There is growing evidence that shows the secret behind many of the world’s most successful companies lies in the diversity of their workforces. Whether that be down to varied ethnicities, genders, or cultural mixes, studies by Thomson Reuters, Credit Suisse and the management consultants McKinsey, have all shown that a good balance of each give companies a distinct advantage over those that don’t. So, it’s particularly interesting that the subject of SmartRail World’s latest feature is Transreport, a start-up that is developing some of the most exciting technology and apps for the rail industry, and can count itself as one of these highly progressive companies. This year, the company is releasing its Passenger Assist app that enables those passengers with disabilities or specific needs to book ahead for assistance that will greet them at the platform, making the rail network even more accessible for those in society that didn’t previously have the opportunity to fully use it. And that’s not all this dynamic and agile company is busy creating, it has already launched its Defect Report app that enables customers to report any issues or concerns they encounter with their train or station, using GPS technology to help rail operators quickly devise solutions for the benefit of passengers. One of the members of the team that helped make it all possible, Tim Oluwaremi, speaks with Dave Songer about why he believes this diverse team is one of the key reasons for its success. Well, that and hard work, of course.
“We have a wide diversity of people in our team who bring their different viewpoints and perspectives of what we’re working on,” said Tim, speaking at Transreport's West London headquarters.
There is a strong vein of new-edge academia running through the company that was made immediately obvious from the start of our conversation, as Tim fired through job roles that sounded more like a group of university lecturers than a tech start-up. From mathematicians, software and hardware engineers to finance specialists, it's a diverse group that Tim likes to refer to as the dream team. Transreport even has a former teacher in its team, for that much needed human-centred skillset to run the design workshops and outreach projects for its customers. As for Tim, he has another very different set of skills, with an academic background in life sciences and speciality in oncology (the study of cancers), but his passion is for the tech start-up culture and developing value to “improve the customer experience”.
“It’s exciting having that different blend of experience and background within our team, and I would say it is one of the key reasons for our success. Bouncing off each other in meetings brings different ideas, perspectives and angles to the table when looking at the same issue or focus; different backgrounds, both academically and also culturally as well.”
On top of the great mix of people and the hard work, Tim told me about another vital part of Transreport's operations that sets it apart: a determination to make not just great products that end-users will love to use, but to benefit the rail industry as whole as well. “We’re focused on the passengers, but we’re also determined to put the entire industry at the centre of what we do, which means providing services to the rail and station operators to help them implement their desires and put their customers first.”
“We’re able to be quite flexible and address both sides of the rail industry; we’re all about adding value to the rail industry at large and where we can put a viable tech solution in place, then all the better – helping train operating companies (TOCs) make their offering better.”
While working to achieve that aim, and keep safety paramount, Tim’s focus, along with the rest of the team is to get to grips with the regulatory requirements that rightly exist in the rail industry. “We’ve certainly learned a lot through meeting the stringent standards common in the rail industry, but all the while adhering to the fast-paced development that makes us unique as a company. The most frequent feedback that we keep getting from our clients is that we’re able to turn things around quickly and develop bespoke systems that suit their requirements. It’s important that we understand the needs and desires of clients to ensure that we’re providing them with the best value proposition. It’s all about agility and personalisation.”
Providing meaningful change, that can go on to affect the lives of passengers, TOCs and the rail industry at large, is what inspires @TransreportUK to continue to innovate. “It’s the small things that count and it doesn’t need to be all bells and whistles – it can just be something trivial that we can help solve," says Tim. "We want to hear stories about how our systems have helped passengers to travel more independently and use trains that they didn’t before or have been able to report problems that they previously couldn’t do anything about. That’s the inspiration: keeping it simple but keeping it relevant and making it life-changing as well.”
There are few that can argue with these motives. I asked what are the big plans for Transreport’s future? “We certainly plan to be here in a decade’s time, and to continue to make a positive difference both in the UK and casting our net wider out and influencing other countries around the world too. Rail is a great market to work in: many countries that previously didn’t have the railway systems they wanted are now developing and building hugely impressive networks. Our systems are adaptable and can be applied to any market, so that inevitably gives us a strong future.”
Concluding, Tim admits that one area where it can be a real challenge is when having formulated a plan of action only for the goalposts to be moved, but adds that it can actually have an unintended benefit: more communication. “It can be a good thing because it means next time we’re speaking to another operator, we’ll have a greater understanding of the industry’s needs. We’re trying to support the backbone of the rail industry nationwide that will help build the economy – a big, yet very exciting opportunity.”
To find out more about Transreport and the work that it's doing to help make rail operators more efficient and how it's also helping to improve the lives of passengers, visit the company website.