Community Feature – Haulio’s Alvin Ea

In this week’s Community Feature, we speak to Alvin Ea from Haulio, a startup that is driving the future of haulage.

Alvin Ea, CEO of Haulio | Alvina, Community Manager at BLOCK71

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Alvin Ea, co-founder, and CEO of Haulio. We are a B2B container trucking platform that is revolutionizing the entire container trucking industry. A container truck essentially is the one that brings the containers in the maritime port all the way to the customers’ warehouse where it is unloaded and sent into the depot. These are the hidden things that people don’t really see in the industry that is very important, but essentially what we are trying to do is we are trying to change this entire space and make it ready for the future.

How did you get into the shipping industry?

I ended up in this industry, not by choice. If my father went to do real estate, then I probably will be a lot better off. I’m in this industry is because I joined my family business after graduation so I am a second generation haulier or you can call me ‘Tao Kae Kia’. Have been helping my dad with his business since graduation. I started my own trucking business when I was only 25 and I built the business in a very traditional way. Dealing with my own drivers with the ‘old school’ method. Through that, I wondered if technology can actually play a bigger part in transforming this very traditional old school space. And the answer is yes. That’s why when I met Sebastian, my co-founder, we ended up doing this and that’s how we started Haulio.

What part does Sebastian play in using technology to improve the shipping industry?

I think for the industry in general, a lot of things have been done the same way for the past twenty years. A lot of the people who are in the space, myself included, have become too stuck with the way of how things are done. I was lucky that I was only inside for 5 years. If I was there longer, I think I probably cannot unbox my concept. Sebastian played a very very big part in helping me to see and offer a different perspective from outside the industry. We are actually one of the incubatees of PSA UnboXed, the corporate venture capital arm of PSA International. What we did was rethink how containers can be moved in the industry. Sebastian brought with him some technological skill sets and industry know-how, and that’s where he actually helped us in the roadmap of the development of our product.

Where do you see Haulio going in 2019?

One and a half years into the business, we have done pretty well in terms of managing many of these hauliers. I spend a lot of time actually having kopi chats with the uncles in the industry. At the start, they were very fearful about what we are doing. It’s like how the taxi operators probably felt when Uber first came out, they were afraid that Uber would steal their jobs et cetera. But I think we have gone past that – today we have the largest supply base pool in Singapore of over 2000 trucks within our network. The next stage for us is how can we actually help them further. Today, we are a job matching platform. We match containers that need to be moved to the truck companies and try to fill up the empty capacities within their load. The next stage for us is after we match them on the platform. Today, most of the industry is still not connected. It’s a disarray of disconnectivity. In fact, we are going to launch our driver’s app next week as well as working on some prototype projects to make the industry a little bit smarter in terms of IOT devices, trackers on to the trailers itself. These are some of the projects and initiatives that we are working on and we hope to be able to connect to the rest of the industry via these initiatives of ours.

Haulio Team
Haulio: Together, we cargo faster

For those who are unfamiliar with the shipping industry, how will you say you are helping these hauliers?

I think the hauliers themselves, they are still using a lot of manual work, pen and paper. Today, they probably have to hire 10 people to handle 1000 containers today. In Haulio, we actually did about 10,000 containers in a single month with only 6 staff. The beauty towards that is how technology can transform some of the very manual tasks that they are doing. Instead of using pen and paper, and recording in books and excel sheets, we enable these traditional companies who don’t know tech through our innovation, through reducing inefficiencies like manual data entry. So this is how we are sort of helping the industry from layman’s perspective.

How can we help?

Generally speaking, being in the industry for about 7 years now. I think one thing that we really lack are talents and people who will bother to think about how trade is actually facilitated. I was lucky to be invited to be there at the launch of PIER71 last year. I think it is a very fantastic initiative by NUS in terms of looking at this sort of hidden sunset industry for maritime,. It’s very traditional. How can we actually look out for brighter talents that are looking at this space? Essentially it is a very interesting space that has a lot of potential because it’s so far behind. Usually, there are two sides to a coin. The more traditional it is, there is actually a lot of space for growth. That is one thing that we hope we are able to reach out to look for any partners who are interested to try to be a part of this transformation journey. I must say the journey has been very difficult. I wake up every single morning challenging my assumptions whether this is the right thing to do, but I guess you’ll never know what the future will have and we hope to look out for people who believe in the same kind of future with us and believe that the old way of doing things will eventually be eroded some day. It’s just a matter of time, but I guess sometimes we don’t have much time as well.

What drives you forward?

I guess the industry people drives me and personally for myself, I have been working for my dad before, I have hundreds of staff I have been taking care of. It’s these people who believe in us and personally now with Haulio, we have a group of 30 Hauliers with us. It’s the same kind of drive and belief that they have put into this young company. They believe that things can change, these are things that drive me every single day. Having to take care of their needs and to make sure that the dream continues to be able to be fulfilled.

Watch the full video interview with Alvin Ea from Haulio here:

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