Annemari Muru and Felicity Travaini, two female CEOs in the car rental industry, believe that the market is undergoing a significant transformation, and that the travel industry is becoming increasingly gender diverse and customer focused. As some of the few women who direct companies in this industry, they sit down with The CEO Magazine to discuss their leadership styles and ambitions to be leaders of this transition.
Annemari is CEO of international startup Liigu – a contactless mobility service that is changing the car rental experience by making it safe and hassle-free. Liigu is outstanding in the market for its concept of being techy and human at the same time. The company began as an experimental project to test a new car rental concept and has since become a flourishing business with a growing customer base and stellar reviews. Annemari was the leader of this process as a firm believer that tech should be inclusive and make travelling affordable, easy and exciting.
Her journey in the mobility industry started around three and a half years ago in her role as Business Process Manager for car rental connectivity platform Car Rental Gateway where she was responsible for bringing in a new, fresh and innovative perspective. Her background in economics and management in European Structural Funds at first seemed somewhat ill-fitted, however, it was a new journey and as a true leader she was ready for it.
“What is considered a novel approach now, will be the norm in the near future.” – Annemari Muru
“In the beginning, I had some hesitations about whether telematics solutions, vehicle life cycle, rental market dynamics, and so on were my true passion. But I must say, it’s addictive – once I saw what change could be made with a fresh approach, I was completely hooked to the industry. When Liigu started and I got the offer of taking the lead in launching it onto the market, there was no hesitation – I said ‘Yes’,” she shares.
Felicity Travaini is Founder and CEO of proud and energetic car hire broker company, Wisecars. The company was founded seven years ago and has already served more than half a million global customers with international car companies on board. The truly global company image and business processes were achieved through the leadership of Felicity, who saw a gap in the market and decided to take action.
She co-founded Wisecars after a successful career with one of the major car rental booking websites. Her extensive experience in the industry encouraged her to establish a new car broker company focusing on customers and making travel a stress-free experience. With a well-established career within the industry, the position of women is a topic which Felicity is very passionate about.
“In past roles, it was clear to me that women are promoted (as was my case) based on their past accomplishments, whereas men are promoted based on their future potential,” she remarks.
Solid experience and deep industry knowledge helps Felicity to have strategic vision and to make fast and effective decisions.
Influence and engage – these two keywords define the process Annemari and Felicity are following in their everyday business. Perfection is the goal Liigu is aiming for and Annemari, herself a perfectionist, endeavours to be influential in both external and internal business processes.
“I have a passion for improvement and perfection in everything I do. I believe that if it is not worth giving to something 100 per cent, then it’s not worth doing at all,” she explains. “I also try to be fair and give reasons for my decisions to not have the ‘because I said so’ attitude.”
As well as being a perfectionist, Annemari is also a big fan of stoic thinking. This is described in her own words as “the principles of taking responsibility for your own thoughts and actions, not worrying or complaining about the things you cannot change and changing those you can”. Leadership is about being a role model, giving examples and getting feedback, she further adds.
Felicity shares these sentiments, believing that the only way for Wisecars to achieve true customer satisfaction is through transformational leadership, when you as a leader are a role model of a positive change.
“I believe in transformational leadership,” she affirms. “I am keen to inspire positive changes. We are an energetic, enthusiastic and passionate team. My goal is to inspire the employees to be motivated and able to achieve their own goals. With an engaged workforce, more can be achieved. Our team strives above the required expectations to work towards our shared vision.”
Felicity is proud to share that Wisecars is one of the best places for career development for all genders.
Both women accept that there is gender bias in the industry, however, they have their own approach towards it. Annemari views the industry as a competitive environment where she can make a difference.
“I don’t mind a competitive environment and I like to think that I’m appreciated for my knowledge, courage and personality rather than my gender,” she says.
While discussing this topic she shared one experience of being one of eight females among 80 guests. For a second it felt strange, however, her focus quickly shifted to the topic and the professional environment motivated her to enjoy the insightful conversations.
Felicity has also often experienced being the only woman in the room and it is not something she worries about. Her expertise in the field nurtures her courage to voice her opinions. The workplace and culture these two female CEOs have created are inclusive and include professionals of both genders. They are looking for professionalism from others and don’t focus on gender, race or age.
