Anyone who’s seen the container terminals at Tanjong Pagar, Pasir Panjang, and Jurong will know that shipping means big business in Singapore. At any time of day or night, there’s a constant stream of trucks entering and exiting the dockyards. Mazes of containers are stacked improbably high and stretch as far as the eye can see.
In fact, Singapore is the world’s second busiest container port after Shanghai, handling 33.7 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) – a metric for container ship capacity – last year. It’s also the top global transshipments hub – in other words, the busiest intermediate stop-off point for goods coming from another port and ending their journey elsewhere.
This is a complicated affair. There is a litany of stakeholders in the process, from customs officials and shipping firms, to the freight forwarders who organize shipments from source to destination, and the hauliers who move containers on land.
It’s the last of these segments that Haulio is trying to disrupt. The Singaporean startup has just raised US$747,000 in seed funding to expand its tech-driven “truck-sharing” platform.
The pain points of managing container haulage on land today are so real.
The seed round was led by PSA unboXed – the incubator run by Singapore-based port operator PSA – with participation from 500 Startups, NUS Enterprise, and several angel investors from the logistics industry. The startup had previously raised US$56,000 pre-seed funding from PSA unboXed and NUS Enterprise.
Co-founder and CEO Alvin Ea said that Haulio’s platform “offers visibility of container statuses on land through our IoT solutions” – including “smart trailers” and scheduling algorithms – to “ensure the hauliers’ fleet of trucks and drivers are best optimized.”
Haulio seeks to make the most of the peaks and troughs in haulage volume at different times by connecting customers to a marketplace of hauliers. With information from ports on container movements thrown in, it’s able to match customers’ hauling requirements to available hauliers, on demand.
This contrasts with the traditional way of doing business, where end customers and their freight forwarders have to contact individual hauliers directly to arrange transportation. If the haulier happens to be extra busy at that particular time, it could lead to delays in shipment. It is then up to the customer to decide if they want to find and contact alternate hauliers, negotiate prices with them, and so on – adding up to more time lost in a business where timing is crucial.
However, selling a collaborative solution like Haulio to an industry where players rely on fiercely-protected customer relationships is no simple task.
“Industry players love what we do, because the pain points of managing container haulage on land today are so real,” said Ea. “However, the key problem that we’re facing today is more on mindset shift towards learning to share your assets and pool your jobs in order to maximize efficiency. [This] requires a lot more convincing, since the industry is largely made up of bosses from the older generation.”
Ea and his team must be persuasive people. Haulio claims to have over 80 hauliers on its platform, comprising a combined fleet of more than 1,000 trucks. Since launching in May last year, the startup has moved more than 35,000 TEUs. That’s roughly half a million tons of cargo, at an average of 200 containers each day. More than 100 freight forwarders and end customers are using its platform to book haulage.
Ea did not share any other figures or financial performance details, but did say that Haulio is looking to capture 10 percent of Singapore’s TEUs, which he said stands at 25,000 per month over the next year.
While the company is limited to Singapore at the moment, Ea said that it’s targeting expansion to ports in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand next.
Haulio plans to use the latest funding to hire developer talent. The aim is to enhance its core tech in order to better automate the assignment to drivers directly through a mobile app. This and other features will “ensure the best optimized routing and offer the real-time visibility that the industry is eagerly seeking,” Ea added.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Converted from Singapore dollars. Rate: US$1 = S$1.34
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