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Geoffrey FIATA Fellow
   Vol. 15  No. 42
Wednesday June 1, 2016


SmartKargo Mobility... Business Intelligence and Instant Shipment information from any device, even the Apple Watch

     When it comes to new ideas for air cargo which, in the language of pilots, “turn a Chandelle” (180 degrees) from the norm, it is fair to say that since World War II our industry has been punctuated with the hopes and dreams of some original thinkers and plenty of dreamers and doers.
      Walk around any air cargo trade show worth its salt and there is usually someone, maybe an airline or a container supply specialist, with another big idea for air cargo.
       So looking for people with a light bulb burning brightly above their head is not only great sport, but also lots of fun. Frankly, it’s the stuff of life.
      For us that moment most recently occurred when we met Milind Tavshikar, CEO and Founder of SmartKargo.
      The Monty Python TV show that segued between skits by announcing: “And now for something completely different” would love this guy, because he is unlike anyone else in air cargo.
      His original idea is so smart, it’s stupid.

He Goes Behind The Cloud

     Milind graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge with a dream of creating an innovative solution that could be a game changer in logistics.
     His team had already won the prestigious finalist Award at the MIT100K competition and received venture capital. While doing an industry scan, he quickly noticed a big gap between technology used by integrators like Fedex and airlines with a similar cargo business.
     Milind’s 10-plus years’ experience in architecting enterprise solutions like SAP for large companies was instrumental in the design of SmartKargo as an end-to-end business solution. His core skills in computer engineering coupled with his management expertise and business process knowledge was a great combination to build the product that the company envisioned. He organizes and leads a team of experts from the airline industry and takes advice from these veterans to ensure all minor details are considered.
     After a relentless 6 years of design, engineering, and testing, SmartKargo was launched in 2012. In a short span of 3.5 years, 10 major carriers around the world have deployed the solution. Deployment times have been cut by over half and end users love the interface. SmartKargo is the only solution completely ‘born on the Cloud’—thus leveraging a massive global infrastructure at a fraction of the cost—in comparison to in-house IT systems. Seamless and natural extensions like Mobility and Business Intelligence have made the product a complete and robust offering in the air cargo marketplace. 

 

It's About Priorities

    “Continuous and constructive innovation is a top priority,” Milind says.
     “We are constantly evaluating potential areas where technology solutions can solve the air cargo industry’s long lasting business challenges.
     “For example: if a customer finds it difficult to transmit air waybill data from a location where he does not have access to a computer, we make it available on a smartphone.
     “If he doesn’t have a smartphone, we make it available on a flip phone using SMS technology!
     “Another example: when a business leader is in a meeting room looking for data on sales for a particular sector, we make it available real-time on a iPAD.
     “And the list goes on.
     “We believe we have built SmartKargo on a technology infrastructure where ‘everything is possible’ and we want the Air Cargo industry to experience that!

The Big Line Up

      “SmartKargo currently provides an end-to-end air cargo software solution to more than 10 innovative, forward-looking commercial airlines and a freighter operation across the world.
      “The advanced solution provides airlines with the management of belly space in over 200 airplanes, with distribution touching about 300 airports and management of over 10 million pieces per year.”

 

Born On The Cloud

      “The advantages of our ‘born on the Cloud’ platform are formidable,” Milind insists.
      “I think we need to do a better job of educating the industry on what benefits this fact brings to bear on their business and operational environment.
      “Our 100% Cloud solution gives us enormous power with flexibility at a affordable price point.
      “SmartKargo has built a solution that reduces the learning curve and time to market.
      “A technology solution that creates business opportunities and increases efficiencies has to be a winner.
      “No existing cargo solution does all that SmartKargo does: comprehensive functionality from shipper to recipient; management reporting and business intelligence built in ‘Big Data’ strength; and robust mobile apps—helping carriers meet the requirements inherent in e-Commerce. Cloud architecture means that no upfront hardware investment is required by the client.
      “We also realize we are in an industry where solutions built before I was born are still running in production environments. Our system currently speaks to the legendary BA80 with the same level of ease as it can transmit a cXML message to a newer partner system. That is the beauty of a cloud environment that has it all! This is only one of the reasons the industry should embrace SmartKargo,” he says.

