Home-grown logistics start-up sets sights abroad

When consumers buy the popular Irvins Salted Egg snacks online, the entire shopping experience is being managed by a local logistics start-up that is making the most of the e-commerce boom.

UrbanFox takes product photos, writes marketing copy and then packs and delivers the products to consumers. Its one-stop service to help firms and consumer brands manage their logistics, sell in online marketplaces and deliver is proving a compelling business model.

The firm, which was acquired by Keppel Logistics in 2016, announced yesterday that it is setting up shop in Vietnam and Malaysia, the first two stops of its regional expansion.

“The market size here requires us to go regional,” said managing director Joe Choa. “The brands have been asking us where else we can offer them and when we can take them to Indonesia.”

The firm’s initial expansion involves moving into countries where it can leverage Keppel Logistics’ existing warehouses.

Mr Law Chung Ming, Enterprise Singapore’s director for transport and logistics, said: “The rise of e-commerce has led to growing regional demand for logistics infrastructure and services, creating many new growth opportunities for companies in the logistics industry. UrbanFox is a good example of a forward-looking Singapore company that is leveraging innovation to expand its business in South-east Asia.”

Mr Law urged local firms to consider partnering Enterprise Singapore to tap its market connections to explore deploying their services and solutions overseas.

A joint study by Google and Singapore investment company Temasek last year forecast that South-east Asia’s digital economy could triple in size to US$240 billion (S$333 billion) by 2025.

Indonesia is the next market Mr Choa is eyeing, with Thailand and the Philippines to follow “to complete the whole regional network”.

Mr Choa started Courex, as the firm was originally named, in 2009 to deliver documents for law firms.


The number of brands which UrbanFox now serves.


The number of products which UrbanFox delivers, ranging from food to books to fashion.

Three years into the business, he predicted that e-commerce would take off in the region, but it was not until two years ago that he saw traction in the local market.

That followed the firm’s acquisition by Keppel Logistics, which enabled him to expand his workforce from a small team of 13 to 150, including around 30 e-commerce marketers and 30 software engineers.

The firm now serves over 500 brands and delivers 20,000 products ranging from food to books to fashion. Its growth is also partly driven by changing consumer patterns, said Mr Choa. “People are more savvy about buying things online now… and they want to have the ability to pick and choose.”

Increasingly, the brands are asking third-party logistics players if they could also help them sell online, he added, a trend he sees continuing as more firms realise the importance of having an online presence.

Ms Candyse Yip, South-east Asia digital manager of British shoe brand Clarks, said: “A lot of retailers are going into e-commerce. It’s a trend we must seize. We must get to the customers where they are shopping.”

Last year, she tapped UrbanFox’s services to start Clarks’ online sales in Singapore as it could sell in multiple marketplaces from one single inventory stock pool. This means she faces reduced inventory risks as the firm does not have to keep separate stocks for each online market.

It also allows her to launch on different platforms quickly. Within less than a year, Clarks is now selling in three online marketplaces without having to hire more people.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.