Friday, 20 August 2021

How Ninja Van triumphed over pandemic challenges

*Produced by SilverKris for Ninja Van*


To say that the Ninja Van team has been busy lately would be a massive understatement. Amid 2020’s circuit breaker and the following intermittent lockdowns, Singaporeans greatly upped their online purchases. A recent report by Visa revealed that 31% of Singaporeans shopped online for the first time during the pandemic, with 71% using home delivery more frequently.

The task of ensuring that these purchases were collected, sorted and delivered in a timely fashion fell on the shoulders of courier companies – such as homegrown, tech-forward outfit Ninja Van. Founded in 2014, Ninja Van is the region’s leading last-mile logistics business, and currently operates throughout Southeast Asia. And despite the pandemic’s myriad challenges, Ninja Van has continued to strike up exciting partnerships, expand its reach and enable the development of new e-commerce initiatives.

To get the inside scoop on the company’s meteoric rise, business philosophy and plans for the future, we chat with Kooh Wee Hou, Ninja Van’s Head of Commercial in Singapore.

Kooh Wee Hou (front row, centre) and the Ninja Van team

Ninja Van vs Covid-19

While the increase in online shopping during the pandemic has no doubt propelled the e-commerce industry to new heights, it hasn’t come without hurdles. For Ninja Van, it was crucial to implement measures to ensure the safety of its customers, staff and delivery drivers. And as parcel volumes skyrocketed, they had to quickly tweak operations to ensure customers received their packages on time.

According to Kooh, many customers are not fully aware of the complex nature of the industry, and just how many steps it takes to get something from point A to point B.

“There’s a common misconception – not just of Ninja Van but of the industry as a whole – that delivering a parcel on the same or next day shouldn’t be that difficult,” Kooh says. “[Customers may be] unable to see the operational processes, data, technology and people [involved] – all of which need to work together seamlessly for customers to receive their parcels on time.”

But like any fast-growing company worth its salt, Ninja Van is focused on the silver lining. “With every challenge you face, there is a hidden opportunity,” Kooh says. “The nature of logistics is such that with better economies of scale, there is more room and resources for us to innovate, improve and create fresh solutions.”

Niinja Van's in-house algorithm is responsible for efficient routing of parcels
Ninja Van’s in-house algorithm is responsible for efficient routing of parcels

Ninja Van’s tech-driven approach

Underscoring Ninja Van’s rise has been its embrace of technology. “Ninja Van was born because we saw the need to innovate and disrupt the industry with better technology,” Kooh says. “I am proud to say that we have agile technology that enables us to stand out from the other players.”

Ninja Van leverages technology to improve delivery speed and the safe handling of parcels. An efficient sortation belt allows the team to sort parcels safely and hand them over to drivers more quickly, says Kooh. Furthermore, an in-house routing algorithm plans efficient routes for drivers, ensuring that parcels are delivered in the most effective and timely manner.

The tech tool perhaps most familiar to Ninja Van customers is the company’s notification system, a feature that has evolved with time. Rather than opt for the traditional method of using customer agents – which is a time-consuming, inflexible process heavily reliant on manpower – Ninja Van initially employed a short-message service (SMS) notification model.

While the system was working well, the Ninja Van team realised they could offer even more convenience and flexibility to their customers. Feedback showed that customers wanted more information and the ability to customise their delivery options, and preferred to communicate through social-networking services (SNS).

So the company rolled out Ninja Chat, a chatbot available on SNS such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Viber and LINE. “We can send information to customers at more delivery milestones,” Kooh says. “It also enables two-way communication and interaction, where we can take note of the customers’ responses and display it as an instruction to our drivers.”

Postage-paid Ninja Packs were developed to address customer's pain points
Postage-paid Ninja Packs were developed to address customers’ pain points

Caring for Ninja Van clients and employees

As the pandemic grinds on, it’s increasingly important for businesses to maintain their core values. Ninja Van has doubled-down on safeguarding its people-first philosophy, despite the challenges. With sporadic lockdowns in place, the company created safe and convenient options for its customers, especially budding e-commerce businesses that have taken off during the past two years. Ninja Van postage-paid polymailers, dubbed Ninja Packs, were actually conceived through focus-group sessions with their shippers.

“We gained valuable insights about their pain points, such as the hassle of printing out airway bills and finding affordable packaging materials,” Kooh says. “So we thought, why not develop a product that removes the need for an airway bill completely? That’s how we came up with Ninja Packs.”

It also goes without saying that the company’s people-first philosophy includes employee morale and wellness. With working-from-home as their default mode, Ninja Van has implemented procedures to ensure employees are well taken care of.

“At Ninja Van, we are a big family, and we care deeply about each other’s physical and mental well-being,” Kooh says. Managers are encouraged to hold weekly one-to-one sessions with department members to check on their mental well-being and keep them engaged – which Kooh sees as critical to instilling a sense of belonging and purpose.

“We are grateful to have a very diligent, driven and dedicated team who is constantly striving to bring a better experience to both shippers and consumers, and who is not afraid to go the extra mile,” Kooh says.

At Ninja Van's warehouses, parcel cages reduce the need for plastic shrinkwrap
At Ninja Van’s warehouses, parcel cages reduce the need for plastic shrinkwrap

Balancing growth with mission

Given its rapid growth, what’s next for this homegrown unicorn? Kooh reveals that Ninja Van is working on measures to reduce delivery times and ensure the sanctity of parcels as they’re processed. “[Besides] a new sorting belt and warehouse, we are also testing technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) to help reduce delivery lead time and the touchpoints required.”

And to reduce its carbon footprint wherever operationally possible, Ninja Van has also outfitted its warehouses with more large cages for parcel storage. This reduces the need for wooden pallets, which require considerable shrink wrap to secure the parcels.

Looking ahead, the company’s priorities include employee retention; tapping on its dense collection-point network to offer more shipping options; and scaling up in a responsible, effective and efficient way that continues to prioritise fast delivery and safe parcel handling.

“We have come a long way since we first stepped onto the scene in 2014,” Kooh says. “We may encounter some hiccups here and there, but we never shy away from responsibilities, and we are always learning and improving.”


Whether you’re a social media seller, budding business or large company, Ninja Van offers a range of delivery services to suit your needs. Visit their website  to find out more. Please note that some photos were taken before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ninja Van logo




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