 

No Money Down

      “Fast integrations, with ease of use and training for frontline agents, relieves the burden of resource allocation for the carriers.
      “Our support and service is unmatched, and the simplicity and power of the SmartKargo solution minimizes the need for carrier allocations of IT staff, which is a huge issue in the cargo business. As you are aware, the needs of the Cargo business often take a backseat to the IT demands and priorities of the passenger business.
      “In comparison, it takes at least four or more years to design and develop a cargo management solution for an airline if they decide to do it in-house. “The sunk cost of programming and hardware alone will be upwards of double-digit million dollars.”

SmartKargo Easy video

Upgrades Easy Peasy

      “Maintenance and upgrades for a complex cargo management solution is a huge issue for our competitors, as they are not a ‘born on the Cloud’ system. A client-server architecture sitting behind corporate firewalls can take an enormous effort to keep up to date, putting operational strain on the business and customer, not to mention employee relations. Realities and timelines don’t often match the promise of the slick brochures. Our Cloud-based system however, is built to mitigate this challenge.
      “The extensive amount of configuration options in the SmartKargo Cloud platform make each customer unique, but also, at the same time, the same!”

 

Innovation Has A New IT Address

      “While our focus is on fast and solid implementations for our customers, it should be noted that the Cloud design enables adaptability and innovation. For example, we have recently deployed an ‘Uber-like’ solution that covers first mile and last mile services for air cargo movement, and are creating a technology backbone that can be of immense value to e-Commerce companies that need speed-to-market for new products and services.
      “Our customers can now seamlessly connect and communicate with each other, thus opening up new routes and business lanes that they never imagined were an option. It’s all about adding incremental revenue without adding cost!”      

Jay Shelat, Milind Tavshikar, Vladimir Camacho
SmartKargo executives, (l to r)—Jay Shelat, Milind Tavshikar and Vladimir Camacho.

When It Comes To Customers, We Listen

    “Customers teach us a lot! Each time we gain a new customer, we learn something that will benefit all our customers and also the industry. Just take an example: a customer asked us to provide an automatic email alert to a consignee as soon as the shipment arrived at the destination airport warehouse. In a traditional system, this is a FSU/ARR message, which is very cryptic and flows via SITA messaging etc. making it very difficult for a consignee to use. We not only leveraged our Cloud alert messaging service that sends an email, but also used Apple’s Poke service to poke a user using an Apple Watch! This will now become a standard for all SmartKargo users and perhaps the industry.
       “While our Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides an out-of-the-box solution for foundational system requirements, there are generally specific aspects of usage unique to the particular business of our various carriers. Our system also integrates easily with certain systems that our customers already use and want to keep, which is a huge advantage.”

 

The Biggest Surprise?

    “That the adoption of Cloud-based advantages isn’t an immediate and overwhelming factor in the choice of service provider,” Milind said.
       “I think there may be some confusion out there about what being truly Cloud-based means and the advantages that this provides. It seems that everyone is using language that makes it sound like a fairly even playing field, but in actuality, it’s not. When we say we are ‘born on the Cloud’ we mean that our system is built upon a global infrastructure that was established through a $25b investment by our partner Microsoft.
    “The SmartKargo Cloud Solution is NOT a server you don’t see that is hosted at a data center in Minneapolis or Virginia. It’s a truly global infrastructure that has a stack of technology layers used with the most complex and secure applications, such as banking. The product is built using technology that was available in the millennium. We embrace mobility and big data as a natural thing, not as an add-on or an upgrade. I am surprised that our target audience is sometimes not looking at the possibilities and getting more excited about it!” 

 

So Far In 2016

    “We have some very exciting avenues that we are exploring. We are, by nature, innovators. I think that’s what our educational roots at MIT bring to the business of our customers everyday. Our system is congruent with speed-to-market for the application of latest technology. That becomes more important as the speed-of-change accelerates in the world. Why be stuck in a system that is non-adaptive, when rapid change is a given?”

Milind Speaks

If Unique Is What You Seek

    “We have always been e-AWB. Paper is an option. Our approach to e-AWB was again unique. Carriers who chose us had a strong desire to reduce the costs of doing business, including data entry costs. We established a multichannel protocol of a paperless environment amongst all the stakeholders, such as sales agents and handlers, and achieved near 100 percent e-AWB on day of go-live! Amazing, isn’t it? We firmly believe air waybill data should be captured only once!
      “The e-AWB movement is dependent on technology and global access to the technology to minimize and ultimately eliminate paper in the process. Our system handles this seamlessly by interfacing with the various components inherent in the process. We are integrated with IATA and CBP and our system is pre-loaded with key regulatory parameters and information.”

