Singapore-based technology company, Chinsay, works with stakeholders in the shipping and commodity industries, helping them to digitalise workflows. According to Chinsay, “Commodity markets are complex and supply chains are often complicated by international controls and local intricacies which necessitate collaboration between internal and external stakeholders.”
Sea News (SN) interviewed Chinsay CEO Colin Hayward (CH) about the way the company is positioning itself in a dynamic industry and how the focus on quality has paid off. Hayward spoke about various other aspects of the industry, from the advantages of digitalisation, to the impact of COVID-19 during the interview. Here are the excerpts….
(SN )Share some details on Intelligent Contract Platform of Chinsay?
(CH) We have been in the specialist freight sector for about 20 years and in recent years we have been developing the Intelligent Contract Platform (ICP), and now the focus is much more towards a broader range of workflows that are relevant to freight and commodity companies. We wanted to think more about how we can make an organisation’s data more useful and informative, especially how we digitalise the whole ecosystem around trading and operations. There has been an increasing move towards digitalising the workflows within the freight and shipping sectors and Chinsay’s ICP evolved from our previous Recap Manager solution to address this. There was a clear requirement to “join-up the business silos” within an organisation and that is what we do.
(SN) Tell us something about the latest contract (ICP digital contract platform) with Rio Tinto?
(CH) We presented Rio Tinto with our concept of digitalisation last summer. Working with them, we implemented our solution within their digitalisation strategy for their iron-ore deal approval and contract creation processes. The implementation included us integrating their relevant contract data with the Trade Finance platform, Contour. Having successfully progressed from proof-of-concept to live deployment, Rio Tinto signed a commercial deal with us, not only for their iron-ore business but also for all other commercial businesses, like copper, aluminium, and others. This is an important deal as it demonstrates ICP’s ability to not only to help freight clients, but also to expand into the commodity market.
The deal applies globally. Right now we are working with a team in Singapore, but they also have teams in copper and aluminium in the USA and Canada. So, wherever they have operations and contract creation, they are going to use our platform.
(SN) The shipping industry is huge. How does it benefit from Blockchain technology, effectively?
(CH) Blockchain has unique and interesting capabilities around the capture, security and immutability of data, where organisations can track and segregate data to share among trading partners and supply chain agents. Being led by the big corporates we focused much more on the creation of fundamental data that these companies produce when going about their daily business – whether it is commercial information regarding contracts or information they use for operations. We enable an organisation to create and structure data so they can extract information from many siloed functions within their business. This data can be reused in many ways, but what we are seeing is that clients want to use the data to integrate with existing operational system. It is definitely something we are seeing more and more and so we look forward to interacting with those looking to benefit from their data through the use of our technology.
(SN) How does your Freight Contract Management platform streamline operations?
(CH) There are many people involved in the process of commodity trading and shipping, and when you have to respond to 100 emails for a single trade, it can be very difficult to get the information structured in a way where you can utilise it. We provide the enabling layer that brings together all the relevant information and presents it as a complete and accurate view of the trade workflow at any point in time. Making it more efficient is what we are working towards, so the data becomes much more transparent and much more controlled. The result is greater efficiency and real-time operational control.
One of the key concerns for our clients is compliance, and ensuring that their business is operating in the best way and in accordance with various regulations –external, internal and regional. So, this is what we help them with.
(SN) Cyber security is a major issue the industry is facing today. What steps have you taken to address it?
(CH) In our 20 years in business we have never had a data breach or security issue, thanks to our technology and the diligence of the team. But we haven’t relied purely on our operations, as of course we benefit from Microsoft’s billion dollar security budget for their Azure platform. Additionally, we are certified ISO 27001 compliant, so we are continually focused on security across our organisation.
(SN) Tell us something about Chinsay and yourself. How did it all start?
(CH) Chinsay, 20 years back was, and remains, a privately-owned, independent business with shareholders that were not directly involved in the market; we are a technology business with an innovative focus on the freight and commodity sectors. This puts us in a unique position and makes us more than just technology providers. We have had the same investors for a very long period of time, seeing the company grow and develop. In the last five years, we have invested heavily in R&D to build the right platform and in being physically close to our clients.
Talking about myself, I come from a varied background, which includes different areas of technology – from telecoms to media, to logistics and warehousing. In the last 10 years, I have been in and around commodities, including on-screen trading platforms for trading energy derivatives and freight contracts. I have been at Chinsay for the last 8 years.
(SN) Covid-19 has shaken economies. What experiences do you have to share as a company?
(CH) I think the industry has coped pretty well. My view from the cargo side and distributing teams is that things have actually remained relatively normal for these companies in delivering commodities around the world. Technology has helped in achieving all of this and the impact on operations has been pretty limited. We have very positive feedback from our clients, where they have utilised Chinsay to work remotely. There has been no need to go to the workplace to get contracts, or for approval or review of work. The remote work capability of our solutions has been useful in these Covid times and Chinsay has been able to support clients as their businesses change to cope with the new challenges. From our perspective, we are not seeing a lot of negative impact on our business and, overall, from a commodity and freight side, most of our clients are doing pretty well. The need to have distributed teams is driving the acceleration of deployment of our technologies, and what would have otherwise taken 2-3 years, is now being done in 6 months.
(SN) Share your thoughts on competition among start-ups to drive digitalisation?
(CH) There was a push towards blockchain 2-3 years ago and everyone wanted blockchain technology, but it is only now people realise that to actually use it there has to be real digitalisation first. This realisation has led to a lot of investment into freight markets around technology. We are currently working with a Huston-based company, Voyager, which is doing interesting work regarding operations workflows that ensures that work is done on time – including ensuring contracts and shipments are delivered on time. We have been very focused on collaboration with these vendors in order to help our clients; we feel that together, as independent vendors we can bring greater and broader value to the market.
(SN) Are you looking at India as a major market?
(CH) Always! We are continuously looking for new areas where we can form partnerships. We look at every destination that has trade volumes. Wherever our clients take us, we will do business.
(SN) Tell us about the promising technology trends in the market?
(CH) The promising trends seem to be the recognition that vendors need to collaborate. It is the way forward for moving the freight market away from traditional manual processes. As people see the power of technology, they see a clear business case; often the business need drives the technology need. The increase of investment coming into the sector is also a promising trend and there are companies that have identified some key challenges and usages. The identification of these challenges and influx of new vendors gives me the confidence that there is going to be real improvement in the market.
Sea News Feature, December 2