GO CONNECT: GO CEO Q&A

We are kicking off GO CONNECT as part of our online and offline community building series. To find out what makes GO tick, we sat down with Mr. Au Kah Soon, GO Co-founder and CEO, and asked him about GO’s motivations and goals.

 

Q1. Why did you start GO?

There’s a story behind that. One year ago, a dinner chat turned into a long, spirited discussion about actualising emerging technologies to benefit supply chains. All of us could see issues and gaps that, for some reason or another, were not being quickly addressed across Asia. At first, we got really excited about blockchain but we quickly realised that Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) doing Business-to-Business (B2B) were grappling with more pressing and practical daily problems to get quotes, reliably ship product to market and monitor supply chain performance. That led to forming GO to solve those problems.


Q2. What does GO do?

Well, before we “GO” there, it’s important to define what we’re trying to solve.

Intuitively, we both know that an effective supply chain is key to business success.  In practise it’s still a very manual process for SMEs. It’s typically done by hand or Excel spreadsheets by the business owner or employee – who are short of time and already have a thousand and one things to do. The daily reality facing SMEs is how to quickly deliver product to customers but face slow quotations that can take days, multiple paper documents and manual shipment tracking. In short, we make do with what we have.

GO aims to change that situation. We believe that technology is creating unprecedented opportunities for businesses, especially smaller businesses, to instantly get quotations, make bookings and track their B2B shipments. We’re creating on-line platforms and services that will provide reliable and transparently priced freight forwarding and warehousing on-demand logistics anywhere, anytime.


Q3. What does GO hope to achieve?

I have a simple belief – that ASEAN deserves to be at the forefront of economic prosperity. At the same time, our region is very diverse with different cultures, people and economies. But I think we can agree that everyone hopes for and is working for a brighter future.

Increasingly, that future also means adopting and integrating information technology into business practises. So I see a gap between where we are today, as a diverse region, to where we should be.

GO wants to help bridge that gap by empowering businesses, especially smaller businesses, to use technology for their logistics needs as easily as people now use a ride-sharing or food delivery app. So we are stepping up and welcome collaborations across the region to effect and influence broad-based change for digitalising supply chains.


Q4. Why is now the right time for GO and digital logistics?

First of all, I don’t believe there is a “right” time. I do believe that there are several trends that support a bright digital future for logistics. I want to share the following leading trends:

  • A strong push for an ASEAN Economic Community, which encourages closer trade flows within ASEAN and its trading partners. There’s a parallel trend for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between ASEAN + 6 countries (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand) This is transformative for increased SME cross-border trade for over 600 million people living across ASEAN.
  • Social and consumer adoption of technology has exploded over the last 10 years. Vibrant local social media content and the popularity of apps like Grab and Go Jek are reflective of this trend. While we might take this for granted, let’s also remember that this is phenomenal for a region where the average GDP per capita is one-third of the US or Europe. With a young population – over 70% of the regional population is under 40 – we have a long and promising runway for increasing our purchasing power and use of technology.
  • Advances in computer processing and applications have made today’s devices more powerful than mini-computers of the past. Devices connected to internet can connect to cloud platforms. These platforms can now provide large scale in-memory real-time processing of tasks or algorithms. This creates opportunities to offer personalised and localised services to every device-connected person in the region. This trend creates new opportunities for E-enabled businesses to reach customers instantly across the region.

I think these political, economic and technology trends are advantageous for ASEAN businesses. It’s a great time to be hungry for more technology and GO can play a leading role in helping SMEs to digitalise their supply chains.


Q5. You talk about digitalising the supply chain. How is that different from today?

That’s a really important question. We need to step back to answer that.

Historically, supply chains are set-up and administered by different departments in a company. So you’d have the procurement department, the manufacturing department, the marketing department and so on. To minimise department “silos”, an annual plan or budget is created to align everyone to a common goal. The plan looked at historical demand/supply, prices, competition and so on, and tried to forecast the future. Every company goes through some form of this process on an annual basis, or more frequently.

Putting the annual plan into action with a meticulously scoped supply chain was ok – as long as you could accurately predict the future. In big companies, SAP/ERP is used to monitor the plan’s progress and flag any exceptions. In smaller companies, it might be done by hand or Excel spreadsheets. This all sounds very logical. However, I would caution that this gives us a false sense of security.

The reality is – market conditions change all the time. I cannot predict my entire schedule for the next quarter, much less try to plan an entire business down to the smallest detail. Don’t get me wrong – I’m supportive of planning, but in way that makes the business flexible to act or adapt to current and emerging market conditions.

Digitalising the supply chain a great way to achieve that. Starting from outside in, the company absorbs the real-time data important for its markets and decision making. That data is shared simultaneously to all company departments, who now consume AND can produce data about what actions work, given market conditions.  There’s a diagram below that illustrates this change from a linear to an integrated supply chain from PwC.

Evolution and transformation from linear to integrated supply chain

As an example of how this might work: A soft drink maker might suddenly find that a heatwave creates high but short-term demand for their drinks. The marketing department could run a snap campaign to drive sales – and that information is simultaneously shared with other departments so that more raw materials, manufacturing and logistics get arranged in real-time. It could work the other way around as well – if the procurement department finds that there’s a shortage of raw materials for a product, it could immediately signal that so that other departments slow down support for that product that assumed a previously “planned” volume.

There’s great work and further information on how this works from PwC and Supply Chain Shaman.


Q6. What makes GO different from third-party logistics providers (3PLs)?

GO is set up as a digital lead logistics provider (LLP). This is an important difference because it means GO is free to offer the most effective supply chain solution, using in-house or third-party technology or services. We believe in working with 3PLs and local business heroes to create a sustainable business community to support smaller business growth.

For example, we recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition (AMTC) to co-create initiatives to encourage MSMEs across the region to digitalise their supply chains. We also plan to carry a series of events to increase awareness how smaller businesses can take advantage of technology in logistics and related business issues.


Q7. Who is the team behind GO?

We’re a seasoned team of logistics and commercial professionals who’ve spend decades in multi-national companies. We’ve risen through the ranks and with first-hand experience of it means to operate complex, cross-border businesses. We will share more about the team in future posts and enhancements to the GO website.