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The Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic


Dünya Newspaper
Issue: Unsung Heroes of Retail Shipping
Spokesperson: Aras Kargo General Manager Utku Ayyarkin

1. Could you elaborate on the number of employees, offices, turnover, number of vehicles and warehouses of your company?

We, as ArasKargo, represent one of the shipping companies operating the largest distribution network in Turkey with 13 regional directorates, 28 transfer centres, 14,000 employees, almost 1,000 branches and nearly 4,500 vehicles. Backed by our investments and steady growth trend, we continue to create employment opportunities and add value to our country. Maintaining our steady growth every year has increased our turnover by around 50 percent in the last three years. We saw our transaction volume grow by almost 65 percent in the first 9 months of 2020, thanks to the investments we made, especially during and before the pandemic. Taking this momentum in the growth trend, we expect to reach a turnover of over TL 2 billion by the end of the year.

2. What did your goals for the year 2020 look like?

As Aras Kargo, we feel that this year marked an important step in terms of digitalisation and technological investments. While we started pushing digital transformation in 2016, while life went on as normal at the beginning of this year, we have implemented our plans much faster with the onset of the pandemic. We are placing more emphasis than ever on making technological investments, strengthening infrastructure and making business processes more efficient in line with increasing e-commerce volumes and changing consumer preferences.

3. Any new investments and projects you have realised this year?

In the course of this year, we have continued to invest in the technologisation of our transfer centres, which we initiated with a view to managing time and capacity well. Our investments have allowed us to rank as the company with the highest hourly processing capacity in the industry. With a tripling hourly processing capacity, we are the top-performing company in the industry. Firstly, we technologically upgraded our İkitelli transfer centre and increased the centre's capacity from 5,500 shipments per hour to 27,600. Last year, we technologically renewed our Istanbul Orhanlı and Izmir transfer centres. This year we completed Ankara. To better handle the increasing volume of e-commerce shipments, last year we commissioned the investment in the small parcel separating machine on both sides of Istanbul. This year, we have extended this investment to 4 more major cities. We are further increasing our capacity and efficiency in this way.

We are also investing in handheld courier terminals to provide instant data access and further increase our efficiency. To handle the increasing address and data traffic, we launched the courier route optimisation project. With the route optimisation we have carried out, we have created the most suitable infrastructure to properly manage the daily volume of transactions, as well as to provide additional reinforcement to the workforce during periods when the number of shipments is increasing. The adoption of contactless delivery, proven to be a great need for a while now, is actively being embraced in the fastest possible way with our infrastructure works already prepared. This has been achieved through coded delivery and handheld terminal reading for novel chip IDs.

With the Central Data System project, we have also collected customer data, which was previously kept in the branches, in a single centre and prevented erroneous data.

Improving our call centres was one of our most important investments this year. By systematically reorganising our call centre, we increased call answering capacity by 2.5 times. Moreover, we activated the voice response system for questions related to shipping information, such as "Kargom Nerede? (Where is My Shipment)", which accounts for a large proportion of calls, so that our customers can access this information quickly and without the need for a customer service agent.

How did the pandemic affect your business processes? We saw a big boom in e-commerce with the pandemic. What was the nature of the testing you did during this time? Did you come up with new investments and solutions?

As you know, the pandemic broke out in our country in March, and with the onset of the pandemic, consumer habits underwent rapid and significant change. Consumers began to buy all kinds of needs that they had bought in the shops back in the normal days, mainly through e-commerce with the pandemic. The most important factor that affected our business was the change in the shipment structure. During this period, when workplaces were shut down and people worked from home, the number of bulk deliveries was reduced to a minimum, while the number of places we went to for deliveries to individual households increased many times over. During the pandemic period, our transaction volume doubled compared to the previous year. Parallel to the increase in e-commerce users, the number of addresses visited increased by 90 percent.

With the transaction volume in our country increasing every day, we had already started technological investments several years ago to increase our efficiency. Digital transformation has made us very advantageous in this regard. Moreover, our operational experience and expertise enabled us to manage the process very well, even though we struggled at the beginning. We quickly got acclimatised to the increasing transaction volume caused by the pandemic. The preparations we made in previous years for the intensive period of the e-commerce campaign were also of great benefit.

