© Busakorn Pongparnit logistics tech
© Busakorn Pongparnit

Smaller freight forwarders looking to digitise their operations and provide an online customer-facing service received a new option today as freight software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider Kontainers unveiled its new platform.

Kontainers Essential is designed to allow small forwarders to set up a website with advanced quotation functionality “in the space of a few minutes”, effectively allowing them to compete with the new breed of digital-first forwarders.

“It’s the equivalent of [website designer software] SquareSpace or Wix for the freight forwarding industry,” Kontainers chief executive Graham Parker told The Loadstar today.

“It takes no more than a couple of minutes for a forwarder to register with us, upload their logo and then have their own branded e-commerce-capable website for no upfront fee,” he added.

Unlike the company’s previous products – Enterprise and Edge – which required significant investment, Kontainers Essential is free to launch, with forwarders then paying $10 per transaction through the platform.

Mr Parker explained that the $10 per transaction fee was on a sliding scale, declining if more transactions are put through.

“We genuinely believe this product will democratise the freight forwarding industry, because it will give a lot of companies the same tools Flexport and the like enjoy,” he said.

“We think over the next decade there will emerge this group of incredible freight forwarders able to use digital tools to automate freight quotes and a lot of those mundane tasks, as well introduce revenue streams such as trade finance and marine insurance, and then focus on creating really inventive supply chains solutions,” he said.

And he pointed to the explosive growth, in terms of customer numbers, that digital-first forwarders such as Flexport and Freighthub have experienced as proof of the effectiveness of forwarders having e-commerce capability.

“Flexport has gone from zero customers to 5,000 in five years; Freighthub from zero to 1,000 in three years. I think they must be the fastest-growing freight forwarders the industry has ever seen, and that has been achieved through huge investment in technology that has come from raising a lot of venture capital.

“But has also acted as a barrier to investment for thousands of other forwarders – and we have now removed that barrier.

“This is the release we have been looking forward to since we created Kontainers. The first platform, Konatiners Enterprise was for the top 100 shipping brands; Kontainers Edge was for medium-sized forwarders turning over a couple of hundred million in revenue; but this is for any company with two people upwards… we believe that this product will be for the good of the freight forwarding ecosystem,” he said.

He explained that the key difference is that the platforms designed for larger organisations require significant integration with back office systems, as well as ongoing customer support.

The first Essential-powered sites are due to go live in September. Initially, the rate quotation system covers sea freight, but will later be extended to the air segment.

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