 

Still To Be Overcome

      “[We want to spread the] understanding that moving to a Cloud-based infrastructure is the game changer for rapidly meeting challenges carriers face now and into the future. Each time people have implemented a cargo system in the past, it’s taken years to do and has cost millions. Most customers cannot believe that SmartKargo can be deployed as quickly as we get it done and can handle all areas of their business. But they should talk to our customers and they will know!”

 

Who Is Milind?

     While I was at MIT, our team won the prestigious finalist award at the MIT 100K competition and received venture capital for a business plan that aimed to improve efficiencies in Logistics. While doing an industry scan, we quickly noticed that consumers had few choices when it came to express transportation. The market is still dominated by a couple of large players. After digging further, we found a big gap between technology used by integrators like Fedex and airlines with a similar cargo business. Thus we embarked upon the task of building innovative technology from scratch using the latest tools and techniques to serve the air cargo industry. The objective was to create software that was based upon standards, has an easy-to-use interface, and could be deployed in a short time.
      “My entry into programming was an interesting one. As a young engineering student, my first assignment was to draw a circle on a computer that consisted of a green screen, a blinking cursor, and a floppy with MS-DOS and a BASIC compiler. There was not even a book to explain. It took me all night to figure it out, but when I saw the result on the screen, I was convinced I wanted to be a computer engineer. Imagination is the only limit!”

 

Given A Choice, Would You Do It Again?

      “Most definitely,” Miliand says without pause.
      “The gap between where most carriers are operating and the need/potential to meet the challenges ahead in both sales and operations is huge. We are energized by this and continue to innovate.”

Geoffrey



Chuckles For June 1, 2016 Air Cargo News 40th Anniversary Issue


TNT letter

RE:   TNT 70 Years Gone In 70 Seconds

Hello Geoff,

     Mr. Jinks apparently has forgotten, or never knew, that when FedEx acquired Flying Tigers in 1989 FX became the owners of the #1 airline in the world for handling big ugly freight.

BRGDS . . .
Lou Borork

Hi Lou,

     Thanks for writing.
     I’ve noted that the ParcelHero website shows FedEx as having swallowed TNT as their “large & heavy parcels’ shipping resource.
     Here is some more of what Parcel Hero’s Head of Consumer Research David Jinks told the UK-based publication
Acquisition International (AI) about the FedEx takeover of TNT.
     “TNT is very popular with users shipping large and heavy deliveries. Many carriers have restrictive parcel size and weight restrictions; but TNT has significantly greater flexibility on the size of packages it accepts, operating bigger vehicles than other carriers, generally with tail lifts capable of loading pallets and heavy parcels.
     “FedEx, TNT Express’ new owners, are specialists in international delivery services; but have no culture of supporting ugly freight to any extent. If TNT Express is steered away from such items now they are a part of FedEx—and it’s undeniable that they do require more investment and expertise—the loss of these services would be keenly felt.”
     David adds:
     “ParcelHero, like TNT Express, finds beauty in ugly freight, and we know senders like to have flexibility and as low a price as possible when shipping such items. Many carriers avoid outsize loads as they don’t fit easily with their systems, or they charge significantly more for such shipments, but TNT only last year opened a Sydney ‘superhub’ capable of sorting outsize objects over 1.5 meters in size or 30kg in weight to reinforce its ugly freight capability. The Express large and heavy items service needs to be protected after the take-over.”
     David acknowledges:
     “We welcome the merger of the two organizations: TNT Express is largely about European ground-based operations and it has only a limited presence in the US; while FedEx is known for its Europe-UK to America quality international service. They are, therefore, largely complimentary and won’t constitute the monopoly the UPS-TNT proposed merger would have done.”
     However, David concludes:
     “Large and heavy items are frequently shipped through ParcelHero’s parcel broker service and we would hate to see the loss of TNT Express’ unique and cost-effective approach to this part of the delivery market."

Best Regards,
Geoffrey


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