The confident trio who do not want to hire logistics industry veterans with the same “old tricks” using from years, established logistics tech startup, Ninja Van co-founded by Boxian Tan, Chang Wen Lai and Shaun Chong in 2014. Homegrown logistics tech startup of Singapore Ninja Van is named after the Japanese warrior as it is also taking the fight from its competitors in its efforts to become the top delivery e-commerce service worldwide.
With improved technology and algorithms the startup is Singapore’s fastest growing startup in the logistics space with headquarter in Singapore it is present in 7 countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Myanmar. Ninja Van is solving the last mile issue of the delivery via a multitude of strategic tie-ups and a cutting edge technology stack via our reactive and distributed systems.
The Inception Idea of Ninja Van:
A very famous made-to-measure menswear brand of Singapore, Marcella launched by Chang Wen Lai quickly ran into problems with unreliable courier services. The company was facing a major issue of clients related to delivery. The parcel deliveries were either delayed or lost. So, he set his mind to fix the basic need of the e-commerce industry and designed to set up a logistics company Ninja Van in 2014. Ninja Van is his second startup, which he incepted at the age of 27 with co-founders Chong and Boxian Tan and the interesting fact is the trio had “zero experience” in logistics. All Mr Lai knew how to do was to receive parcels.
“When anything went wrong, the customers had no way of reaching out to the couriers. They were stuck at home waiting the whole day just for our parcels. That’s not what e-commerce was meant to be,” Chang Wen Lai said.
At the time of inception of the startup, such services were not yet ubiquitous in Singapore and most of the e-commerce industry had to depend on the postal service. Ninja Van redefined the industry for e-commerce firms and their customers by enabling next-day door-to-door deliveries. The co-founders work 22-hour days, sorting parcels and also doing deliveries themselves and even they sleep in the office meanwhile. The trio was very confident on their mathematical and technical skills and even they didn’t look to hire veterans of the logistics industry, who would just put the old convention to the startup.
Ninja Van’s Funding:
The logistics delivery tech startup raised more than US$115.5 million to date. Ninja Van has raised a record amount of US$85 million (S$111.5 million) in a series C funding round last year on Jan 23, 2018, which is believed to be the largest series C funding raised for the region. Before that funding, the startup had raised $30 million in Series B funding on April 21, 2016, and on March 2, 2015, the startup had raised $2.5 million in Series A funding. The major investors of the startup are DPD group, B Capital Group, Abraaj Group, Monk’s Hill Ventures, Kuo-Yi Lim and YJ Capital.
“The company’s expansion plans are “on track”. The startup currently covers about 80 per cent of South-east Asia, and with the funding, it can grow its network of depots, trucks, drivers and sorting spaces,” said the co-founder Mr Lai.
With this funding, the startup is planning to focus on South-east Asia for now. There are no plans to expand from its core logistics business, nor they’re planning to pursue new projects. Ninja Van’s Singapore office employs 200 staff and 400 drivers, while the overseas business has a total of 2,000 full-time staff and 10,000 drivers. The development of the startup drew the attention of the market observers and they said that Ninja Van could be the next “unicorn” valued at US$1 billion or more, a privately held startup company.
“The co-founder of the startup prefers to be known as rhinoceros instead of a unicorn. A rhinoceros is more grounded. It’s rare but you can actually find it. It is a bit grungy and dirty and real. That’s the business we are in. A unicorn gives the connotation of being sexy, too prim and proper, and elusive,” Lai said.
Roadblocks for Ninja Van:
Marcella was born from the frustration of the co-founder and CEO Lai Chang Wen when he couldn’t find a bespoke but affordable shirt and thus created its own automated custom retail brand. Ninja Van was born from when he couldn’t guarantee timely and seamless delivery of his products and he began to explore last-mile logistics. The logistics industry is one of the most dominated by major players of the industry. The startup has competition with international players like DHL as well with the strong local players like Singpost.
In 2014, when the Ninja Van was initiated, it was greatly benefitted from the tailwinds of e-commerce, before from this Singapore had started warming up the concept of e-commerce. The inception of Ninja Van was so timely that it had attended a great place in the Singaporean market. Palletised, containerised cargo; involving long-distance multi-leg shipments are some concept of the freight from which the majority of the global logistics players were familiar. But now the trend has changed the companies are quickly adopting the technology and utilising it at its best by sending parcels reliably in a cost-efficient and timely manner while offering real-time visibility. Such big firms can easily wash such a small-type player out from the competition who knew nothing about the logistics.
Future Aspect For Ninja Van:
Ninja Van saw an opportunity in the space of logistics where big firms are using old tricks and avoiding the use of technology in the space. The startup began developing capabilities in this space before anyone else thought of to develop. The traditional logistics model which was similar to the last mile, such postal services were not meant for the parcel’s delivery which was the only problem with such models. Ninja Van recognised the unique opportunity of the requirements and prepared for them through which they lead over their competitors at the beginning.
Since 2014 the trend of the logistics tech startup has evolved quickly with the adoption of technology. To survive in the race of the logistics the startup has to unfold the use of technology and have to forget the outdated mail-sorting technology, where handwritten and tracking of parcels was difficult. The company has to evolve with the technology time-to-time and adopt and introduce new technology which was more cutting edge, reliable and flexible deliveries and real-time tracking to optimize their logistics. Ninja Van’s road is quite tough to become a regional player in the market but now the big boys started waking up. The startup has to start launching new products with the capability to offer everything in the logistics vertical at scale.
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