We chatted with Zeek co-founder Vincent Fan about what it’s like to create a successful logistics startup and what the future holds for the industry.
Vincent Fan is the co-founder and CSO of Zeek, an innovative smart logistics platform based in Hong Kong but has now expanded across Asia to countries including Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore. The logistics firm provides online to offline (O2O) delivery services for various F&B products and other merchant parcels. Since launching in 2019, their business has accomplished more than 5 million delivery orders. Especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, Zeek has grown even more, as more businesses are adapting to digital transformation. During the interview, Vincent shared his insights on the logistics industry, as well as the success of Zeek and his entrepreneurial journey, and what we can look forward to in the future.
Tell us about your journey founding Zeek.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong and after graduating, I was a management consultant for 15 years where I provided advice and support to executives and senior management on business transformation, operating models, merchant acquisition, and business strategy and planning. When we started projects, we would usually need to form a team of consultants to interfere, analyse, and present report findings. Then if any problem arose, we would need to find solutions for them, and this process usually took months of engagement. And I started thinking to myself, I want to be able to test the advice that I give to clients. Eventually, I formed the idea of Zeek and created a team consisting of myself and some of the co-founders.
Prior to founding Zeek, I joined SF Express as an in-house strategy director. Because SF has all kinds of services like international, supply chain, and cold chain, it provided me with the background knowledge of logistics and supply chain. I soon realised that the trend of digital transformation of merchants and brands are in different sectors of F&B, and saw this gap between what traditional logistic companies can provide versus what these companies or brands need along the way of digital transformation. So why not leverage what I learned in SF, combine that with systems solutions and data to fill the gap to help the merchants and brands to move from offline to online? This positioned Zeek as a smart logistics company, focusing on last mile fulfillment.
How does integrating data help you to maximize the logistics in your operations?
We see there are merchants or brands that are very keen on moving from offline to online but might not have the experience or the technology, so we broaden our system to them. For example, building a white label ordering channel for them to receive orders, or providing a system for them to better manage their order because some of them might have their own carrier, but have been manually managing their fleet. So we enable them by providing a solution and a system.
In terms of data, what we always emphasise is that we stand out by leveraging data with the calculation and algorithm to improve efficiency, and improve costs. If we want to optimise the routing, we will use data to pair up orders so that we can bundle them, increasing efficiency. And we also can use data to estimate arrival time, providing full transparency of delivery status.
Many businesses have had to move online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, do you think that this is now crucial for businesses?
Covid has sped up the adoption of technology. For a lot of brands or merchants or business owners, they had to speed up the adoption and become more creative in terms of how to use online channels, realising that they need logistics more urgently than before. The pandemic is also shifting consumer behavior, where people expect things to be delivered to their doorstep. Although Covid is slowly getting better, the business mindset has already changed. People won’t suddenly cut out online platforms, but instead will continue to build their online presence.
What can we look forward to seeing Zeek doing over the next few years?
Zeek is actually accumulating data, and when we have sufficient data, we will be able to do a lot of things, for example, profiling, in a certain area or city, which products are more popular or most frequently purchased. With this kind of integration, we will be able to help our F&B or even e-commerce partners to select locations to market to. We will be able to perform analyses on the density of the location. So I would call the future of Zeek our data stage. In the future, other than logistics and solutions, we will be providing a lot of data services. This will mean advisory on big data analytics, reporting dashboard, and other services.
Any future predictions for the logistics industry?
I think data will be the future of logistics. From what I have seen, logistics service nowadays have become less defined. In the past, services used to be more well-defined, but in the future, because we are using more technology and data, we see that some solutions are actually tailored for a specific industry. So, in many situations, we are not simply giving advice to our clients by providing free delivery services to them, we sometimes have to tailor it and think about how to actually adjust the problem of a merchant. So in order to serve that trend, it will be very important to be involved in the service definition stage of the client. For example, when we go to an F&B client nowadays, we are asking questions like what service are you trying to provide, are you looking for city-wide coverage to sacrifice food quality, because the longer you deliver, the more time you need. So, we will advise them, because this kind of conversation usually does not happen between businesses and logistics providers. However, nowadays, we actually need to be involved in the service planning stage, so that in the end, we are able to fully integrate with what they have and what we can provide. So I think logistics nowadays will be a more advisory type of service.
What is your advice for entrepreneurs and small businesses?
My advice to them is to have an open mind. Because when I look back on the journey of starting Zeek, I never imagined myself creating a logistics startup.We started from a very simple logistics company, and then we added a system solution, and ended up with a data service. So things will always grow differently from what you have intended. Focus on the question or challenges that people want you to solve, and when you solve it, it will then slowly become a business model, and continue to evolve. Keep transforming, and evolving, and you will eventually find something very surprising.
Hear more of Vincent’s insights and watch the full interview here.