Getting a parcel should be a joyous occasion, an on-demand Christmas morning, the happy culmination of the miracle that is the online shopping experience. So often, however, it’s a pain in the proverbial rear, an arduous task that requires missed time from work, long waits at home and furious calls to vendors and delivery companies. It’s an experience that can, and does, rob all the fun from online retail therapy.
It’s a tragedy that last mile solution LogisticsX hopes to relegate to the dustbin of e-commerce history. “You can definitely experience waiting at home for a couple of hours wondering where the delivery man is, when can I see my parcels,” says co-founder and COO Erik Cheong.
“Shopping online is so easy now, it’s just a click away and you expect to have your parcel delivered to your doorstep. But the reality is so different from your expectations. Before I started the logistics startup, I shopped online, but I stopped for a while because nobody was at home to collect my parcel because of work.”
A fully-owned subsidiary of the Singapore-based logistics start-up Park N Parcel, LogisticsX aims to marry blockchain technology to the last mile logistics, a.k.a., getting a parcel into the hands of a grateful purchaser. By building a DApp on top of the ICON network, the company hopes not only to improve traceability, transparency, security and efficiency, saving everyone in the process a lot of time and money, but also to improve the lives of those who work in the last mile industry. It is building an ecosystem that aims to seamlessly blend all the stakeholders in the delivery process, including e-commerce retailers such as Amazon, major global logistics companies such as DHL, individual delivery persons and, of course, the online consumer. And with a test bed already at the ready, the start-up hopes it won’t have to wait long to see real-world results.
When Cheong co-founded LogisticsX’s parent company, Park N Parcel, two and half years ago, all he was trying to do was make online shopping fun again. Sick and tired of missed parcels or taking time off from his busy schedule just to pick up a package, he’d quit online shopping. But then he notices something curious. “I realized my wife, who shops more online than me, didn’t have this issue. So I asked her what her solution was,” he recalls. “She said she just had to redirect her online purchase to her auntie’s place, just three blocks away from us. And then I realized, what if everyone had an auntie like her.”
The result, Park N Parcel, gave Singaporeans that auntie by introducing the sharing economy to the last mile logistics industry. The service allows users to choose from a list of vetted proxies, or “parkers,” who pick up packages for them, allowing the shopper to collect the parcels up at their own leisure. Park N Parcel currently has about 1,500 parkers in Singapore alone, about 80 percent of whom are private individuals, including many stay-at-home spouses, retirees and students. It currently handles over 50,000 parcels a month in Singapore and has plans to expand internationally to Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand.
By adding blockchain technology to Park N Parcel’s model, LogisticsX wants to make last mile logistics an even less painless process.
Firstly, it hopes to improve traceability and transparency, to give vendors, delivery companies and consumers a more accurate picture of where a parcel is at any given time. Cheong says, “We want to give all the stakeholders in the transaction the ability to view the records of the parcel journey. Because now we are blinded.”
By improving the accuracy and transparency of data to reduce the need for expensive redelivers, and by utilizing smart contracts to help resolve disputes, LogisticsX believes it can reduce last mile logistics costs by 20 to 30 percent, depending on the country. This is nothing to sneeze at – last mile logistics can account for over 50 percent of total shipping costs, with missed parcels and redeliveries costing vendors and delivery companies millions.
While Park N Parcel utilizes freelancers to create more flexibility in self pick-up, LogisticsX would take it a step further by using freelance delivery persons, or “runners,” to bring parcels to your doorstep. Cheong likens it to Airbnb or Uber, but for deliveries. Even as runners are out on a delivery, they will be able to check the platform for other nearby jobs.
Korea-based Blue Whale, LogisticsX’s partner, plays a vital role in managing the ecosystem, providing a platform that rewards the activity of freelancers and protects their rights. LogisticsX will use Blue Whale’s Contribution Activity Manager to keep track of its freelancers’ activities, rewarding them appropriately. Blue Whale’s system also allows the company to provide additional benefits such as paid time-off and retirement packages.
“We love how Bluewhale is rewarding and managing freelancers,” says Cheong. “Why reinvent the wheel when there’s an existing solution that can manage our freelancers, so we believe in combining our resources together.”
When freelancer parkers or runners sign up with LogisticsX, they should first buy a stake in PNP, the service’s token. This not only gives the freelancers a stake in the company, but also provides security to customers for when disputes arise. Cheong says, “In principle, the more you stake, the more jobs you can receive, and you can earn more commission through our ecosystem.”
So far, finding the right talent has proven the biggest challenge to making LogisticsX a reality. Blockchain engineers don’t grow on trees, and the international nature of the startup’s collaborations has caused some communication problems. “To understand the ICON protocol, you need Koreans as well,” says Cheong. “We’re actively looking for engineers with experience in the ICON protocol.”
LogisticsX plans to deliver its first MVP in the first quarter of next year, when it launches the PNP. A full launch is scheduled for 2020. The company is currently holding a private token sale. While its ICO will be in ERC20, the plan it to migrate to ICON’s mainnet by early 2020.
After its pilot program with Park N Parcel, LogisticsX hopes to go global, to offer its solution to the big players of international logistics. Its board of advisers already has representation from major global logistics firms such as DHL and Aramex. “Basically, they love our product,” says Cheong, but adds that as big corporations, they are wary of making many changes at once.
Still, it’s a big market, and LogisticsX isn’t greedy. “We are not looking to replace DHL,” says Cheong. “We are building an ecosystem that is open to the public. We are not a closed platform which a lot of companies are doing. We believe in having a shared platform combining resources to help all the stakeholders.”
“We believe that with e-commerce, the market is so big – it’s going to reach 4.3 trillion USD in the next three years. No winner can take all the pie. The market is big enough for all the logistics players and all the startups as well.”