Interview with Linebooker CEO and Founder Naudé Rademan
Linebooker the first transport platform, and disrupter of the transport & logistics industry, in South Africa
Q: Disruptor normally refers to early stage or small start-up type businesses. How would you describe Linebooker’s current stage?
NR: In early 2017 Linebooker was at start-up phase, creating some disruption in the industry. Over that time Linebooker has seen significant growth and today has more than 135 customers, among them several large SA blue chip companies and brands, mega farmers, mining businesses, and other businesses large and small. The company also has 251 transport companies on the platform, ranging from large to small, with a combined fleet of more than 11000 trucks.
We have seen exponential growth in the last 12 months, enhanced further by unexpected growth between March and May 2020. The disruption continues, but in terms of scale, Linebooker has moved well beyond the start-up phase.
Naudé Rademan CEO
“We had to prove the concept with real results. Luckily, we now have several large volume customers and data that confirms the platform delivers better than market vehicle supply consistency at a better price than outside Linebooker”
Q: What does Linebooker do differently to earn disruptor status?
NR: We did not set out to disrupt and the central business idea is not complex, but getting the idea translated into a total online solution was a different story. It was a very simple change that caused the disruption – the platform created instant transparency in a marketplace that up to that point had very little.
We have all worked in the supply chain industry for most of our working lives, and have experienced first-hand the frustrations around current ways of working. The conventional process to arrange transport normally goes like this: I want to move stock, I start phoning transport companies that are registered vendors with my company (normally 5 to 10), find out if they have trucks available, and if yes at what cost? Costs normally differ significantly. I repeat this process 5 to 10 times, pick one or two and then send all load info via email or WhatsApp. In time, due to this onerous process, most companies end up only phoning one broker (who follows the above process on their behalf at an obscure cost). Depending on the volume a specific client moves, this process can keep an entire team busy every day, and there can be lots of dubious pressure applied, costing businesses money.
With Linebooker technology the process is fully transparent and live. Clients can publish load requests that are immediately seen by most of the transport companies in SA, and they can respond confirming truck availability and cost within 30 minutes with no other influence possible. A client pushes one button to confirm and trucks start moving to loading points with all updates visible on the platform.
Thus any customer on the Linebooker platform can “talk” to and negotiate the best market price with most of the transport companies in SA in 30 minutes without having to make one phone call or send one email.
Q: How do you see the value that Linebooker adds to this new transport marketplace?
NR: Every platform marketplace needs checks and balances and monitoring – someone that ensures both sides of the market are operating above board and with good intent. For example, you are assured when you buy classifieds from a seller on Ebay that your product will arrive and that you will be able to get a refund if the product does not arrive or if it is faulty.
I would like to think that Linebooker has taken on a supervisory role in the transportation marketplace. Transporters are assured they will always be paid for work done via Linebooker, whether the actual customer has paid or not. Similarly, the customer is assured that the transporter has been fully vetted by Linebooker, has all the goods in transit insurance needed, and has a reputable track record. Thus Linebooker also ensures the operational service for the customer and the customer can call on Linebooker should there be an issue with the load.
Q: What is the value for customers using Linebooker? How do you help customers improve their business and performance?
NR: For customers lower costs is always important, and the transparency and large network on Linebooker certainly delivers significant savings in this area. This is normally the most obvious draw card for customers at first, but we know the real long-term benefit for a customer sits in the efficiency created by the technology outside of lane rate cost only. Our customers realise the value delivered in other areas as well.
Customers see much better vehicle supply consistency as they can request trucks within 30 minutes at any time out of the large supply base active on Linebooker. Customers suddenly have a much faster, lower cost and more flexible supply chain, that gives them a competitive edge in the market. And they can do all this remotely.
Q: What additional changes did COVID-19 bring (so far)?
NR: Things have changed for sure. We cannot be 100% sure what triggered it, but activity has increased significantly during Covid-19. The need for businesses to be able to operate remotely is possibly one of the bigger drivers – Linebooker allows customers to run all their transport requirements remotely.
Some customers also experienced a sudden change in their business volumes that could not be handled by their current transport infrastructure and they turned to the Linebooker network. Other customers suddenly had to change the type of routes and trucks they required. Without Linebooker they would have had to find providers they potentially knew nothing about, and somehow open accounts during lockdown, whereas they could register on Linebooker and process requests via the platform within one hour.
Q: All innovators face major obstacles – what were a few Linebooker had?
NR: We still face daily obstacles, but a couple of early obstacles come to mind immediately. Potential customers like and understand the idea instantly, but we faced the perception that the platform would not be able to consistently supply vehicles for large volume customers, especially during seasonal peaks. We normally follow up with the question: Did you have good supply during the past season with your current solution? The answer is normally no.
But we understood that customers couldn’t risk their business on theory even if it makes total sense to them as well. We had to prove the concept with real results. Luckily, we now have several large volume customers and data that confirms the platform delivers better than market vehicle supply consistency at a better price than outside Linebooker.
Q: What type of customer and transporter can be part of Linebooker and what is involved in registration?
NR: I think that is one of our critical enablers. There is no monthly fee or sign-up fee for transporters, although they must go through quite an extensive vetting process to be allowed on the platform as Linebooker carries the service risk on their loads.
Customers pay a small transaction fee that is fully transparent as part of the concluded transaction. This is the big differentiator when compared to a brokerage: The customer and the transport company negotiate price directly over the platform and if they agree on price, Linebooker charges a set fee to handle the operations, payment and risk related to the transaction. We have customers on credit terms as well as COD, dependent on the customer.
Q: We heard there are some big developments in the pipeline. Can you talk about is?
NR: Not yet, but will share details soon.
Q: What are your longer-term plans for Linebooker?
NR: We are very fortunate to have very competent and supportive investors in Patrice Motsepe’s Africa Rainbow Capital via Gemcap as well as Venturen.Partners. We will continue to assess new opportunities as they present themselves. Our focus remains on growing the network and enhancing the functionality available on the platform as we get feedback from customers and transporters.
Published by Innovation SA: www.linkedin.com/company/innovation-sa