Scaling Growth Through Transparency

In Conversation With Purnendu Shekhar

As the logistics sector is undergoing a digital revolution, the gaps that existed between sellers and buyers have been bridged. With the aim of fulfilling the need for efficient freight transportation, Cogoport has been leveraging technology to make international shipment easy, affordable and hassle-free. Purnendu Shekhar, Founder, Cogoport, in an interview, talks about the technological innovations Cogoport has adapted its systems to, and also shares the initiatives for making effective international shipment. He tells us that apart from being customer-centric and synergistic, Cogoport also maintains total-transparency throughout the system. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

What groundbreaking technologies have Cogoport adopted to enable its users to move freight more efficiently and to make processes better and easily accessible by the customers?

We are saving SME owners cost and giving them more time to grow their business. The problem that many shippers face is that they spend hours trying to work out who has the right freight service at a fair price. Cogoport’s proprietary technology achieves this in less than a minute. Across shipping lines and freight forwarders, shippers instantly get prices, availability, transit time and more in the port pairs they need; fuelled by our algorithms. Hours are saved in this part of the process.

Likewise, forwarders and shipping lines benefit through a cost-efficient access to shippers, well beyond what their own sales force can attract. They benefit from scalable growth. From the outset we have innovated and in the coming months more tools will be added, enhancing the shipper’s communication with suppliers, improved consignment tracking and easier
document management. And, there will also be a few extra products included which both shippers and transport providers will be excited about.

What, in your opinion, should Indian freight shipping services learn from the global players to strengthen their value chain? How are the hurdles faced in India different from those faced in Europe and the Americas?

Most international and regional freight service companies have underinvested in technology, and shippers experience lack of market visibility, shipment transparency and easy access to freight service across providers. Indian freight service companies are no different. Furthermore, an ocean container typically passes through more than 20 different parties, physically or information-wise, and while many hand-offs in Europe and the USA have been automated, many remain manual in India.

The low market visibility, lack of transparency and high level of manual transfer of data creates additional work for the shippers and ultimately negatively impacts their order-to-cash cycles. Particularly global freight service players reinforce an approach of “one channel to one provider”, meaning that SME shippers need to transact across multiple parties to cater to their business and network needs. These are some of the key challenges Cogoport addresses to support the unmet needs of Indian shippers, and enable Indian freight forwarders to be more effective in their execution.

Cogoport has recently started to offer inland rail services through the platform. Is this a big departure from ocean shipping? How will this benefit Indian exporters and importers?

This is all about what exporters and importers need. It remains our ambition to make everything as simple as possible for SME shippers. Adding rail on the Cogoport platform enables shippers to book their consignments, whether full container loads or CFS shipments.

Giving end-to-end costs helps SME shippers manage their business better, and that is what Cogoport is all about; better shipping and better business. Doing away with the traditional fragmentation helps the shippers be in control of their business with a clear line of sight on their costs. Helping the providers along with the supply chain connect with the shippers also help SME shippers manage their services better.

Hinterland connectivity from ports is a major setback for shippers and exporters in India. What is your view on improving hinterland connectivity? Have you tapped into certain potential avenues in this regard?

Even though significant private investments have been made in recent years, India’s hinterland logistics infrastructure is not at par with international standards. For decades, we, as a country, have underinvested and created a slow and unpredictable transit to the ports. This is costing SMEs working capital and additional costs. What could be railed out often is trucked to have better control of the transit time.

Cogoport addresses the customer’s perspective; a simple way to discover the best combination of multimodal transport connectivity. We are doing this to empower the shippers with relevant information, and giving them an accurate cost picture of multiple scenarios and predicted service levels.

What are the challenges faced during the transportation of refrigerated cargo? What advantages do customers get on booking reefer containers on your e-freight booking platform?

Cogoport is a community of shippers and transport/service providers. We are, for example, enable shipping lines and freight forwarders to sell their services in an efficient manner. Other players are e-freight forwarders marking up freight rates and continuing the tradition of non- transparent cost structures.

Transportation of refrigerated cargo requires high operational efficiency and optimisation of shipments. The freshness of refrigerated goods is key, and thus transit-times must be precise. Moreover, each commodity has its specific requirements in terms of packing, storage and temperature. Moving product from the company’s inland facilities to ports is relatively complicated, given the variability associated with transit-times (impacted by weather, traffic, inadequate infrastructure, etc.), terminal congestion, reefer equipment availability, and short-notice vessel berthing changes. Our transport suppliers are experts in these fields, and our shipment tracking ensures no shipment gets left behind.

While booking through our e-freight platform, existing customers enjoy the advantage of saving up to 15% on their logistics costs and the same is also applicable to refrigerated cargo.

Recently, the tech-startup Milvum developed a Blockchain and AI-based solution linked to Cogoport’s global shipping portal. How can this technology impact the income of farmers across the world?

In Europe, controlling food quality from farm-to-table have gained strong traction. There is a massive interest in connecting small food producers with the procurement departments in major organisations.

When they work with small producers, big restaurant chains or supermarkets can often get a better quality product and buy it more sustainably. So, we’re working with Milvum and Royal Blue & Orange International Trading in the Netherlands, developing and testing a blockchain-based solution that ensures that companies can source high quality foods at a reasonable cost whilst having an end-to-end verifiable quality and social impact.

This means small farmers have access to bigger buyers without having to compromise on the prices they accept or the quality they deliver. In addition to the Netherlands, this tech-solution can drive more business for smaller farmers across the world. Therefore, we are super excited about the potential of this initiative; it can improve the life quality of millions.

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