The freight forwarding sector in the Middle East is one set in its ways and resistant to change, according to Atif Rafiq, CEO and founder of digital logistics start-up Qafila.
He’s looking to change that with his new platform that enables customers to get pricing and shipment options instantaneously and track their shipments from origin to destination.
“Qafila is a freight forwarder by nature, but we take the user or customer on a digital experience, through our online platform,” explains Rafiq.
Most freight forwarders are still paper-based in the sense that a customer, such as a food trader or automotive parts manufacturer, would need to phone, fax or email in order to get a quote.
“A lot of the time it requires a lot of back and forth between the two. We’re trying to change that with a unified system through which all stakeholders can benefit,” says Rafiq.
It provides end-to-end documentation visibility, with milestone updates and alerts, as well as visibility of where a customer’s shipment is on its journey.
Rafiq believes that the service is something genuinely new in a market where adjectives like ground-breaking and innovative are all too popular.
“We give clients the tools and the trust and digitalisation to get a unified view of their whole supply chain,” he says. “A freight forwarder has never before been able to show clients their whole supply chain (all in-bound and out-bound freight) with tracking visibility all the way from origin to destination.”
And while the cost of Qafila’s services are on-par with those of traditional freight forwarders, Rafiq believes that there are significant indirect savings to be had for clients.
“We are saving clients’ money because we eliminate the inherent inefficiencies in traditional freight forwarding practises, from the sourcing of quotes, to missed deadlines due to incorrect paperwork, or lack of knowledge of the deadline for particular shipments,” he explains.
“We remove all of these inefficiencies because the platform is end-to-end so it gives all those alerts, cost breakdowns and flags up incorrect paperwork immediately.”
Presently, Qafila is only offering the fully digital experience with its inbound LCL shipments, but plans to expand it to outbound and FEU containers, as well as air cargo within the coming year.
“What we’re targeting is 4,000 FEU (forty foot equivalent unit) by the end of the year. We’re going to expand from ocean freight to air cargo and LCL (less than container load), and we’re going to start offering this digitalisation and visibility in overland freight as well,” says Rafiq.
“We’re expanding very carefully, because we want this to be done right. Each product needs very carefully attention in terms of workflows and touchpoints. We’re already offering these services, but in a traditional offline manner.”