Ninja Van – May 2020

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Ninja Van: preserving the startup spirit


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Ninja Van: preserving the startup spirit w w nj ava n . co


Vin Perez, COO, Philippines, discusses how Ninja Van is maintaining its position as the vanguard of ecommerce logistics in Southeast Asia

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ogistics technology company Ninja Van is one of a number of high tech startups in Southeast Asia, a region ripe for

disruption. That’s precisely what attracted COO, Philippines, Vin Perez back to the region after studying for an MBA at Harvard Business School. “There’s explosive growth happening here in Southeast Asia, following what happened in the West maybe 15 years ago and China 10 years ago. Because of that, I was really quite keen on going back. I happened upon this opportunity at Ninja Van, where the company was really looking to establish the regional ecommerce logistics industry.” While the region brings enormous opportunities, it also has its own challenges. “Ecommerce markets in the West develop straightforwardly. There’s existing infrastructure, there are regulations, technology is quite advanced. Customer adoption of ecommerce is therefore really direct. In Southeast Asia, the infrastructure is not as good. There are


Year founded

10,000 Number of employees


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“ We believe in a virtuous cycle of technology helping us to be lean, which allows us to adapt new technologies that in turn allows us to become leaner, and so on” — Vin Perez, COO, Philippines, Ninja Van

a lot of logistical challenges to make sure that the parcels arrive on time. Some of the challenges are to do with events like typhoons and the disruption they cause.” Overcoming such issues requires a certain flexibility. “We really have to be creative,” says Perez. “The percentage of the population that uses credit cards is very low, so a large chunk of our deliveries go through as what we call cash on delivery or COD. That’s not so common in the West, but it makes up more than 90% of our


deliveries here.”

Ninja Van: On the Record with CEO Lai Chang Wen CLICK TO WATCH



07 Ninja Van’s success has also required the intelligent application of technology. “Trying to address the complicated last mile problem here in Southeast Asia starts with technology. We have a talented development team that constantly thinks about these problems and how we can address them. We use a lot of different proprietary technologies in our internal platform, which allows us to provide the quality of service we do.” It is thanks to technology that Ninja Van can take an evidence-based approach to the decisions it makes. “I’m a firm believer w w nj ava n . co

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in data. It’s essential to understand

a certain culture and demographic to

how you’re performing, how the

be able to adapt to this kind of tech-

market is reacting and how we can

nology,” says Perez. “In order to have

be more proactive in addressing the

the objective in mind and to be able to

market’s needs. But working with data

reach it, it’s key that everyone is going

is easier said than done. A lot of it’s

for the same goal and has that com-

about making sure you have the right

mon purpose. More often than not, we

database tools and understanding

find the younger demographic to have

who has the ability to deal with such

the ability to operate in this environ-

an infrastructure. You have to adapt

ment.” That emphasis on youth led to

your organisation to be able to address,

new and unexpected solutions to logis-

handle and then really trust the data.”

tics issues. “Especially early on in our

Technology means little without the

tenure, we really looked into the young

proper culture in place, however. “We

problem solvers who may not have

discovered along the way that it takes

had the most experience in logistics,

but were willing to explore different

we’d be stuck with an organisation una-

problems in order to solve logistics

ble to adapt. A startup has to always

problems in a very different way.”

be aware of where it is investing its

That startup spirit is not just present

resources, making sure that it doesn’t

in the younger members of the team,

grow wasteful. I think that’s essential,

however, having instead suffused the

and it feeds back into how we use

entire organisation from the very start,

technology. We believe that, because

as Perez explains: “Over the past sev-

of technology and how we deploy it,

eral years we’ve been growing more

we are able to scale while remaining

than 10-fold over the span of a year,

lean. We believe in a virtuous cycle of

and in certain periods even quicker.

technology helping us to be lean, which

If we hadn’t kept the team lean and

allows us to adapt new technologies

agile and willing to explore new ways

that in turn allows us to become leaner,

of serving our clients and operating,

and so on.”



Vin Perez Vin Perez graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of the Philippines, and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University. Prior to Ninja Van Philippines, he has acquired operations management experience as a Demand and Supply Planning Executive for Nestlé. His vision for Ninja Van Philippines is to connect every Filipino to the parcels and products they want one delightful delivery at a time. In his spare time, Vin plays basketball and is working to finish the latest role playing video game on his PlayStation.

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“ We really looked into the young problem solvers who may not have had the most experience in logistics, but were willing to explore different problems in order to solve logistics problems in a very different way” — Vin Perez, COO, Philippines, Ninja Van

Ninja Van partners with some of the biggest ecommerce operators in the region in the form of Shopee and Lazada. “We have a mutually beneficial relationship with them, where we essentially serve their logistics needs. So we integrate with their platforms, we speak the same language in terms of technology and customer experience, and that allows both parties to provide a solid experience.” The super app Grab is another key synergistic partner. “Grab offers many different services in many different areas, including delivery, and


that’s where Ninja Van comes in, provid-

of the big ticket items. Operationally,

ing delivery outside of the main metro

I see it just getting more and more opti-

areas,” Perez explains. “At the same

mised.” Such improvements are all in

time, we’re cognizant that a big chunk of

the service of improving the customer

business in the market is still happen-

experience. “At the end of the day, being

ing in the physical retail space. Smaller

able to provide a solid, reliable experi-

SMEs haven’t been well served - that’s

ence to the people who ship with us and

a very underserved part of the market

the people we deliver to is key.”

that we really want to serve a lot better.” Going forwards, Perez still sees room for improvement, particularly when it comes to automation. “Right now we’re looking at fully automated facilities that can process parcels for us. That’s one w w nj ava n . co



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