In line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health, we have become one of the sectors that ensure supply chain continuity by taking all necessary measures such as sterilisation, masks, removal and contactless payment. The pandemic has shown us how vital the supply chain is at this time and how important the uninterrupted shipping sector is. During this precarious time, our field staff, who are our heroes, continued working tooth and nail for the continuity of the supply chain in our country. I would like to thank the entire field staff once again for their dedication.

Our earlier investments in technological infrastructure and transfer centres have also enabled us to manage this process as well as possible. Again, the implementation of contactless delivery, which proved to be a great need during this period, was actively utilised in the fastest possible fashion with our infrastructure works already prepared. All this was achieved through coded delivery and scanning of handheld terminals with new types of chip IDs. By implementing route optimisation, we created the right infrastructure to properly manage the daily volume of business on high-demand days.

5.Have we seen an increase in employment?

The increasing demand since the pandemic started in our country has created new employment opportunities for the shipping sector. At Aras Kargo, a new employment segment has been created in line with the growing volume of business since March when the pandemic started. We have tried to create a proper infrastructure to be able to handle the daily volume of business with the employment we receive from outside on the days when the demand is excessive. We also began to offer regular employment solutions with the “Esnaf Kurye (Self-Courier)” system that we created for this purpose.

6. How fast do you think you are growing in Anatolia? Is there any new investment you have made in rural areas? How do you contribute to the Anatolian economy?

We operate as one of the shipping companies with the largest distribution network in Turkey. We currently employ almost 14 thousand people across the country. We operate nearly 1,000 branches, 28 transfer centres and 13 regional directorates in almost every part of our country.

Given the increasing volume of transactions, we are opening Micro Hubs, Mini Hubs and branches in places where the shipment of goods is increasing. This year, 16 Micro Hubs were put into operation, almost all of which are located in Anatolia. Coupled with the hubs opened last year, the total number is 20. In the time ahead, we will continue these investments by evaluating the growth trend in different regions.

We are planning to expand our investments in technology transfer centres to our transfer centres in Anatolia after our major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir

7. Any new solutions for delivery? Are there new cooperations with petrol stations or tradespeople as delivery points? Or an entirely different solution?

Contactless delivery has taken on greater importance in this sector as a result of the pandemic. With our infrastructure ready, we have moved quickly to contactless delivery in social distance selling with coded delivery and handheld terminal reading method with novel chip IDs. We are gearing up our infrastructure studies on delivery points and smart boxes for alternative distribution models. We will be able to implement them after receiving comments and approval from the relevant regulatory authority.

Many new shipping companies have been established, especially since the pandemic. How is this affecting your market share? What steps are you following to stay ahead of the competition?

As you are aware, the e-commerce market is one of the fastest-growing markets lately. Responding to the expectations and customer demands of this market, e-commerce companies came up with solutions by creating new shipping systems internally at points where they could not get responses from the shipping sector. Fast courier services have also assumed their place in the market as volumes have increased in the market. As Aras Kargo, we plan our investments and studies based on the changing consumer habits and the fact that e-commerce is one of the most important customers of our sector, and we have implemented many of them. With these investments, we are responding to the growth of the market by increasing our capacity.

9. What is your year-end growth and turnover goal?

We have increased our turnover by 50 percent by sustaining our double-digit growth over the last three years. Over the first 9 months of 2020, we have seen a growth of almost 65 percent. During the pandemic period, our transaction volume has doubled year-on-year and the number of addresses visited has increased by 90 percent in parallel with the increase in e-commerce users. The momentum we have achieved in the growth trend will enable us to reach a turnover of more than TL 2 billion by the end of the year.

10. So what's on your agenda for 2021? Are there any new investments on the horizon?

In the upcoming period, we plan to invest a total of 1 billion TRY in Aras Kargo's distribution infrastructure, which covers all operations such as transfer centres and branches. Following our major cities, we will focus on technological investments in our transfer centres in Anatolia from next year. As part of our digitalisation process, we are also aiming for better operational time management here by ensuring that our couriers' work areas are automatically set in the systems. Again, in the context of the innovations we will make in IT in 2021, we will also make investments to determine the system of our couriers' daily route and allow them to find their way with the help of a mobile integration created altogether.
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