INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
A 13 Years Old Boy From a Small Warehouse in Latvia Started to Surf on the Wave of the Global E-Commerce World
How Aleksandr Fridman of WAPI is helping eCommerce to grow globally
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Aleksandr Fridman: Doing great, living, enjoying our lives. People are adaptable creatures, so we have adjusted, adding more sport, joy in simple things, and time for self-development and ourselves.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded WAPI.
Aleksandr Fridman: I am a Logistic kid. My first work experience was when I was 13 years old. I pasted stamps on bottles in a family warehouse. This is how my path in logistics began.
After school and studying at the institute, at the very beginning of my career, I was trained to attract clients, which is, in fact, to sell the services of our logistics company. I started studying, taking courses, going to seminars, reading books – and unexpectedly for myself, I just fell in love with the sales process. I began to understand warehouse logistics, expeditions, and customs logistics, crossborder. I attended major exhibitions, traveled all over the world, and watched how large logistics companies build their business. I was involved in a lot of sales and management.
Meanwhile, I have always been interested in the IT world. I also successfully built WMS system warehouses for large retailers, organized large transport companies that delivered goods from China and the US to European Union and CIS countries, as well as Japanese equipment Nissin to build factories in Belarus. I have 15 years of experience in warehouse and transport logistics, conferences in Beijing and all over England, partnerships with China, Japan, England, and USA warehouses.
At some point, I wanted to build my own company and began to study the market. I discovered that the e-com market was developing at a very rapid pace and saw that there were a huge number of young entrepreneurs and young companies who needed my competence. They wanted to sell their goods online across Europe. At the same time, they did not want to waste time on independently building logistics but were looking for ready-made solutions so that someone could simply fulfill their orders from marketplaces or online stores and deliver them to the end customer. I decided to take on this task, and this is how the idea of creating the WAPI European Fulfillment Network came about – which today has more than 54 partners throughout Europe and provides our customers with storage, packaging, delivery, and a convenient platform for managing their orders.
How does WAPI innovate?
Aleksandr Fridman: We are solving the problem of Europe being divided into parts. To date, we have managed to connect more than 54 contractors across Europe, and soon there will be hundreds.
All sales channels in Europe will be connected to our platform that collects orders from everywhere and ships them to warehouses and courier services all over Europe. This makes the life of E-Merchants significantly easier. No more spending on IT integration, no more searching for logistics partners, no more logistics management, just connect your sales channel and enjoy your customer receiving the order in 24-48 hours.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Aleksandr Fridman: We are doing great! The coronavirus has brought most of the business from offline to online. Those who stayed offline are striving to go online, and this only plays into our hands since it is directly related to our business. We are ready to help sellers trade not only in their own country but also in 24 European countries.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Aleksandr Fridman: I have been an entrepreneur all my life, and of course, I’ve been in different situations. There have been different projects, different stories. I’ve had my money stolen and had to abandon some projects in which I had been investing both efforts and funds for a very long time, and it happens that you need to part with people with whom you do not want to.
I learned from all my experience that you should never stop and, most importantly, you need to treat every moment not as a loss or victory, but as a rewarding experience, a story of your life that has taught you something. There are different moments in these stories, but this is your path, the path that you love, that you enjoy, that you live. This is your life.
In short, never stop, move on and enjoy life.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Aleksandr Fridman: First of all, the whole team of 28 people switched to remote work, and many tools have appeared in our life that help us communicate and make our work comfortable even today, despite the fact that we are all at home.
We started using Microsoft Teams, which solved most of the issues for us, as well as communication, planner, video calls, and meetings between departments. Of course, Zoom, which helps to communicate with clients and partners. We managed to implement a CRM system, it would have happened without the virus anyway, but the remote work has accelerated this process.
In general, we have not seen any difficulty in switching to remote work. On Friday, I decided that the whole team should work from home, and on Monday, everyone got in touch in normal working mode.
There are only 28 of us, and it was easy for everyone to do it and quickly adapt.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Aleksandr Fridman: We have three types of competitors.
One of the competitors that everyone knows about is Amazon Fulfillment, which does a lot of what we do. Our advantage is that we have a people-to-people relationship, while Amazons are more of a people-to-machine approach. You will never get an individual approach on Amazon. Amazon can be compared to a bus that everyone can use, but there is a certain route, rules, and schedule, and WAPI is like a taxi with its route, speed, communication, and competitive prices with Amazon. Therefore, our clients choose us because it is convenient.
Another type of competitor is local fulfillment warehouses, which can be quite strong in a given local market, but they do not have such a network of warehouses as we do. Therefore, in their country and in the countries that are next to them, they are competitive at prices with us. But as soon as it comes to longer distances, for example, delivering from Poland to Spain, it will be much more expensive than sending parcels locally. In turn, we regularly work on expanding the network of warehouses, uniform quality standards of service in all countries where we work, and, of course, competitive prices.
The 3rd type of competitors are companies that are similar to us. There are few of them in the European market, and some of them are in the process of construction, while others, like us, are taking over customers of Amazon and local warehouses throughout Europe.
As Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, said about his competitors, “I don’t know him, I don’t like him, and I don’t want to like him”. I can relate to this, so we are developing at our own pace, solving our problems and making our customers happy.
Your final thoughts?
Aleksandr Fridman: It is amazing that so many people worldwide are joining the e-commerce world. E-commerce is now bumming and is developing very quickly, and I believe that everyone who in E-commerce in the next 5-10-15-20 years will only earn, this is a new stage in the development of a person (buyer), and it is very cool that we can see how it all develops.
I am happy that I am surfing here, in this new wave of the development of humanity.
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