To the moon and beyond
The car rental industry is going through a significant transformation. The pandemic challenged the sector to be more tech focused and at the same time, customers are looking for stress-free experiences. The traditional car rental approach is outdated and the speed of change is astounding, which not all companies are able to keep up with. Liigu, under Annemari’s leadership, aims to be a true game-changer in the market.
“What is considered a novel approach now, will be the norm in the near future. I see Liigu as one of the good examples where the service is made by people and for people – meaning that we are here to provide convenience and ease of use. We do not give up and we are not afraid of challenges,” shares Annemari.
“All that is new, excites us and we are ready to share fun and cool experiences with everyone. Liigu is as everyone and as the world should be – hardworking, forward-thinking and having fun along the way!”
She also adds that the team has already grown from four to 19 people and that the number of customers has already reached 1,000.
As the leader of Wisecars, Felicity spends most of her time communicating with other industry professionals. She has a clear vision of how the company could be the top player in the market and that is the motivation she shares with her team.
“Creating transparency in the car rental industry and connecting people via travel is an endless process. We are ready to be top players in this journey,” she explains.
Being a parent at the same time
Both leaders believe that a healthy work–life balance is achievable for men and women even while holding a high position in a company.
The CEO of Wisecars has often experienced that society expects her to choose between family or career. “People assume that if work is up, family is down. What they don’t see is that they can be mutually beneficial. They don’t have to exist separately.”
“I believe there is a constant struggle for women between career or family. The belief is that it’s impossible to be great at both. This is simply not the case.” – Felicity Travaini
Felicity also points out the different expectations for men and women. “I believe there is a constant struggle for women between career or family. The belief is that it’s impossible to be great at both. This is simply not the case. I often hear that if you want the freedom to pursue a very demanding career, it’s probably best not to have kids,” she says. “I personally have been the target of such negative comments. A common one was that I put my career first. This is the belief for women.”
Annemari is a mother of two daughters. Though calling it a cliche, she believes that one of the most important things for her besides work is her family. She says that becoming a mother has affected her worldview greatly.
“I can without a doubt say that my older daughter has been my greatest teacher.” According to Annemari, her children have helped her grow as a person, find new passions and become the leader she is today.
She also believes her husband to be of immense importance. “I could tell short and long stories about why and how, but to put it simply: he is my home.”
A message to other women
Both leaders believe that women are capable of being and doing amazing things, whatever they set their minds on.
“Be yourself! Whatever you choose, whether it’s to be a mother, a daughter, a sister, a boss, an expert, an artist, a friend, just be as you like and make the most of it!” Annemari says with conviction.
“I do believe that a woman can do anything at a senior level and I am committed to ensuring we provide the environment and opportunities for them to do so. If you are determined, the sky’s the limit,” Felicity concludes.
We are a proud and energetic car hire broker, which offers price comparisons of major independent hire car suppliers around the world. We aim to provide travellers with the ultimate road trip experience. Wisecars offers an opportunity to start your journey the right way and have an adventure. You can begin your trip with an affordable hire car from Wisecars almost anywhere. We offer secure online bookings for all airports in most major cities around the world. Wisecars aims to ensure that you will have everything you need for a successful journey. Our management works on a daily basis to maintain strong relationships with our customers and suppliers in order to provide the best service and to ensure the best final price for your hire car. We work hard to give you the best deals with an uncompromising level of service and to ensure that you can book your car with confidence knowing you will be getting the best hire package for your needs. We offer a variety of options, always according to your needs, and we love to help you get the best out of your holiday or business trip.
Liigu is an app-based mobility service that connects cars to customers via a mobile phone. The company offers a convenient and sustainable alternative to owning a personal car. Liigu’s platform makes personal mobility services hassle-free, regardless of whether renting for hours or months. To use a Liigu car, the customer only needs their smartphone – from the reservation to ID verification, to locking and unlocking the doors, a single smartphone can be used to communicate with the car for the whole rental process. The product stands out by combining Phone as a Key (PaaK) technology and a personalised human approach to customer interaction. Liigu offers 24/7 availability of customer support, offline digital access, and excellent quality of service. Liigu offers both short-term rental and subscriptions. With Liigu subscription, the customer can swap the cars when moving from one country to another. Liigu is run by a team of mobility enthusiasts, whose extensive experience in the car rental industry and mobile-based technologies have been an important factor contributing to the company’s rapid growth.