In the pandemic, consumer behaviours shifted to favour online shopping in light of travel restrictions and other SOPs. This spelled opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch e-commerce businesses and for traditional businesses to move online as well.
In turn, companies serving the e-commerce and logistics space have been seeing an increase in the demand for their services, which were crucial for businesses to reach customers.
One local startup that benefitted from the boom is EasyParcel, which provides delivery services and helps you compare the different delivery rates. For a quick introduction, it’s a Penang-based startup from Bayan Lepas, founded by Clarence Leong. He also runs Pgeon, a last-mile delivery service provider.
EasyParcel currently serves 700,000 customers across 4 continents and in 2020, the team recorded an 85% increase in revenue from the previous year.
Launched 4 new programmes despite scarce resources
Now when the pandemic first hit, the EasyParcel team saw a 40% decline in their parcel volumes for the first 2-3 weeks as many sellers were still adjusting themselves to the sudden hit.
Thankfully, sellers quickly moved into e-commerce, and their parcel volumes began to pick up again by the fourth week of the first MCO, Clarence shared with Vulcan Post. Since then, they were able to comfortably meet their monthly goals.
But this boost in business opportunity was also a double-edged sword. “Due to the e-commerce boom, our business expansion plans were fast-forwarded from Q3 to Q1,” Clarence said. They had to handle a sudden increase in package volume whilst managing scarce resources such as transportation equipment, manpower, and shortened working hours due to MCO restrictions.
Despite that, they still found the opportunity to launch new programmes:
- Pgeon Paperless: Paperless shipping labels designed specifically for consumers who do not have access to a printer. Instead of printing a physical shipping mark, customers can handwrite the tracking number directly onto the packages;
- PgeonMart: An online grocery marketplace for local sundries and kedai runcit;
- PgeonFlex: A service that hires freelance drivers who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and restrictions on travel;
- #WomenPreneur: An initiative started in March 2020 to help women entrepreneurs with parcel deliveries and leverage e-commerce to expand or kick-start their businesses.
The #WomenPreneur campaign empowered 10,000 women in 11 months by providing them with delivery solutions totalling RM3 million, which amounted to 50 free deliveries for each woman entrepreneur who joined the campaign.
Clarence added that they’d even be organising a similar campaign in the future, as women account for 36% of small business owners and are the majority of EasyParcel’s users.
Navigating travel restrictions, limited manpower, and more
To overcome travel restrictions, they had to go through multiple departments to get the most accurate information on how these restrictions work.
“Every state or district has different law enforcements, some might say yes, some might say no, and these decisions change overnight and over time,” Clarence explained.
Fortunately, they had the help of the Association of Malaysian Express Carriers (AMEC) to speed up communication between different parties and get the right documents to overcome this issue.
Noticing the need to engage digitally especially at times like this, the EasyParcel team also created a variety of “How To” content like booking a delivery service, properly wrapping your package, and selecting the best courier service providers.
Over the last 6 months, they held more than 100 live-streaming events to continue informing new and potential customers on how to use their services too.
As mentioned, they had launched 4 programmes amidst the pandemic, and to pull these new programmes off seamlessly, they employed their existing manpower to contribute instead of creating new teams altogether.
“A 10% contribution from each existing team works wonders instead of a 100% from a new team which would take another few months to launch a new project,” Clarence explained.
“This made it possible for PgeonMart to launch in 7 days from project planning, merchant acquisition, fleet arrangement, and website creation.”
A network also makes the dream work
One of the new programmes, PgeonFlex, was also what helped the team manage the surge of parcel volumes for the year and during festive seasons, since they have ample drivers from various ethnicities.
On the bigger scale of things, being a Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) alumnus afforded them networking opportunities, and through joining the e@Stanford programme, they got to learn from giants like Facebook, Google, and the Stanford faculty in the Silicon Valley.
“To have seen the difference in how East meets West is an eye-opening experience that has prompted us to revise our business model and key monitoring metrics based on what we have experienced through the programme,” Clarence recalled.
Setting foot in other SEA countries
Their expansion plans in the SEA region were unfortunately hampered by MCO, but they’re still eager to see it through eventually and are looking for talents in other SEA countries to help bring their services overseas.
On top of that, they were challenged with the increased costs of complying with SOPs, but bore them to ensure their employees’ and drivers’ safety throughout this period.
“The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is being agile, to be able to move things around fast from backend support to people who are on the ground performing pick up and deliveries,” Clarence reflected.
And with e-commerce logistics being a hot industry that many are eyeing for a piece of the pie, we had to know if he worried over EasyParcel’s position.
“One of our strengths is that we had the advantage of being Malaysia’s first logistics service provider, and we’ve developed a solid network among local and foreign courier companies,” he replied.
“With that said, we will be more than happy to form a partnership with newer industry players entering the logistics realm in South East Asia, just as we did with other established companies.”
We are confident that the logistics sector will continue to grow and prosper in the future, since the current pandemic contributes to the e-commerce boom. This boom relies heavily on logistics, which plays an important supporting role to e-commerce activities.Clarence Leong, founder and CEO of EasyParcel
- You can learn more about EasyParcel here.
- You can read about more EasyParcel articles we’ve written here.
Featured Image Credit: Clarence Leong, founder of EasyParcel (left) and the EasyParcel team (right)