The COVID 19 outbreak has affected many businesses and has changed the way consumers shop.
With the increasing demand for e-commerce, express delivery companies are becoming increasingly important as channels between customers and retailers. But do these courier services inevitably lead to massive profits, and is everything going smoothly for them during this COVID-19 crisis?
Lai Chang Wen, co-founder and CEO of Ninja Van, reports extensively on some of the curve balls his team is facing in the face of the pandemic and how they want to overcome these bumps on the road.
New measures: increased costs, lower efficiency
The package volume has increased as more and more people stay online and shop, but the increasing demand for their services is not without problems.
As an international delivery company, Chang Wen explains how cross-border parcel volume has been impacted by the restrictions introduced by China.
Cutbacks on passenger flights meant that if the company wanted to transport cargo through the sky, it only had cargo planes that it could rely on, which is associated with a high premium.
"We had to think of alternative ways to move air cargo that we used to be able to transport on passenger aircraft," he said.
Photo credit: Ninja Van
In addition, costs have increased as they adapt their processes and strategies to the new circumstances and restrictions. Some of these include network checkpoints and blockages in certain overseas markets that disrupt the transportation process.
These costs also come in the form of stricter controls that Ninja Van introduced to offer their drivers a safer work environment, such as: For example, separating shifts and ensuring that employees are in good health before starting.
However, these measures have affected the overall efficiency of the business.
Chang Wen cited a case in which delivery drivers report for their shifts or when they scan packages and load them into the vans: “Since we have taken measures (e.g.) to reduce driver reporting times in waves and daily temperature checks postpone, the whole process was extended three times. What normally only takes two hours is now six hours. "
All Ninja Van drivers must wear masks at work / Photo credit: Ninja Van
This is also caused by the new normalcy of employees who have to wear masks during delivery and sorting, which can prove cumulatively physically demanding, especially with the increase in capacity for larger packages. More frequent short breaks must now be taken into account.
According to Chang Wen, the composition of the package volume has changed from the usually smaller packages in the fashion and accessories categories to bulky goods.
He added that this was due to an increase in orders for items such as sports and hobby equipment such as garden tools.
Large packages take up a lot more staff and space, so our teams had to adapt the way they work and organize our warehouse.
– Lai Chang Wen, CEO of Ninja Van
Stay adaptable and motivated
Ninja Van's express courier business is represented in six Southeast Asian markets – Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The extent of the impact of COVID-19 on each market varies and depends on the government's response to the situation.
Delivery of safety equipment to healthcare facilities in the Philippines / Photo credit: Ninja Van
For example, the Philippine markets are subject to stricter restrictions, and only the transportation of essential goods is permitted. In these circumstances, the Ninja Van team decided to adapt to the regulations and offered its service to provide medical facilities with personal protective equipment.
Her focus was also on providing the medical equipment and hospitals in Indonesia with the necessary equipment.
Ninja Van Thailand helps deliver survival kits to those affected by COVID-19 / Photo credit: Ninja Van
In other markets, in addition to doing business, Ninja Van has tried to provide vulnerable communities with the things they need to deal with the crisis. In Thailand, the company is committed to delivering “survival kits” of basic food and money to Thai people who have lost their jobs.
Since many people stay at home, our delivery service has developed from a practical to an indispensable service and has given communities in the entire region access to the items they need.
Similar to how we approach our commercial business, we are aware that we cannot pursue a uniform approach with corporate social responsibility (CSR). It depends on the requirements, preferences and partnership opportunities in each market.
– Lai Chang Wen, CEO of Ninja Van
Chang Wen said that as an algorithmic and data-driven logistics company, Ninja Van will continue to refine its internal technology to accommodate volume increases without investing too much in infrastructure or labor.
He added that the company is also considering hiring employees from various pools of available workers, including those who have been made redundant.
Last packets of wisdom
Lai Chang Wen (center), Ninja Van CEO / Photo credit: Ninja Van
When asked if he believes that this shift to an increase in e-commerce and delivery services will continue beyond the pandemic, Chang Wen questioned the possibility of a long-term change in behavior towards e-commerce in Southeast Asia.
The co-founder was keen to further optimize his business through technology in order to always be one step ahead. One of the irons in the fire of Ninja Van is to help current offline retailers increase their online presence and virtually connect sales staff with their customers.
"Every challenge offers an opportunity. Given that social distancing is becoming a social norm in our lives over a longer period of time, we are looking at how we can support and enable companies to succeed in these conditions. "
Selected image source: Ninja Van