Earlier this month, Ninja Van, the Singapore-headquartered logistics tech company, raised USD 279 million, bringing the company’s total funding to nearly USD 400 million, according to Crunchbase. The investment was one of the biggest received by tech companies in Southeast Asia this year, as COVID-19 is taking a toll on the global economy.
Ninja Van started the fundraising process before the pandemic. Co-founder and CEO Lai Chang Wen is convinced that its core business in express logistics will help them weather through any storms that may be on the horizon. “A strong business model powered by founders and management team with a clear roadmap to success is the formula to getting funded by the right investors,” he said.
Ninja Van sees itself as a tech-enabled express delivery company, serving businesses of all sizes across Southeast Asia. Entering the next phase of its growth, the company says it’s creating value-added services to SMEs and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands across Southeast Asia, such as an escrow procurement service for the import of goods.
With the new capital, the company plans to deepen its foray into the B2B sector and support traditional logistical demands. “Our parcel volume speaks the volumes of our growth. Even at our 6-year mark, we’ve managed to keep a growth rate of at least 2- to 3-times,” Lai said.
Founded in 2014, Ninja Van is currently operating in Southeast Asia’s six biggest markets: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The company has a workforce of over 30,000 “Ninjas”, and partners with more than 35,000 shippers—e-commerce platforms, FMCG companies, and sellers—across the region, delivering over one million parcels daily.
“This may be an inflection point”
The COVID-19 crisis has been challenging businesses globally, but Ninja Van sees a silver lining. Social distancing is further boosting e-commerce growth in Southeast Asia. “We had a 10-19% increase [in transactions] which varies across markets,” Lai said. “What’s most interesting is the long-term impact. The pandemic may be an inflexion point for e-commerce in the region, as we see increased adoption of online shopping.”
In China, the logistics sector has picked up pace already and companies are hiring. Hangzhou-based Best Express said that it will create more than 40,000 jobs in China and Southeast Asia in 2020, while JD Logistics is looking to recruit over 20,000 new warehouse and delivery workers.
Ninja Van is very confident. Lai said that the company is already profitable in half of its markets. “A culture of prudence and keeping our heads down to continue executing will get us far.” The focus on the core business and relevant value-added services will allow the firm to achieve profitability, Lai said, while not ruling out the possibility of going public.
Like many other logistics companies, Ninja Van also received a lot of criticism from customers. “Express logistics cannot be perfect, there will always be that less than 1% of customers who experienced less than expected,” Lai said. “The question is: how do we turn things around for these people and make them happier?”
The biggest challenge and opportunity for him is maximizing the network and resources—“the core part of our business”—and to create more value-added services for customers, especially SMEs and DTC brands.
Going forward, Ninja Van wants to continue support customers on the back-end, from sourcing and procurement, to warehousing and transportation. As Lai formulates it: “Evolve and stay relevant in these changing times.”