By Au Kah Soon
It’s Friday evening and I’m sitting in a small post office in Udon Thani, Thailand. It’s a mid-sized city of about 400,000 people, with a laid-back, small town feel. Everything just moves slower here. But even nearly 8 in the evening, the post office is jam packed and a hive of activity. In the 20 minutes I spend there, there are at least three young Thai ladies sending off dozens of, obviously, E-commerce packages. One lady walks out with a counter receipt almost as long as she is tall.
It’s a fascinating example, and there are many more like it across ASEAN. It’s why GO was created. Technology is not only transforming how to do business, but it is bringing unprecedented economic opportunities and empowering smaller entrepreneurs, regardless of their location, gender or nationality. It’s making it possible for new businesses to grow, even thrive, by adopting a new digital way to doing business.
As a market of over 600 million people, ASEAN has nearly twice the population of the United States of America or Western Europe. Our demographics are compelling – over 70% are under the age of 40, with the highest rates of mobile phone penetration in the world. We’re a two trillion dollar economic region in our own right, and flanked by fast growing China and India.
ASEAN is huge but small businesses are still challenged
But there are still practical issues to tackle for ASEAN Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSMEs). Although an effective supply chain is instrumental to business success, in reality it’s still a very manual process, done by the multi-tasking business owner or employee. It’s characterised by slow quotations that can take days, multiple paper documents and shipment tracking by hand or Excel spreadsheets.
It’s a real, daily grind for many MSMEs. So much so that some MSMEs do not want to bother with the logistics complexity to try to expand across borders. GO is actively engaged in research to further pinpoint the bottlenecks and what can be done to solve this basic issue.
Turning to existing third-part logistics providers (3PL) turn up piece-meal solutions. In general, large 3PLs are set-up to serve, well, large customers. Meanwhile smaller 3PLs had varying, sometimes patchwork, technologies to serve MSMEs. It’s tough to make sense of the maze of services, much less optimise a supply chain around it. Yet business competition is relentless. Uber is here. Amazon Prime started 2-hour deliveries in Singapore since December 2017. And it won’t stop. We’re already seeing a wave of “digital” logistics service provider start-ups emerge in advanced Western economies.
GO-ing for change across the region
But what if we could change that? What if we could digitalise the supply chain to empower existing businesses to do more and newer businesses go digital? We could transform that post office example on a bigger, broader scale and make it a reality for businesses and their communities across the region. That’s some of the questions we asked in early-2017.
Our vision is for GO to be part of that solution in Asia for Asia – to create on-line freight forwarding and warehousing platforms and services for businesses to instantly access reliable, price transparent freight forwarding and warehousing solutions anywhere, anytime. GO is set-up as a digital lead logistics provider – that means we are committed to providing effective supply chain solutions, whether we use home-grown or third-party service providers.
On-line logistics platforms
We’re already testing for our first platform called GO DC – a capacity matching offering where warehouse space seekers and space providers can search, match and contact each other to seal warehousing space deals. Meanwhile, we are finalising development details on GO FREIGHT – our on-demand freight forwarding solution that will bring instant quotations, trackability and analytics to compatible devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Last but not least, we’re actively working with existing business associations and freight forwarding networks to build and accelerate a digitally-aware and savvy community. If you like what GO is doing, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or get-go.io and let us know what you think about a digital future for your ASEAN.