Steve Singh: Using Disruption to Elevate Business Travel

At this year’s GBTA conference in San Diego, Steve Singh had the opportunity to introduce Hillary Clinton. This post is excerpted from that speech.

“No boundaries,” that’s the theme of this conference. It evokes words like Openness. Accessibility. And freedom.

For a guy born in a mud house in a tiny village in India – a country that at the time was a fledgling democracy, just watching my parents work to carve out a better life for us, acquainted me with the concept of boundaries. But that fledging democracy also allowed me to dream about “No Boundaries.” So for me, the theme of no boundaries is very personal and always brings to mind the power of democracy.

A brilliant concept made powerful by its simplicity.

The idea of a society in which every individual has the ability to participate in, add value to, and benefit from the collective efforts of society has quite literally transformed and elevated humanity.

Everything that I am, every dream I have chased, those I will chase, and more importantly, those that my children will pursue was enabled by a platform created by democracy.

Thirty or 40 years ago, I could have safely said that a story like mine or like yours was only possible in our country.

And, while the road to democracy is anything but easy, today, over 60% of the world’s nations are at some stage of democratic rule. These nations recognize that value and potential thrives when more people can contribute more ideas as part of an open ecosystem.

They are united around a simple but powerful concept: That “open” is better than closed. An open society is better than a closed one.

Great ideas flow freely and flourish when they’re shared. When they are borrowed. Built-upon. And advanced. As a result everyone has the opportunity to benefit.

We see this not just in society but in business as well. Today’s most valuable business ventures are open ecosystems that create experiences on a core platform, delivering more value to consumers and revenue opportunities for innovative companies.

Think of the changes we have all seen in supply chain ecosystems – whether you are talking about manufacturing, or retail, or music, or books, and the list goes on.

The world is being transformed by the simple concept that open is better than closed. Because, it lifts the tide for all of us.

Sometimes, in both society and business, progress and innovation slows down, especially when large interests use their position of power to stifle collaboration and innovation.

But, as history has shown, inevitably people find a better way.

Consumers demand better, easier, more beautiful experiences. People find new ways to solve problems and meet their needs. We see these disruptions every day – in governments around the world, in businesses that serve us, and in our personal quests to improve ourselves.

In our little corner of the world – the corporate business travel industry – we have an opportunity to constructively disrupt and elevate the ways things are done today. We have an opportunity to make things even better for our customers.

With the right kind of collaboration, we can open up previously closed systems, we can share data freely, and deliver better experiences to our customers.

We stand to gain so much, together – if we remove the boundaries that inhibit progress.

We need an open ecosystem where every member of our industry can participate, add value and benefit. We need an ecosystem that ties us together and helps us achieve more than any of us could achieve on our own.

I believe in this this vision wholeheartedly. I believe that open is better than closed.

But this is something that can’t be forced, it has to be embraced willingly, freely.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.” We want to create an open platform and ecosystem that has so much inherent value, that businesses across our industry want to be part of it. That they will want to collaborate.

For the last two decades, we’ve strived to make the travel experience more open. Today we’re working with many of you to create a community of buyers, suppliers, developers, travelers and travel management companies who work together to deliver a better outcome for themselves and for the business travel industry.

Through innovation, partnerships, and occasionally acquisitions, we’re delivering a platform and a core set of services that everyone can build upon. In fact, the acquisition of GDSX and TRX were designed to give you access to the data so you can build value on top of it.

There are incredible innovations taking place in every corner of our world. An open platform allows all of us to benefit from that innovation. It makes our community stronger.

We look forward to working with each of you to see what we can build together as we collectively shape the future of travel.

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