With Digitalisation as a long-term growth trend, many companies are harnessing Big Data Analysis to increase the visibility of their business operations and finding opportunities that may be overlooked by the naked eye.
In this session of Startup Conversations, we caught up with Co-Founder and CEO of Webtrace, Erwin Subroto about his entrepreneurship journey and how he is harnessing IoT and Big Data to impact the logistics industry and beyond!
To kick off with a little context, could you share with us your background and your company, have you always been interested in technology?
Erwin: A little background on me, I graduated with a Computerized Accounting major at Bina Nusantara University in Indonesia. Before Webtrace, I was working in a family printing company, overseeing the sales division. Yes, I always have an interest in technology, given the undeniable fact that technology enables automation in every industry and business.
We pursued entrepreneurship because the life and challenges of entrepreneurship always intrigue and excites us as co-founders, putting in the work to build and grow our own company with our vision, mission, and idealism is truly a satisfaction.
We are rather curious about your entrepreneurship journey, is there a specific story behind the founding of Webtrace?
Erwin: All entrepreneurs start by finding a painful problem that they would like to solve. Likewise, we started our venture by finding problems around us that we are passionate to solve. We had many family and friends in the trucking and logistics space, as such, we had the front row seat to learn about the pain points that they were facing, in general, the inability to connect to their fleets and drivers that are always “on the move”. From there, we developed Webtrace as an IoT solution that would be able to solve their problems with real-time tracking & helping logistics players have better visibility and understanding of the fleet at work.
How would you describe the technology space in Indonesia now and how has it changed over the last 5 years?
Erwin: Over the past 5 years, Indonesia has been growing tremendously and so is the technology space in Indonesia. We have seen a large adoption of technology in almost every space from logistics to public transportation to retail etc. The growing adoption of technology is also evident from the growth in internet penetration in Indonesia from 42.65% in 2015 to 68.34% in 2019 and projected to grow over 89% by 2025. The growth can be largely attributed to Indonesians constantly learning and using new technologies, be it new gadgets, platforms, or social media.
Do you think COVID-19 has positively impacted your space, driven by the increased demand for E-Commerce? Would you label COVID-19 as an opportunity or crisis for Webtrace? How has Webtrace capitalized/dealt with this opportunity/crisis?
Erwin: Definitely! COVID-19 has positively impacted the E-Commerce space and in turn, the logistics industry supporting the E-Commerce space. This uptrend momentum resulted in higher demand for Webtrace as we offer solutions to increase fleet utilization through better visibility of the fleet and reduce the unnecessary cost to fleet owners/managers. Of course, the downside effect of the COVID-19 itself has forced us to adjust to the new normal and comply with all the related regulations by the government, such as health protocol, local quarantine, etc. The new regulations were an obstacle for us as we had to quickly adapt our operations so that we can capitalize on the opportunities due to the increased need for transportation.
IoT is starting to become more prevalent now, but before that, did you and your team face any challenges presenting Webtrace’s vision to your early adopters and how did you overcome them?
Erwin: In the early days, the theory behind IoT is not as well known as compared to now. Many people may not have understood the technology but the common ground is we are solving actual pain problems faced by fleet managers. Therefore, we simplified the technology by avoiding technical jargon and help our early adopters understand how using our solution can solve their problems, as well as the benefits and cost reduction from implementing the solution.
We had some challenges where we had and still have to educate quite a lot of numbers of fleet owners who still operate traditionally, promoting what are the benefits of IoT implementation could be gained by them. Next, there is a common stereotype in the market where customers prefer foreign products as they have stronger branding and are perceived to be more professional. Thus, we had to break the stereotype of customers where they initially preferred solution offered by overseas competitors. On the other hand, we believe as a local born company, we have more understanding of the problems faced by our customers, therefore can provide a more effective problem-solving solution to them.
Many described the IoT Fleet Management system as a real-time virtual twin of the physical fleet. How would you describe your product and its value-add to the target audience?
Erwin: Internet of Things (IoT) is essentially creating a virtual twin of the physical fleet, using sensors such as RFID, GPS, and OBD by installing them on the trucks allowing the system & fleet operators to have greater visibility of the transportation route. This also means that the system can now give drivers the most fuel-efficient route to their destination. With the sensors that feedback real-time information of the trucks to the system and leveraging on big data, fleet operators will also be able to predict when the truck requires maintenance and take precautions before the truck breaks down.
Fleet operators can also prevent fuel theft and due to the increased visibility, they will have greater control over their fleet & maximize the fleet utilization rate while keeping the total cost of ownership as minimal as possible. Our solution enables our customers to always be connected to their fleets, as well as understanding the activities and the analytic data, of which they can analyze and plan how to improve the utilization and reduce the unnecessary/operational costs.
What is your vision for Webtrace in the next 5 years?
Erwin: We intend to expand and scale the business to other verticals by providing IoT solution for broader industries, from fleets to warehouses, heavy machinery, up to the integrated cargo/fleet insurance solutions.
Building a company is not easy with many ups and downs, what are some of the methods you keep yourself motivated and focused on your vision?
Erwin: We keep it as simple as possible, be passionate, and love what we are doing, delivering solutions to the transportation and logistic industries in Indonesia, and long term Southeast Asia.
You pitched with AngelCentral earlier this year, what was the experience like?
Erwin: We’re very grateful and appreciate the opportunity to pitch with AngelCentral, given the opportunity and platform to meet new acquaintances of angel investors and fellow founders, as well as learning existing problems and the solutions in different spaces and industries.