Part of the Alelo‘s brand, from Brazil‘s HR/payments company Elopar group, which has traditional banks Banco do Brasil and Bradesco as partners, the toll tag operator Veloe was created three years ago as a business of all-electronic tolling, and electronic collection for car parks. The company competes in the Brazilian toll market with the experienced FleetCor‘s SemParar, and Conectar, backed by big bank Itaú.
“We feel a great strength in this market that encompasses both urban and interurban mobility and transportation, and also to operate with the autonomous cargo transporters and the large shippers. This is due to the relationship that these companies already have with Veloe’s partner banks,” explains André Turquetto, managing director at Veloe, in an interview with LABS.
Periods of paralysis of economic activity in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic affected the transport and urban mobility sector. With shopping malls closed (and consequently their car parks), the pandemic negatively impacted Veloe’s business. On the other hand, toll tags emerged as an option for those who wanted to avoid physical contact at the booths. According to the Brazilian Association of Highway Concessionaires (ABCR, in Portuguese), in the comparison of March this year with March 2020, payments in automatic tickets grew 11%, while toll payments in manual booths fell 8%, as reported by Valor Econômico.
“2020 was pretty tough, but now we come in 2021 with full speed. It is a market that grows a lot, there are a lot of interesting things happening from the regulatory point of view and disruption, with new passage technologies,” comments Turquetto, who took over Veloe this year.
He says that from January to now the company has grown exponentially. Although he does not disclose how many tag users Veloe has today, Turquetto says the goal is to reach 1.5 million people with the transport tag for individuals. “We are on a very fast pace of business growth with a major pick-up in economic activity this year.”
Indeed, reports from Oxford Economics and JPMorgan showed a strong recovery in economic activity in Latin America due to the return of mobility. In Brazil, mobility was restored in the last quarter of 2020 and by the second quarter of this year, the country had already reached its pre-pandemic GDP.
“In the individual business, we have the great project of spreading the usage base and exploring other services that are even synergistic with Alelo’s business. If we work on the issue of mobility as a benefit, for example, we can also expand to the fuelling service, payment of taxes, and insurance,” says Turquetto.
To date, the Elopar group has already invested BRL 450 million in the Veloe platform, and this year it should invest about BRL 180 million in the unification of the fleet management unit of Alelo with the Veloe business, which today is still only for toll passes and car parks. “With Alelo Frota, our perspective is to move about BRL 1.5 billion,” says the director.
This year and for much of 2022, Veloe will work on integration with Alelo Frota, from brand integration, team integration, to fleet’s strategy. “From the moment I arrived, that was the proposal we made to the group: to create a new Veloe that incorporates both the individual and the legal entity. That is not a trivial task.”
Beyond toll plaza: Veloe’s range of possibilities
By having large banks as partners, Veloe can take advantage of the universe that encompasses the holder of the means of payment, tag or card, and the owner of an auto. According to Turquetto, in addition to tolls, there is a large set of possible activities that Veloe can explore, such as the buying and selling of cars, payment of taxes, refueling, smart parking, smart car, and even integrations with electric cars.
But the big bet to differentiate itself from main rivals is in the user’s and auto’s data to sell products and services. For individuals, Veloe wants to be a super app, “the most complete digital mobility wallet on the market,” says Turquetto. In between, for businesses, Veloe targets freight from an autonomous freight hauler or a transport company, fleet management, and mandatory toll vouchers.
It’s also not something that has gone unnoticed by challengers, as FleetCor recently announced SemParar Empresas, and Conectar started offering toll vouchers to truck drivers.
In Brazil, road cargo transportation is one of the main engines of the economy. “It is an important segment, and the small trucker, the trucker who is still informal, has difficulty accessing credit, for example. I see that it is a niche market with a lot of opportunities to modernize”, comments the executive.
It is not by chance that fleet management and road logistics operations have been the apple of investors’ eyes, exemplified by recent rounds in Freto, a startup that used to be controlled by Edenred, and in CargoX.
“I think our big advantage is having the investment capacity for this, having a partner for this [fleet management operations for companies]. We have a very important distribution channel, and we have a very advanced technological base,” says Turquetto, commenting that Veloe has possible products for truck drivers, companies with their own fleet, or third-party fleets. “We believe very much in this robustness, in our ability to serve these audiences.”
