader in digital innovation.

Ameer Jumabhoy is the Co-Founder of utu, a company renowned for its groundbreaking initiatives in digital innovation. With a focus on disrupting the tax-free shopping and global rewards industry, Ameer brings a wealth of experience to the table. His unique perspective stems from years of involvement in reshaping the retail journey for international travelers. Ameer’s role entails leveraging technology to navigate the complexities of tax refund systems while maximizing benefits for both shoppers and retailers.

Bringing over 30 years of experience in the tax-free shopping industry, Ameer possesses a deep understanding of the traditional VAT refund process. His innovative approach has led utu to conceptualize VAT refunds as country rewards, providing immediate value to shoppers. By revolutionizing this system, Ameer aims to foster a more seamless and rewarding shopping experience for tourists worldwide. His expertise lies in streamlining processes and reducing customer drop-off points, thereby reshaping the landscape of tax-free shopping.

As the VP of Consumer Technology, Ameer spearheads utu’s efforts in adopting a mobile-first perspective. Born in the mobile era, he emphasizes the importance of developing digital solutions that prioritize user experience. Ameer’s commitment to continuous improvement is evident in utu’s approach to incorporating user feedback and tweaking their platform at a rapid pace. With a keen focus on evolving UI/UX demands, Ameer ensures that utu remains at the forefront of innovation in the travel tech industry.

The Next Gen of Tax-Free Shopping, with Ameer Jumabhoy at utu

Episode Transcript

Ameer Jumabhoy : But, you know, we’re just trying to say, how do we help to introduce these technologies and reduce customer drop off points, reduce friction and enable a more delightful journey? Because at the end of the day, you’re shopping, you’re in a new country. You want to be seeing stuff. You don’t want to be bogged down by process. So how do we use these tools to reduce the process flow?

Megha McSwain: Welcome to Travel Preneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston based travel journalist Megha McSwain. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel business, if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on Travel Preneur. Welcome to another episode of Travel Preneur, where we explore the cutting edge of the travel business. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we’re diving into the world of travel tech with a special guest, Amir Jumabhoy, co-founder and VP of Consumer Technology at utu. Amir brings a wealth of experience in disrupting the tax free shopping and global rewards industry, aiming to enhance the retail journey for international shoppers. Join us as we uncover the innovative work utu is doing to transform tax free shopping into a rewarding experience for travelers worldwide. Amir, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us.

Ameer Jumabhoy : Hey, thanks. It’s great to be here and I’m really excited.

Megha McSwain: Great. So Amir, you too is known for its unique approach to tax free shopping. Can you explain how its primary product differs from traditional models and its benefits for tourists?

Ameer Jumabhoy : Sure. So in the traditional VAT, refunding and VAT stands for value added tax. And it’s sort of like a sales tax in the US. But they call it value added tax in Europe. The premise is essentially tourists are able to reclaim that tax back on their shopping purchases when they depart from the European Union. And you do this by going through a process at the airport where customs will inspect the goods you are taking out of the EU, and then you basically go to a VAT refund operator’s desk and they will process the refund to a refund method of your choice. It can be in cash or it could be, say, to one of your credit cards from back home. Traditionally, what has happened in the tax free industry is the cost of processing these VAT refunds has gone quite high in the last few years. So tourists, while they do get back money, it’s perhaps not as much as one might expect. What? We took a very novel view on this industry to say. If you think about it, a VAT refund is an incentive provided by governments to promote tourist shopping in the country.

Ameer Jumabhoy : And if you think of another word for incentive, it’s reward. So we’ve actually conceptualized the VAT refund as a country reward. And what we’re really doing is we said there’s two ways of approaching this industry. One is through revolution. And revolution sometimes doesn’t help to win you friends. Or the second way is to go through evolution. So what we do today is we give more back to shoppers who are doing the tax free refund, but we give it to them in the form of value. And this value could either be in the form of airline miles and we’re connected to about 12 airlines, or it could be in the form of value to continue shopping at the retailer again. For example, you buy an item and there’s €100 of VAT paid. Typically, a tourist could expect to get back about 60 to €65. And in one example with one of our brands, for example Cassinelli that we work with in Milan, we are actually giving €120 of value if the tourist buys another item in store, right?

