Harry Katsiabanis is driving innovation in people moving
“I always say that with devastation comes innovation. I thought to myself, I can either give up or innovate. And clearly it’s not in me to give up.”
Harry Katsiabanis was faced with losing the wealth he had accumulated. He had tied up his money in taxi licences and the government was buying them back at a fraction of their worth. Harry knew he had two options: give up, or create his own solution.
Although Harry has always had a strong entrepreneurial spirit, it wasn't until he had been working in the industry for nearly 30 years that he realised he needed to fill the gaps in his knowledge.
“I wanted some signs and some validation that there was method to my madness. After looking at a number of different courses, I came across Swinburne’s Master of Entrepreneurship (MEI). It was exactly what I was looking for.
“It gave me a framework to run an idea through a funnel and see what comes out. It challenged my thinking on how to do things and taught me to think differently and bigger than I had been.”
Harry says the MEI showed him there were systems and processes that could be applied to being an entrepreneur.
"Entrepreneurship is a profession, just like a lawyer or doctor. There’s science behind it and once you understand the processes and learn to how to follow them, that’s when you get results.
For Harry, one of the most valuable things come out of the MEI was a unit called systems thinking, which empowered him to always look to the future and stay ahead of the game.
"It allows you to predict the future by looking at the consequences of events. If you follow the process, you can predict future outcomes quite clearly.
Harry has always got his mind on innovative technologies to disrupt the taxi industry and how he can harness these to his advantage. Now he’s thinking about the impact of electric and self-driving cars and how to integrate these changes into his business model.
“Some people might think that when driverless cars come in this industry is finished, but it’s not. The car still has to be provided, it has to come back somewhere to be housed, it has to be washed, maintained and owned by somebody. That will become the business I’m in.”
Harry’s latest contribution to the taxi industry is P2P, a car rental company that has a range of vehicles on offer for drivers to rent each day, from taxis and Uber to limousines. This allows him to be flexible in the ever-evolving transport market – if taxis become more popular, he can update his fleet of Uber cars to taxis and capitalise on the change.
P2P is also the first vertically integrated fleet in Australia meaning that everything from training drivers to vehicle repairs and servicing is done internally.
Never one to take his foot off the pedal, Harry is currently working on what he sees as a game-changing app – Ride 247. Ride247 houses the services of Uber, taxis, limousines and even motorbikes in one place allowing customers to choose the best service and price for them. It will also benefit drivers who can build up their own business within the app’s ecosystem.
Harry had been innovating in the taxi industry long before he’d dreamt up P2P and Ride247, with some of his ideas including a highly profitable taxi booking application and the pink taxi service specifically for women, using female-only drivers.
“I’ve tried anything I thought could add value to my drivers in the fleet. I’m always thinking about the next-next – what’s coming in the industry and how I can harness that. The MEI gave me the skills to think ‘where is this industry heading and what can I do to remain at the forefront of change?"