Like all freight modalities, international container shipping processes have traditionally been slow, with rate discovery, routing, and transaction executions taking days at an end. CoLoadX, a shipping marketplace startup has created an ecosystem where freight forwarders and NVOCCs can search thousands of rates online and complete transactions in minutes.
“We have taken a unique approach to the international shipping marketplace. The typical approach that startups usually take is to try removing existing stakeholders like freight forwarders, but we believe that the true way to realize any change in global logistics is to support and improve the tech capabilities of freight forwarders,” said Fauad Shariff, co-founder, and CEO at CoLoadX. “Freight forwarders are really the only stakeholders in the world who know how to manage international transaction and cross-border commerce.”
Shariff founded CoLoadX after a career spanning nearly two decades as a freight forwarder and as an NVOCC, alongside a co-founder with 25 years of experience as a shipper and supply chain professional. Shariff remarked that it was their combined perspective of the space that put them in a position to solve the problems plaguing shipping logistics from an operator’s point of view.
The company positions itself in the market as a player which bolsters all logistics stakeholders through technology. “We are not competitive to their business, as what we have is completely neutral for the freight forwarders and NVOCCs that are in the market today,” said Shariff. “Our goal is to create visibility, opportunity, and access to both those components, without causing them to compete against each other in any way.”
CoLoadX took about six months to realize product-market fit, with a process largely concentrated on experimentation and learning through a development phase which helped them build a platform that mattered to its customers. “A lot of things were done manually to begin with and improvised in terms of routing, rates, bookings, and executing transactions, which proved to be a valuable feedback loop for us - not just in establishing product-market fit, but telling us exactly what we need to build to make a difference to our customers,” said Shariff.
And for this, customer feedback has been a revelation to the startup. Initially, the company believed in developing an in-house transportation management solution, but after a market validation study, the idea fell flat as its potential customers already had a solution that worked well for them. “It would have been a wasted effort if we had not vetted that idea and we would have essentially been reinventing the wheel and wasting precious development time and resources,” said Shariff.
The company works across the U.S. ports but envisions to open up to overseas markets in far East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe. “It will enable us to gradually become import and export service providers on some of the world’s biggest containerized freight trade lanes,” said Shariff. “It will also allow us to develop other solutions like a consolidated freight marketplace over the next 2-4 years.”
Shariff maintained that though there is a lot of competition in the market, looking at them as a threat is a status quo thinking and that it would take a long time before CoLoadX faces a direct competitive threat.
“Freight forwarders and NVOCCs have to be open to reimagining their business and their tactics to growing the business. To enable that does require us to educate, build trust, engage with our customers,” he said. “All those things are time-consuming - but we are happy to put in the effort, because we do believe that over time, our vision is what is going to transform the industry for the benefit of our customers.”
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