Winning With Customization: Lessons From A Startup's Expansion Into The Middle East's Logistics Sector
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I have always believed that there is no shortcut to success. But it cannot be denied that in this day and age, working smart is as important as working hard. And this philosophy is closely integrated with the solutions we develop and the way we work.
All three co-founders of FarEye, Kushal Nahata (CEO), Gaurav Srivastava (CTO) and myself, in our efforts to solve everyday problems with technology, realized that there are a plethora of inefficiencies that have been weighing down supply chain and logistics business for a long time, in the guise of rising expenses, poor visibility, low productivity, and bad customer experiences. However, what appeared as a challenge to other businesses was a window of opportunity for us.
FarEye co-founders Gautam Kumar, Kushal Nahata, and Gaurav Srivastava. Image credit: FarEye.
In the face of dynamic change across all industries, we realized that no one solution fits all. We understood this when we began unearthing the ground level problems that supply chain and logistics businesses face, and that is why we constantly bank on ideas and innovation, not just standard processes.
Having established our business in India and signing up clients like Blue Dart and Amway, we started exploring other geographies. That is when we realized how unique supply chain and logistics challenges can be, depending on the country you are operating in, the people that run organizations, and traditions that shape the way they live and work. And as a co-founder, this knowledge was a gold mine, and I got exposed to it when I started looking after our operations in the Middle East.
EXPANDING IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Known for its endless business opportunities, and boasting of many startup success stories, the Middle East is unique by its own right, and so are its supply chain and logistics challenges.
Owing to a high density of cross water shipments, a major problem that logistics organizations stumble upon in this region is clearing customs. The lack of availability of a central repository of data makes it very difficult for shippers to quickly comply with customs regulations.
This gets even worse in case of reverse logistics as businesses lose thousands of dollars transporting shipments from free zones back to places like Bahrain, for instance.
Even the small and medium enterprises here have their own problems to deal with. For instance, in the Middle East, small-scale restaurant owners are finding it difficult to compete with food aggregators that have no intention to generate profits.
Revenue from food delivery market is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 13.6%, resulting in a market volume of US$2.804 million by 2023. This means that investors will keep pumping in money to fund food aggregators. These food aggregators do not always play by the rules, resulting in a conflict of interest between them and small-scale restaurant owners. So, how do these restaurants owners scale deliveries is the question.
Predicting demand is also a problem with regards to the food industry. During Ramadan, people here eat indoors, and hence the demand for delivery of food drastically shoots up, and food joints often fail to scale according to this demand.
Lack of geolocation technology makes the incorrect and inadequate postal address a major challenge for the supply chain and logistics industry in the Middle East region. In the absence of a proper delivery address, delivery executives here must endure the plight of going through names and mobile numbers individually to find out the intended delivery address.
A lot of enterprises, including the large ones, still manage supply chain and logistics by using excels. This results in poor visibility increases lead-time, adversely affects productivity of supply chain, increases costs, and acts as a barrier to data-driven decision making.
Also, one will be surprised to know that almost 70% of orders in the Middle East region are cash on delivery. This makes cash reconciliation a big problem.
WINNING WITH CUSTOMIZATION
We treat all these challenges as great opportunities to innovate, learn, and evolve. To cater to the Middle East market, we have worked day-in and day-out to customize our offerings to address specific gaps in some of our customers’ supply chain and logistics processes.
Chalhoub Group, one of the leading retailer of high-end luxury brands in the Middle East, is one of FarEye’s clients. They were facing significant challenges when executing their last mile delivery and providing an omnichannel experience. To solve Chalhoub Group’s unique set of challenges, FarEye introduced its proprietary workflow engine to create highly customizable workflows.
The FarEye dashboard. Image credit: FarEye.
Leveraging FarEye’s user-friendly app, Chalhoub’s delivery executives were able to efficiently manage their day, easily navigate routes in real-time, track their tasks on mobile devices, and take digital proof of deliveries. Delivery managers, on the other hand, got real-time visibility into ground activities ensuring better control and predictability. FarEye empowered Chalhoub Group to provide high levels of customer engagement, and increase their customer satisfaction scores. Another interesting case will be how we helped one of Dubai’s largest e-commerce brand to deliver seamless customer experience. This retailer was facing problems when it came to ensuring seamless delivery and installations of electric goods like televisions. It would sometimes happen that the team responsible for installing a television would arrive at customer’s home even before it’s delivered. This was seriously impacting the organization’s customer experience. But by leveraging FarEye’s platform, the brand was able to efficiently sync delivery and installation processes.
My experience from working with customers in the Middle East region has made one thing very clear- there is tremendous potential to drive innovations in supply chain and logistics here, and FarEye will always strive to be at the forefront of this transformation. We are positive about changing the way deliveries are made in the region, ensure that there is complete visibility in the logistics processes, and ensure predictability for exception management.