Fresh from celebrating the one-year anniversary of their partnership, Cargo Flash and Kenya Airways Cargo (KQ Cargo) are working to bring digital innovation to Africa’s air cargo industry. For Cargo Flash, pushing digitalisation in the industry has been an ongoing process for over a decade, trying to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the industry by embracing emerging technologies.
“It was working in different silos,” Jasraj Chug, Co-Founder & Director of Cargo Flash, said, discussing the process that existed back in 2009. “The accounting team would not know what’s happening with the inventory or what’s happening on the ground. The operations team was disconnected from the customer. The reservation team was disconnected from operations. We thought we need to work on a platform which can be an integrated cargo management system.”
Flash forward to 2022 and the Nairobi-based cargo carrier implemented the technology and business solutions provider’s next generation ‘nGen’ Integrated Cargo Management System (ICMS), replacing their older systems with an up-to-date process and presenting a model for digitalisation throughout Africa.
“When I started in aviation, it was very paper-based. I saw the passenger side of the business changing to e-ticketing,” Dick Murianki, KQ Cargo Director, explained. However, he realised that the “airfreight industry was left behind,” remaining very paper-based and paper-driven. That’s where the partnership with Cargo Flash came from.
“My customers themselves were questioning the status quo and asking ‘how can we do it differently? How can I get information better and faster?’,” Murianki added. “Thanks to companies like Cargo Flash who want to challenge tradition, we can move forward and reform the airfreight industry into the future.”
Through the partnership, KQ Cargo has worked to build an integrated cargo system that will improve their future offering to customers. “We have built the foundation. The next level is to build the walls and take it up to where our customers want.”
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Partnerships push digitalisation
Cargo Flash looks to offer one-stop, real-time, new-age technology and business solutions. This is done through what it describes as an “intelligent, intuitive and end-to-end platform that puts efficiency as a key priority for air cargo logistics, globally.” However, it can’t do that alone. In a highly competitive market that is only growing larger, it’s key for the company to work with like-minded companies in the industry who are equally passionate about technology transformation.
“Digitalisation is going to go deeper and wider, so business models will tend to change, Chug said. “You have to get partners of e-commerce, partners of postal mail, partners of forwarders who come together and use the digital interface to be able to do business with the airline.”
“Our entire philosophy has been that, if a customer is looking at enhancing its capacity, we must be part of that change. We must lend them support and encourage them to go for that chance,” he continued. “It’s very important that we encapsulate a digital mindset. What you will see going forward is that the digital data they have been accumulating will help them, not only improve their business intelligence, but also do predictive and prescriptive analysis.”
“I’m a freight person. I’m not a technology person,” Murianki admitted. “What we look for is how we can be more efficient in delivering service to our customers wanting things more and faster nowadays.” With Cargo Flash, KQ Cargo proudly stated that they have found a partner who models their aspiration to create a platform that allows them to respond to the needs of their clients.
“I need the efficiency, I need the agility, I need to be effective and I need to know and anticipate what my customers may be wanting,” the carrier’s director explained. To achieve that, Murianki is clear you need “people who are bold enough to challenge the status quo and can break down walls, change the paradigm and get things much faster, more efficiently and more cost-effectively.”
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Natural evolution for Africa
Across Africa, Murianki is clear that he saw the expansion of digital technology throughout the region was an obvious step. “Civilisation started in Africa and the current generation in Africa and the digital space in Africa is competing with the top. We cannot talk of being left behind. I think Africa and the current generation in Africa is at the edge of technology.”
In KQ Cargo’s view, this is what makes Kenya and the rest of Africa perfect for the adoption of digitalisation, such as what’s presented by Cargo Flash. “Technology, smartphones, you get them in the remotest areas,” Murianki added.
Chug agreed with this view that, rather than lacking the infrastructure for technological innovation, Africa actually is a hotbed for companies who embrace digitalisation. “I see a lot of commonalities between African and India. Across all sections of society, they’re using the smartphones and technology as a basis for making progress,” he explained. “Allowing Africa to leap into the future will be far easier than it would be for established countries where they are more anxious to take those risks. Here the risk is much lower and the value return is very, very high.”
“I feel the next decade or the next two decades will be good for Africa, the airlines and trade with Africa. We see that trade is changing from Asia and now moving towards Africa. Africa will be producing more, buying more, so we will see a lot of growth for air cargo business in Africa in the years ahead,” he stated.
That growth potential across Africa is why Cargo Flash is keen to promote digitalisation, as Chug highlights how the top 20 largest cargo carriers are embracing technological innovation. If the African continent and companies, like KQ Cargo, are to truly thrive, Cargo Flash sees the willingness to embrace new opportunities as crucial.
“What we need now is to work together for the next few years, so that companies are accessing new opportunities,” Chug said. “Digitalisation is here. The best we can do and the best I can encourage others to do is to embrace it. Learn as much as you need to learn,” Murianki added.