Technological innovation on Brazil’s traditional highways
“Veloe is a new company that was born in the cloud. Our teams already work in the agile model, so we already have internal skills to meet the constantly changing market. A lot is still going to happen in terms of technological transformation and regulation. People want more fluidity. Nobody likes a barrier, people value time”, said the exec.
Veloe’s idea is to integrate several transportation modals. According to Turquetto, thinking of mobility as a business model is to create products and services for people who are no longer getting around the way they used to.
“Brazilians have several ways to get around now, and company employees don’t want a single modal, they want the freedom to come and go,” he says. Veloe then created a mobility product where the company provides funds that can be used as transport vouchers to give freedom to employees who do not want to commute, i.e. remote working.
Another important change that governs Veloe’s business is the free-flow tolling. Unlike what is done today in Brazil, wherefrom the use of the highway, whatever the mileage that has been driven, it is necessary to pay the same amount, the free flow is the electronic toll collection proportional to the number of traveled miles. It has already been used in the U.S..
In June, a new Brazilian federal law establishing free-flow tolling in the country entered into force, but it has not yet been regulated by the National Agency of Land Transportation (ANTT, in Portuguese). According to the Brazilian government, the National Transit Council (Contran) is responsible for establishing cars’ identification standards.
“The agencies are already working together to make the regulation as soon as possible. The first tests will happen in a stretch of the new Dutra road concession between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which has an auction scheduled for the last quarter of 2021,” said Brazil‘s Ministry of Infrastructure, through a statement.
In other words, with the new law, the tag could be essential to identify the mileage traveled and charge per it. Although the government has not defined how this identification of vehicles will be done yet, Veloe is interested in providing the technology to increase the collection base on the highways.
“It is very likely [that the government] will take advantage of the already installed infrastructure of antennas [of the tag companies]. But there are other discussions and other possibilities that we are also experimenting with, such as optical character reading technology for number plates and some technologies that Europe already uses, such as geolocation. But there are discussions regarding the possibility of leakage, the assertiveness of the technology, accuracy. So, it is not a simple discussion and it involves certification and the establishment of a standard. We are participating in this debate,” said Turquetto.
White-label partnerships and the C6 Bank tag
Turquetto says Veloe is not adamant about a single growth model. “We are very much open innovation-oriented. We have an organic growth plan, which is based on the ability to leverage businesses that the partners and the other companies in the group have, and is also based on the possibility of us joining through partnerships or eventually even incorporating partners,” i.e. Veloe participates in innovation ecosystems, exchanges APIs and partners, and does not rule out buying startups.
“Mobility has many facets, from a digital wallet, new technologies, to the electric car, the ultra-connected car, and smart cities. And you have companies already working with this very well. We are open to any kind of deal, we can buy companies, we can partner up, and even create together with these innovation ecosystems and universities. We have talked a lot with some universities that have done tests and modeling for us,” he adds.
Veloe has its own app and its tag for individuals in which it charges – besides the toll fee – a monthly tag fee starting at BRL 14.90. But the company’s big business is in white label partnerships, in which the company makes a profit by renting its tag platform to those who do not have mobility as their core business, but want to offer this functionality to their clients.
This is the case of the Brazilian neobank C6 Bank, which provides toll tags with no monthly fee for its clients. “Today, for C6’s individual clients, the tag is one of the main attractions for opening an account. It delivers added value for his client and has been a great success,” said Turquetto.
The fixed values for active tag rental vary according to each partner company. “The entire service cost is on the partner’s behalf, and the only thing we do is lending the platform, manage this pass-through infrastructure, and eventually provide some service. But for the client, the entire logistical process, emission of the tag, and control are the company that hires Veloe’s service’s responsibility.”
Veloe also has the model of partners as sales channels, that is, it remunerates the partner company to sell the tag. “Today C6 is a super strategic partner, it has leveraged a lot of participation here within Veloe as a sales channel, around 35% of our base.”
Among other companies with whom Veloe has white-label partnerships are the car rental firm Unidas, in which every long-term rental vehicle has a Veloe tag, Uber, through the startup Digio, ride-hailing firm 99 and BTG Pactual, in the BTG+ app, as well as partnerships with Brazil‘s main soccer teams to issue tags with the clubs’ custom logos.