Business & Tech - 10/26/18

Redefining Intelligent Logistics

Written by Jenora V

With a network of over 40,000 localised drop-off locations, 50+ carriers and a suite of management tools to improve your customer’s post-purchase journey, Olasso is making it easier to return and deliver purchases.

Seb Poole, Pieter Wittgen and Jim Cornford are the brains behind Olasso, the first company in Asia to provide retailers with access to a globally integrated network of alternative logistics options. Connecting consumers to businesses, Olasso is launching with its initial platform to reinvent product returns, providing convenient and localised return options for customers globally. Why? The answer is simple. “How do you remove any fear of buying? How do you make sure people are coming back?” Pieter, the CEO, explains. “Right now, if you want to return something, you have forms, customer service, long waiting times. All of these ruin the customer journey. Additionally, retailers want to minimise their logistics spend while maximising their customer’s experience. It’s not easy for most retailers to achieve, which is why we created Olasso.”

Instead, Olasso operates with the understanding that cultivating trust with customers is crucial, offering both convenience and simplicity on a global scale. Pieter elaborates, “There’s still an underinvestment in the post purchase experience and it’s about building a long term relationship with your key customer base. That doesn’t happen overnight.” Having started in March 2018, the company hopes to fill a real gap in the logistics market for global retailers. The three had originally bonded over work at Grana, an online fashion company in Hong Kong, but eventually sought to approach the e-commerce industry from a different angle: “We had accomplished a lot with the systems and solutions with Grana already and saw so many problems we just wanted to be solving, coming from more technical and operational backgrounds.” Pieter continues, “For us, it was really exciting to work on that and find a solution.”

As the CTO and responsible for Olasso’s product, Seb is intimately familiar with the potential of employing well-designed technology to improve the management of logistics for global retailers: “At the moment the retailer’s process of selecting their logistics partners is largely driven by cost minimisation. However, looking forward, I’m excited about utilising the huge pool of customer and product data to automate, support and enhance the selection of return and delivery options. As a retailer you could optimise your logistics spend, internal processing times, carbon footprint, customer experience, and shipping times through automating the comparison and decision-making processes.” Building the data pool will take some time, but there is massive potential for Olasso’s software to cut operating costs, maximise logistics efficiencies, and improve customer experiences for retailers globally.

Pieter is confident about the outlook for logistics startups in Asia: “There is a lot of investment in e-commerce, in logistics, so there is a lot of potential from investors to support us further, but we really want to make this business self-sustainable.” Olasso is currently partnered with leading global carriers including Singapore Post, USPS, Australia Post, and S.F. Express, while having additionally developed integrations and networks with alternative logistics options including 7 Eleven, Pakpobox, and Lalamove. The team also joined Lane Crawford for 10 weeks in their retail technology ignition program, titled The Cage, networking with the retail giant’s retailers and business partners. Pieter has high hopes: “It was a great learning experience, great exposure, and we’re still talking to them very regularly, so we appreciate the relationship.

A simple per usage pricing model makes Olasso an attractive option for businesses looking for the convenience and simplicity of a comprehensive logistics management network. “We’ve got to make sure we are affordable for smaller retailers, but are also able to serve the largest retailers in the world,” Pieter explains.

Not just for the tech savvy, Olasso simplifies the process of integrating into existing business systems, making the software accessible and simple to operate through plugins and extensions across major content management systems to accommodate retailers of all sizes.

Having come from different backgrounds, the team gets along like a house on fire. “We’re all each a really important piece of the puzzle in what we do, and we’re very different in our mindsets and very complementary in our skill sets. We get on; we work together very well. We all come from different perspectives and we’re not afraid to challenge each other. We’re all entrepreneurial, we all have a passion for building something, creating something special, something meaningful,” Jim, the COO, smiles.

When asked about where the name Olasso came from, Seb chuckles. “That would be me,” he laughs. “I’m a big fan of Western films and I was watching Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on a Sunday night while we were still trying to decide on the name. The previous project names we’d been testing never sat easy with me from a marketing perspective – they just weren’t going to work. As I watched Clint Eastwood riding through the Wild West with his trusty lasso hanging freely from his harness, the dots suddenly aligned and I began to draw analogies between logistics and a lasso – a lasso is used to catch and retrieve things, similar to the role of logistics in returning a product. I then experimented with adding an ‘o’ to the beginning as it gave the name visual balance, personality, and added an additional syllable which sounded more pleasant. I jumped on to check the domain name and Olasso was free.”

The team acknowledges the challenges ahead. Hong Kong, in particular, is tough on startups, with an immature market and a culture less forgiving towards the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. Seb describes the disparity in attitudes compared to other global markets, but his growth-mindset has helped him succeed in unexplored territory and is a quality he is passionate about helping others foster in Hong Kong. Despite the culture shock, Pieter remains optimistic: “For logistics, Hong Kong’s an amazing place to be. All the logistics guys are here, and it’s the best place to ship globally. It’s easy to meet new people and access markets in the region, so I think there are a lot of benefits of being based out of Hong Kong.”

Olasso will be launching in Hong Kong and Taiwan in October with Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, the US, and Europe to follow shortly after. They see their focus on Asia as a key unique selling proposition and have audacious plans to build a global network by the end of 2019. The company is earnest about its goals: “At the end of the day, we just want to build an amazing post-purchase experience for customers that simplifies a complex, but important, piece of the puzzle for global retailers.”

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