Optimising the air freight industry with CargoAi

Air cargo has been hit hard by Covid-19, and the industry is looking to technology to help it bounce back. Ilaria Grasso Macola spoke to CargoAi CEO Matthieu Petot to find out how the platform works and why it will help air freight get back on its feet.

Over the past year, Covid-19 has had significant impact not just on civil aviation but also the air freight sector. Because of travel restrictions and the consequent economic downturn, freight was down 30% in April compared to 2019 according to the International Air Transport Association, whilst in August it saw a further 12% decrease.

Despite the pandemic, players in the air cargo industry have started to rely on technologies to help streamline freight processes and expand their services in the face of plummeting traffic rates.

To create a link between global airlines and freight forwarders, Singapore-based company CargoAi has developed a platform that helps them manage booking processes, as well as offer shipment quotes and compare rates.

CargoAi CEO Matthieu Petot explains how the platform came about and what sets it apart from its competitors.

Ilaria Grasso Macola: When was CargoAi founded?

Matthieu Petot: We started CargoAi in 2019 in Singapore with a lot of input from users in the industry. Thanks to the team of around twenty experts that we have established – who come from air cargo but also from other fields such as technology, product, customer success and sales – we designed the first beta version and launched it as a pilot in early 2020.

Since then, thanks to significant support from our partners in the industry, our product is now very robust and is available with live training and support.

What was the rationale behind the project?

Air freight purchasing process from a freight forwarder point of view is still very traditional.

Other industries had the same kind of processes but have evolved with modern tools and processes over the last 20 years to make it faster, more optimised and to reduce potential compliance issues.

It is similar to the sales process from an airline perspective, only a few airlines are looking at implementing a CRM and still a majority don’t know what it is or have never heard about Salesforce, which is a giant company that has penetrated every sales process in every industry for the last 20 years.

Those are two great examples of inefficiencies but the list we are working on is quite long. Our approach is to look at all this from a different angle and see where it can be improved and how we can help with modern technologies.

How does the CargoAi application work?

Essentially, CargoAi enables users to manage the entire air cargo booking process (quote issuing, online booking and shipment tracking) via a single tool.

It’s the market’s only platform that offers forwarders the ability to work with 100% of airlines all over the world in a single place, despite the fact that some haven’t yet directly shared their capacity with CargoAi.

This is possible thanks to a unique quote issuing and booking process: CargoAi takes care of everything. The forwarder makes a single request, which the application sends to all airlines before getting back to the forwarder.

When airlines are connected to CargoAi, forwarders can view rates directly and receive instant responses. The combination of these two processes allows forwarders to submit a quote or booking request to 100% of airlines, which is totally unique in the market.

What are the benefits of using CargoAi instead of a more traditional system?

Our online quote and book solutions are providing all the data for a forwarder to save time.

No need to contact every airline and to find out if they have space, and to ask for their latest rate. It is actually a huge amount of time saved for the forwarders and for the airlines.

And we will not stop here. Some nice projects are currently in the pipelines and will finally bring air freight to the digital world and the modern era.

What were the challenges you encountered while developing CargoAi?

My greatest challenge was to find the best talent for our team, and it has now become our biggest strength.

People at CargoAi are dedicated and inspired by the recent air freight digitalisation trends. They bring the best of their expertise, from airlines and air freight experts to technology masters, to deliver the best solutions with a customer-centric approach.

What was CargoAi’s journey from its foundation up until now?

It took over a year to develop the solution. We are constantly improving processes and developing new features to enhance the airlines and forwarders experience with our customers.

They are happy to engage, participate and provide ideas. We are focusing on the customer experience by gathering feedback to incorporate new ideas in our product roadmap.

For example, we now have the most accurate air cargo schedule solution and it is refreshed daily. Our users can request quote or booking with 100% of the airlines, we calculate and offer 3D visualisation of pieces of the shipment on the specific unit load devices.

Let’s talk about Covid-19. Has the pandemic impacted revenues and operations? If so in what ways?

Covid-19 has actually accelerated our development with airlines and freight forwarders realising the importance of digitalisation to increase efficiency and reduce operational cost.

First, digitalisation does not necessarily require huge investment or additional cost. We are one of the last industries to digitalise which means that we fully benefit from what has been done in other industries for the last 20 years.

Designing solutions and making them available is much easier than before and we bring immediate benefits and return on investment. Change management is the challenge here, not the cost nor return on investment. We consider the users as our top priority. Our solutions have been designed to be user friendly.

What do you expect from 2021?

2021 is going to be very promising, with already more than ten new airlines that are going to be connected and available on CargoAi.

We see the pace accelerating tremendously and this is why our offering is adapted to suit companies of all kinds – whether they’re big or small, and regardless of whether they have a high level of digitalisation - to distribute their rate and capacity with our dedicated airline platform, so they don’t need to make any investment on their side.