Digital disruptor Explorate ventures into new waters amid global freight mayhem

Digital disruptor Explorate ventures into new waters amid global freight mayhem

Explorate founders Alex Ewart and Conor Hagan (L-R).

After a heady two years of surging demand for its international logistics services, Brisbane-based technology company Explorate is set for global expansion as the company continues to make strides in an increasingly complex freight-forwarding sector.

Explorate, founded by Conor Hagan and Alex Ewart in 2016, is capitalising on increased market share with forecasts revenue will triple this financial year, laying the foundations for a new office in New Zealand in 2023 before seeking emerging opportunities in Singapore and possibly Thailand or Vietnam.

“New Zealand and Singapore will be our first two overseas agents and before we push into the wider Asia-Pacific region,” says Hagan, who along with Ewart won the Digital Disruptor category of Business News Australia’s Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Awards on Friday night.

“The Asian markets are really appealing to us as we see a lot of opportunity with the realignment of goods coming from areas outside of China. Vietnam, for example, is making amazing strides in the apparel industry compared to China and we’re forecasting that trend to continue for the medium term.”

Explorate’s online platform is tackling what Hagan believes is one of the last frontiers for digital disruption, freight forwarding, by offering a platform that simplifies the process of importing and exporting goods.

Hagan concedes the company has benefited from the pandemic-led disruptions that saw global freight prices surge from US$800 ($1,242) per container in 2019 to US$12,000 ($18,632) at the height of COVID.

But with international freight rates easing back to around US$6,000 ($9,316), Explorate continues to grow its customer base and market share organically. Hagan says market share is reflected in the wider customer base driving Explorate’s revenue growth.

Explorate’s cutting-edge technology provides greater visibility across the import and export supply chain through real-time tracking of shipments globally, down to the location of the ship in transit, as well as instant quotes and bookings for freight services.

“With freight rates being so volatile, being quick can save you a lot of money,” says Hagan. “Because our system is quicker and integrated, we essentially publish those rates immediately and that allows customers to book at a rate that might be up to half the price. Rates are changing that much at the moment.”

Explorate was founded a decade ago in a ‘dusty’ freight forwarding warehouse in Brisbane when Hagan was showing Ewart, a new graduate of international business at the time, the ropes in international logistics.

It was a period when the logistics sector relied heavily on faxes and emails which led the entrepreneurs to venture out on their own, gathering a team of logistics experts and digital innovators to bring the freight-forwarding sector into the new century.

“We build leading-edge supply chains for some of Australia’s best importers and exporters, enabling them to successfully excel on the world stage,” says Hagan.

“The top 25 freight forwarders in the world were all founded before the internet, and while they hold over 60 per cent of the market, the technology they use is very antiquated. There are over 200 million containers moved around the world every year and half of them are still booked by phone, email and fax.”

Unlike established players such as software services group WiseTech Global (ASX: WTC) which develops systems for major logistics operators, Explorate is an end-to-end supply chain provider that delivers technology that manages all aspects of the import and export chain from insurance and workflows to foreign exchange transactions.

“We build all our own software for our operators and for our customers to use every day. Rather than parcels, we're in containers and air freight project cargo; so as soon as you can't pick it up anymore, it becomes our target market,” says Hagan.

“We cover everything from grain and seed exporters to machinery exporters all the way through to furniture importers as well.”

Explorate counts ASX-listed companies among its customers, as well as ‘mum and dad’ importers and exporters.

“International trade literally touches everything around us,” says Hagan. “The pandemic, global energy and raw material shortages continue to cause major disruptions to global supply chains.”

Explorate has capitalised on the accelerated shift to digital freight services, giving it traction in priority industries looking to diversify supply channels, reduce costs and increase visibility in their supply chain.

“We certainly have strong relationships with shipping lines because we are digital and that give us access to better rates,” says Hagan.

Sustained growth has led the company to open offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide as well as a satellite office in Perth this year, with plans to increase its existing staff headcount from 70 to more than 100 next year.

While South-East Asia is a key future focus for Explorate, the company also has ambitions to extend its reach into Europe, although Hagan says the company will allow demand to dictate its future growth strategy.

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