Deciphering silver lining of COVID-19 cloud

(Image Courtesy: CNB TEK)

Industries have been affected, almost all are experiencing huge losses, but this is the time to review, learn and await the right moment to move forward, says Rajesh Kumar, CEO & Co-founder of CNB TEK, in conversation with Sea News. (excerpts)

The whole world today stands at the same threshold and stares together at the immense loss – both of lives and finances. Like the ships of the shipping industry, almost every machinery is stranded. All movements have ceased and yet Rajesh Kumar has a positive message for everyone.  He quotes a dialogue of a movie:

“Hope is a good thing and may be the best of the things and good things never die”.

Rajesh Kumar, CEO & Co-founder of CNB TEK (Image Courtesy: CNB TEK)

When the wheel of time takes a break, it is said to be the best time for introspection and businesses can use this opportunity. The dynamism of international trade is complex and in times like these, it is time to re-think and learn. The present scenario as Kumar puts it is: “Probably the worst economic depression, post-world war II period. Several studies suggest

Shipping industry in particular has been hit most badly along with hospitality, travel and tourism. In international trade, almost all are stuck”.

When the ships don’t move the entire logistical and business chain suffers. “Right from technological solutions to transporters. We are all affected. Payments are not being honoured in time, there are defaulters, some projects are being delayed, no decision can be taken,” shares Rajesh Kumar.

He further elucidates on a few major challenges facing the industry. There hasn’t been any cash flow. This is very important, especially for startups as their funding are limited. Worst affected vertical is that of the salaries. Everything else can be postponed but salaries.

There are major issues with providing of services. A number of services are hanging fire. There were finalized deals and orders for which procurement was already done but as implementation could not happen, payments were not made. It’s a chain reaction arising out of circumstances, nobody could be held responsible as nobody stands safe here.

CNB TEK offer hardware & software solutions to the industry. Hardware refers to services to enhance efficiency levels, but now, all that everyone is worried about is making things just alive. Efficiency is a luxury in these pandemic times. So, hardware services have had a tough hit.

The silver lining as philosophical it may sound but philosophy is that, we have already hit the ground, anything now would be taking us up. We will be looking forward from here. International trade will bounce back.

The good part, it is helping in identifying the redundancy, the non-required in-person meetings and bringing forth new time-saving, economical options of ways of doing business.

Specifically taking of the shipping industry, there used to be meetings for almost all deals, now we have realized that we could do without it. We have taken to cloud communications, a lot is happening over video-conferencing, a new realization has set in that a lot of things for which people used to meet in person could actually be done online, explained Kumar.

(Image Courtesy: CNB TEK)

The investment flow in the market has also been at an all-time low. Talking of the worst, this is the worst, beyond this is not imaginable. There have been depressions in the past but no depression had led to complete shutdown. Trades were affected in the past, but things did move on, at whatever pace. This time, the corona pandemic has led to a complete halt. Certainly, this has never happened in history.

As always happens, innovation and strength grow in such times, our industry has learned the power of a plan B. Talking of plan B, from now on the industry will be looking at more automation, least dependency on humans as if ever this worst is on the repeat, trade can still go on without the fear of contamination, infection, spread and deaths.

We are looking at fully automated crane systems where one single person can sit in a remote cabin and operate multiple cranes at the same time. It would be like playing a video game. Thought processes are now bent towards automation.

This seems to be an opportunity for CNB TEK as video calls, automation, data collection, online planning is our forte. We have technology in the depths of our root. Our interventions and suggestions of doing work with minimalistic human interventions will for sure be more heard and taken up. So, we are looking forward to a great future as people now understand how technology can save you in situations like these.

Another vertical that we look forward to is instilling intelligence in cargo handling. Here, we actually refer to artificial intelligence. This industry is heavily dependent on manual labour, is very complex and dependent on various factors. There are times when it is difficult for humans to take right decisions, but the artificial intelligence has the power to take decisions in an unbiased manner, at all times.

There are scenarios where AI can manage dynamism in the situations. We want to push this as it is the way forward if you are looking at proper planning, optimizing your output, reducing your bottom line. This AI can help optimizing your operations and minimizing your bottom lines.

Undoubtedly, technology is the way forward and keeping this in mind, CNB TEK has a complete BtoC platform based on a BtoB solutions that are already there in place. It is its mobile App – iHawk.

(Image Courtesy: CNB TEK)

When you look at logistics and international trade, it is one of the biggest contributors to the country’s economy. The very nature of the supply chain and its complexities, make it challenging. Technology can play a big role. Taking a look at the statistics, 80 to 90 per cent of the trade happens through ocean only. It is very important to optimize it as it has a major impact on a country’s profitability and better balance sheets.

IHawk is a data driven mobile application that empowers various users of container logistic infrastructure like liners, trade forwarders, importers-exporters and even the end-customers. On one hand it provides solutions to these ports, yards, warehouse systems and on the other it provides real-time information to the liners, trade forwarders, importers-exporters.

As CNB TEK manages a lot of operations on the ground via its yard planning infrastructure. It has a lot of data in the real time. For instance, if a container is moved to the warehouse, it can tell exact time of its pick up. So, the mobile application is a platform where all the users can know the status of their cargo, exchange digital documents, and it will soon have the feature of online payments too. That is a work-in-progress.

Shipping logistics needs to be quite innovative in nature. At CNB TEK, we are trying to penetrate this container logistics with this double-edged sword. First, we are trying to make infrastructure more efficient and productive and on the other hand we want to provide value added services to the users of this infrastructure. This model is quite replicable, and we are trying to move to other geography like Europe, Middle Eastern region, Africa and South East Asian regions.

So, we started are a tech company, at the end of the day tech will enable us with the data and we want to be a data service provider to the end customers. Our roadmap is along the lines of “Through tech to data”.

The ocean trade is changing, things are getting mature, especially technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence. Kumar’s message to the industry people is that they can be an early adapter to technology. It will definitely boost profits. This pandemic has shown a trailer to what can happen without technology. So, I think we should learn from it and look forward to better times ahead.

“Stay safe and focus on surviving, not to worry about profitability. Things will go fine only you manage to survive. Just hang in there and things are going to look up” is his Mantra to sail through these stagnant seas.

Sea News Feature, May 19

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra

Associate Editor, Sea News