If maritime industry is the lifeline of global trade, container shipping is its pulse. This industry has always been a silent player in driving national, regional and international economies. However, the year we are about to bid an adieu to, has educated even a layman, that shipping and maritime industry is pivotal to accomplishing our many of our day-to-day chores.
Now, here are two young techpreneurs working on mission-mode to make container shipping ‘connected’. Shachar Tal (ST) and Amit Aflalo (AA), Founders of a fast-growing startup ‘Loginno’ believe that ‘Data’ is both powerful and precious. When used in regulated, structured and secure manner, data can definitely do wonders for any organisation.
Sea News (SN) interviewed Shachar and Amit to know more about Loginno and ‘Contopia’ – a concept, which connects every shipping container in real-time. Here are the excerpts from the interview….
SN: To begin with, please tell us something about Loginno. How and when did you conceptualise Loginno?
ST: It all began when Shachar was working at Zim Lines as a global business development manager and experienced a severe lack of data in shipping containers. He tried to issue a tender for existing solutions, but none fit the requirements. After a while, a Zim co-worker who knew Amit came to Shachar and told him: “if there is one person in the whole world that I know of, who has even a remote chance to answer your crazy requirements, it’s Amit.”.
At first, Amit offered a partnership to Zim lines but when Zim was not interested, Shachar left the company to pursue the idea. That’s when Loginno was formed.
SN: What made you chose Logistics (say containers) industry in particular?
ST and AA: We started off just to answer a need we were aware of, but as time went by we were really surprised with how deep the need was and how scarce were the actual solutions. To this day, you can count on two fingers the number of technologies available to permanently convert an entire fleet of shipping containers to smart containers. The reason is that it is very very tough to reach a viable solution for the crazy requirements.
SN: In what ways, IoT can revolutionise this sector?
ST: IoT data is only as good as the assets it is attached to. In this case, IoT devices are attached to no less than the veins of global commerce: shipping containers. They travel the world, visiting major trade locations, prime warehouses, distribution centers, at a pace that really sheds a light on how global commerce is doing right now. Giving those containers eyes, ears, and a brain really puts a very important finger to feel the pulse of those veins.
SN: Share a few things about both your backgrounds, what was before being one of the successful start-up entrepreneurs in Israel?
AA: “My C-level career started very early. I was the CEO of a publicly-owned high-tech company at age 26. Later I founded one of the first companies in the world to offer location-based services. This was right when GPS technology transitioned from science fiction to actual commercial technology. We sold location servers from a quarter of a million USD each and were still 80% cheaper, and technologically better, than the competition. In between, I worked with big defense corporates on many cutting-edge technological projects.”
ST: “I actually started late, and had a very long period as a student. Between an elite unit in the army and doing my extended BA and MBA back-to-back in Tel-Aviv university. My first job was as a strategic marketing consultant in Israel’s first management consulting firm, and when I felt I wanted to do rather than advise, I moved to Zim lines. I fell in love with those huge boxes and ships and still to this day I am very poetic about the huge impact that these simple-looking boxes have on our lives.”
SN: What are the challenges in being an Entrepreneur? Your message to youngsters opting to start their own venture?
ST: Being an Entrepreneur is lots of fun if you can stand the heat. It is literally being at the forefront of global innovation; an excellent and worthy reason to get out of bed each morning. The downside is that even simple things are big challenges. You’re paving the road for others to follow and it’s tough. In many cases, conservativism tries to block you, people don’t really understand, or don’t want to understand, how awesome are the values that you’re bringing. There are tons of reasons to get discouraged, but if you’re sure of your solution, and can move forward by sheer determination – you’ll succeed.
Our best bits of advice for young entrepreneurs would be: (a) make sure that your dream has a good market fit by getting a customer very early on, and (b) don’t bite more than you can chew. Dream big, but move forward in small steps, otherwise, you’ll run out of gas.
SN: Coming to CONTOPIA, what is the concept and technology all about, please elaborate?
ST and AA: CONTOPIA is a term we use to describe a world where 100% of shipping containers are smart and connected. Values aside, to do that you have to pass a very tough set of barriers: technological, legal, fit to the market, and many more. The idea here is not to put a GPS on a container, but rather permanently transform entire fleets of containers into “living and breathing” organic data miners, who know exactly what is happening inside them and outside of them. To have the container itself understand that it is headed for the right place at the right time and no funny business is happening – that takes deep tech to accomplish. Luckily, we are past those barriers and Contopia today is just a matter of “when”, not “if”.
SN: How do you (with your products/services) add value to the logistics industry?
AA: We talked about how important it is to have a finger on the pulse of global commerce, but once you extract that data, it unlocks countless values that were simply not possible before: starting with being able to give shippers the visibility they need, continuing with working better with ports, with customs, even homeland security. Not to mention being able to significantly lower insurance risk or provide more options to trade banks. Whichever way you go, there is an opportunity for added value, for more digital services, and for a completely new digital economy, and we’re just getting started.
To what extent can a company dealing with containers save on Ops-cost by investing in technology?
AA: Saving operational costs is just a part of the values of Contopia, but actually, enough to base an entire RoI on! Managing those big boxes is a costly thing, and the costs of making mistakes, or not having enough information to make the optimal decision, is high. Since the transition in visibility from today’s situation to Contopia is significant, many operational tasks could be done differently. For example: having clear visibility on the container’s exact time and location of unstuffing makes triangulation (having the next customer pick up an empty container from the previous customer, rather than going through a depot) much more effective. This allows creating “virtual depots” that open and close per demand and customers are routed to these virtual depots based on real-time demand and supply data. This is just one example out of many, and only on the topic of operations. It really is a revolution, and it’s at the tips of our fingers.
SN: Please share your experience of doing business during a never-seen-before like year – amid COVID-19 pandemic?
ST and AA: COVID-19 caught us at the implementation stages with our partner Log-In Logistica from Brazil, the shipping company we chose to be the first to use CONTOPIA technology.
Fortunately for us, the pandemic did not shut down our industry. Production didn’t stop and products continued to flow around the world. The no-flights situation made it harder to manage a project from the other side of the world but we managed.
If anything, COVID-19 showed us the importance of visibility and being able to remotely control your operations. It looks like 2021 is going to be very interesting, now that we have one real live proof of concept for Contopia, along with the growing need on the side of the shippers.
SN: Lastly, what are your plans for Loginno and for yourselves?
ST: One thing that we learned is that we are dealing with data that is super powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility. The last thing we want to do is to take this data and use it to improve the position of one link in the logistics chain (which is something that the big liners are starting to push). Instead, we want to create a situation where the shipper gets the best value by providing value to the entire chain. To make that happen, we really need to demonstrate that this precious data is regulated, structured, secure, and it is very obvious who gets what.
You’re actually getting a small scoop since we didn’t publicize our thoughts on that matter but we will be setting up some mechanisms to ensure that our data is governed, and it would not be far-fetched to say that if the company structure would need to be regulated due to this – you’ll see us going public.
Sea News Feature, December 29