 Megha McSwain:  It’s just similar to how credit card rewards work.

Ameer Jumabhoy : It’s not a points based system, it’s really the value that we provide instantly. Instead of getting €65 in cash, we’re giving you €120 of value immediately to buy that second item. So don’t just buy the handbag. Why not buy the wallet that goes with the handbag? Right. And what that does is it helps retailers to sell more. It helps VAT refund money that was leaving the country to be recycled within the local retail ecosystem, and even for VAT refund operators, they process more refunds. Because the one thing I would say about our process is we are not a VAT refund operator ourselves, so you’d still need to go through the traditional system. But what we do is really provide this delightful, value driven in-store experience to continue shopping in a way that works for you.

Megha McSwain: Got it? Can you share an insight into the challenges you two faced while creating a digital solution? In an industry accustomed to more traditional methods?

Ameer Jumabhoy : It’s a really interesting industry because it’s dominated by very few players, and I have the unique benefit of my father being my co-founder, and it makes for interesting dinner time conversation. My mom and my wife are sometimes not happy, but he brings about 30 years of a wealth of experience in the tax free shopping industry. So what we really are doing is taking his knowledge base and putting it together with modern technology tools. We were born in the mobile era, so everything we’ve started thinking about has always been from a mobile first perspective. And because we sort of sit as a layer above the traditional tax free industry, with these new services sitting above the actual refund, we actually start from a totally different vantage point in that we can start being digital, from being digital, rather than actually needing to go back into the old technology of yesteryear. Right?

Megha McSwain: Right. And since you’re talking about technology leading you to consumer technology revamp must involve constant innovation. How do you keep pace with evolving UI? Ux demands to meet user expectations?

Ameer Jumabhoy : One of the biggest things I got to be honest is to get as much user feedback as possible. You’re never going to get an app working 100% on day one, but I think it’s about. Being open enough to have that listening ear. Listen to what your customers are telling you and tweaking at a pretty rapid pace. And so that’s what we try to do our utmost.

Megha McSwain: And do you get a lot of feedback? Are there ways that you guys request feedback, or is there a certain way that you’re able to get actually a lot of that from consumers?

Ameer Jumabhoy : Indeed. So I mean, we use the traditional methods of understanding sort of what drop off points and where drop off points in the app could be. We tweak for that and we get a lot of data from our users from that perspective. I also have a lot of friends who might have gone to use the app on their travels to get more from their tax free shopping experience, and they come back and say, hey, look, I think this should work in a slightly different way or this was not built. Perhaps in a way that’s intuitive, maybe you could think about that. And that’s also great feedback, because it’s anecdotal from somebody who actually wants the best of you and from you. Right. So that’s super helpful as well.

Megha McSwain: Yeah, that’s good to have friends that will be honest with you. And they’re the best critics right. So that’s great. This episode is brought to you by Travel travel businesses have unique needs when it comes to credit card processing, from large, average ticket sizes and tolerance for higher chargeback ratios to simple integrations with the most popular shopping cart systems. The travel industry specialists at travel have you covered. Unfortunately, many of the most popular credit card processors initially accept travel businesses, but without warning, freeze their merchant accounts and the thousands of dollars in them. Because these service providers don’t understand or support the unique needs of travel industry business. Don’t get stuck with one of the big guys who will freeze you out without a moment’s notice. Instead, work with the travel industry specialist who will support your business every step of the way. Visit Travel to get a free quote today. Given the global scope of tax free shopping with operations in countries like Italy, Singapore, how do you two navigate the complexities of various tax refund systems to benefit the shopper? I mean, I imagine that would be complicated.