Grab Haulier: Connection between Freight and Transporter
There are many ways to bring a willing buyer and a willing seller together. In the case of haulage, there is always someone looking for a counterpart and here again, technology can bridge the divide. Homegrown brand Grab Haulier Sdn Bhd has spent years to get things right with coming up with a solution that is easy to use as well as beneficial for all parties involved. Kelvin Kang, Founder and General Manager and Lin Swee Khek, Chief Technology Officer let us in on the workings of their platform (www.grabhaulier.com).
According to Kang, Grab Haulier is inspired by sharing economy which uses technology to match services and goods with customers via platforms. This model has certainly changed many industries such as Grab for ride-hailing (i.e. transportation), AirBnB for accommodation (i.e. hospitality) and Lazada for e-commerce (i.e. online shopping). This is the revolution which Kang envisions to bring to the logistic industry.
Forwarders holding jobs are constantly on the lookout for equipment owners, the hauliers whilst finding freight forwarders with the need for haulage services are what operators are looking for. Bringing these two parties together is the backbone of the business. Having worked in haulage, Kang also aims to streamline operations by eliminating paperwork and unnecessary phone calls to find the appropriate counterpart, which in his view there is way too much time and effort wasted in the traditional way of moving containers.
Adaption from Leaders
Depending on how urgent a need is, there would be express and standard offers, just as DHL would offer their service for couriers. “Nowadays, the business is instant and people are getting used to the idea that services are performed immediately.” As a platform, the pricing structure of Grab Haulier is to be transparent with no hidden cost for both freight forwarder and hauliers. For every job posted, the hauliers are instantly informed of this job availability and freight forwarders will get notification once the job is match. Once the haulier is committed to carry out the work, customers can access the truck and driver’s details.
As an idea, this may sound simple, but executing this into an operational yet user-friendly app has taken three years now. When talking about Grab Haulier, there are actually three distinctively different user interfaces. One is for the freight forwarders, one for the hauliers and the third is for drivers. As the drivers would be the ones executing the delivery but not negotiating the deal, they need to have a way to update the status of each job. “Developing such a platform takes a long time as we need to study how the industry currently works. We had to address the needs of the various players in the market,” Lin said. Two challenges presented itself when developing the app as the team found out that drivers may not be using smart phones in the same way others may. Also, to making an app simple to use is actually rather complicated.
Besides that, storage needs to be arranged and the decision for either own servers or cloud computing is one that can influence the performance. While taking away paper work from the users, as a platform owner, Grab Haulier has to be concerned with cyber security. Hence, they have opted for one of the five biggest providers of cloud computing, feeling that the strength in numbers would be an advantage in the fight against hacks and other malicious conduct. Prior to its official launch, the system has been repeatedly tested in its staging version to ensure the security is not compromised. This remains a top priority of Grab Haulier. Since the launch of the Grab Haulier platform a year ago, various freight forwarders and hauliers have signed up and embraced this new frontier of logistics. With users’ feedback and everchanging technological landscape, the team at Grab Haulier are constantly on the lookout on how to improve the platform.
Lin elaborated on this by saying that he and his team of programmers strives to make the app as user friendly and intuitive as possible. “Should an app be difficult to use, people will not use it since the work to use it outweighs the benefits of using it. So far, we have had some good feedback on our system. It works!”. With an in-house team of programmers, feedback can swiftly be converted into actions to improve the platform. Feedback extends into quality control issues where users may have problems with their respective partners. Grab Hauliers will then investigate what the root cause of the discontent and moderate between parties involved.
Focused for Success
For now, Grab Haulier will only focus on the haulage segment specifically in Port Klang. This is to further develop the system and to gain more insights in the intricacies of the business before expanding to other ports throughout Malaysia. “We also have to understand that a move to an online based business is also a change in corporate culture and behaviour. It takes convincing first and then educating of how to best make use of new technology.” To encourage users to give it a try, Kang pointed out that there is also an option to state price that someone is willing to pay for services. It is then up to the other party to accept it.
Next steps would be to even further enhance the system. “For example, every container has a dedicated identification number. If we scan this, then we can track and trace the entire journey of the container online, thus provide real time updates and reducing paper usage further to streamline operations for efficiency and effectiveness,” Lin said with a glimpse given into the future of the app. Kang and Lin are hopeful to capture about 30 percent of the Port Klang market share. “We need to be realistic. Not everyone is open to technological change and they will continue using their traditional system and methods. We may not be able to convince everyone but the fact remains that change is inevitable. As such, we trust time will allow GrabHaulier to prove itself to the industry players”
Kang and Lin hope that the market will respond positively and that their solution can be expanded. “Our vision is be the industry standard in service for our users, both freight forwarder and hauliers. This can be further accelerated with the necessary investments and support from the industry.