SingPost sees a big opportunity in the Southeast Asian e-commerce fulfilment landscape, says Alex Tan, the Group Chief Information Officer and Group Chief Digital Officer with the Singapore postal conglomerate, at Alibaba Cloud Summit 2018 in the city-state Wednesday.
“We’re no longer just looking at Singapore. The narrative is regional,” says Tan in his keynote speech, adding that the Indonesian e-commerce market especially stands out, home to the world’s fourth largest population.
Outside of Singapore, he sees seven big challenges deterring the region from becoming the $200 billion Internet market he says it’s poised to grow into by 2025.
Southeast Asia’s main challenges to overcome, according to SingPost CIO Alex Tan
- weak last-mile delivery options
- challenging topographical structure
- limited developer and leadership talent
- lack of exits and bigger tickets sizes
- payment and banking mechanisms
- poor internet infrastucture
- a lack of consumer trust
Tan is bullish on the company’s plan to tackle last-mile fulfilment. One area he touched on during his speech was self-collection. In Singapore, SingPost operates more than 150 ‘PopStation’s, essentially unmanned tech-enabled lockers situated across the country; customers of brands that have partnered up with the postal company can indicate at checkout that they would want to pick up the goods at selected locations. Partner brands include Taobao, TMall, Qoo10, Zalora and Uniqlo.
In June 2017, SingPost revealed its ‘SmartPost’ initiative, which includes its training of more than a thousand postal workers to use a dedicated app to deliver various trackable items. Paul Coutts, Group CEO of SingPost, spoke of the initiative, expected to be fully implemented by March 2019: “We are starting at the last mile as this is the most vital and demanding part of our business.”
Its resources, coupled with insights on the regional market as well as a strong infrastructure supporting it back home, can potentially give it the push it needs to become the de-facto last-mile provider across Southeast Asia. One example would be its ties with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which holds a 14% stake in it. Alibaba also owns Lazada, the biggest e-commerce marketplace that operates across the entire region, which also moved its Singapore warehousing operations into SingPost’s nearly two-year-old regional e-commerce logistics hub in 2017, allowing for a more efficient workflow.
SingPost also operates a number of subsidiaries across verticals, including SP eCommerce, which provides brands and retailers with end-to-end software solutions; Quantium Solutions, a warehousing, logistics and fulfilment service provider; CouriersPlease, an Australia-based parcel delivery company; Famous Holdings, a freight consolidator and forwarder company; Lock+Store, a self-storage operator; Speedpost, a courier and shipping service provider; vPOST, a regional online shopping and shipping services provider; and SAM, a digital kiosk unit with bill payment services.
Financially, its logistics business has also improved, going from an operating loss of S$2.5 million (US$1.8 million) in 2017 to a profit of S$86,000 (US$62,000) recorded in its first quarter, attributable to its last-mile subsidiary Quantium Solutions, according to its Q1 2018 financial statement released in August. It is also seeing revenue growth across its cross-border and domestic e-commerce deliveries, bolstering its confidence to operate in this sector.
Tan says that SingPost is looking to implement Alipay, a mobile- and web-enabled platform founded by Alibaba, across all of its post offices in Singapore by end-2018. It is also piloting an anti-counterfeiting technology, among other things like working with unmanned stores, he adds.
Editor: Ben Jiang