Q&A with CargoAI chief Matthieu Petot

CargoAi's chief says top priorities include continued expansion, growing its portfolio, and more integration projects in the near term.

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Most would say air cargo is still playing catch up compared to other industries when it comes to digitalisation. But the opportunities are abundant. After a historic 2020 for cargo, CargoAi’s Matthieu Petot thinks the company has laid down a robust foundation to be one step ahead of the competition on the technology side. And 2021 could be the year we see digitalisation pick up.

In December last year, the company tied up with IBS Software and Champ Cargosystems and integrated with their respective iCargo and Cargospot platforms through API, extending reach to its used-to-be outside network. Early this year, the startup hired its commercial chief from Lufthansa, and formed an advisory board filled with industry stalwarts who represent every perspective of the air cargo supply chain.

Payload Asia talked to CargoAI’s chief as he talked about digitalisation beyond online booking, new tools to attract airlines and freight forwarders, as well as finding the right people to work with in a passion-driven industry.

What would you say is driving the move to digital for forwarders and carriers? Do you think the remote work setup is here to stay?

It is hard to pinpoint exactly the main reason for the sudden acceleration of digitalization in Air Cargo. I believe one of the key reasons is that air cargo was very late if you compare to all the other industries. We have become all very digital in our personal life, but it was not the case for our professional life in air cargo. We tried to stretch the rubber band which is now coming back and the speed of digitalization is now impressive.

For sure, the crisis had an accelerating effect as most of staff are working from home and there is a need to reduce costs, to be more efficient and to have robust and optimized processes which is what CargoAi provide. Almost all the main airlines have understood their customers require more modern solutions and 2021 is really the year where this industry is catching up.

Has the company been profitable over the last year? What would be the top priorities this year in terms of growing the business?

We are a young company that invested a lot in the future with very modern technology and talent. We are proud to have a very robust foundation and be one step ahead of our competition on the technology side.

Top priorities for us are to continue our expansion, our customer portfolio is growing significantly worldwide (airlines and freight forwarders) and many integration projects are underway. In parallel, we continue to develop to offer more value than an e-booking platform. Our vocation is to contribute to the digitalization of airfreight, which of course goes beyond e-booking. For instance, we are launching our BI tool that can provide actionable data never seen for airlines and for freight forwarders. We also launched recently the CO2 calculation feature. More to come.

Let’s talk about the markets you’re serving right now. What can your data tell us? What are some of the gaps you’ve observed and based on customer conversations?

We have built a unique live capacity module that enable our user to compare the capacity on specific routes versus the previous weeks and drilldown per airline, aircraft type etc. This is great for our customers on the airline side that can use this for Route and Revenue Management but also for their salespeople as they can adjust the prices and react to big changes in capacity in the next weeks.

It also helps our freight forwarders who can understand the trends and know when they need to secure a booking or when they can negotiate. It is a real decision-making tool in markets that are very volatile.

Half of your staff are based in Singapore. When will you expand to Asia Pacific, and is there room to expand?

We have staff in each continent but unless traditional businesses, we don’t need to have staff in each country to have customers. The advantage of digital technology is that it eliminates the problems of borders and time differences. The CargoAi platform is accessible anywhere, anytime. This is a considerable advantage in our industry: we can serve our customers 24/7 with all the modern support tools.

Can you share more about your CO2 track & trace? Are there other tools, tech you’re exploring to join other stakeholders in the air cargo supply chain in the quest to sustainability?

We have incorporated CO2 calculation in our products for the eQuote/eBooking but also in Track and Trace. We are the only one to propose this and it makes a huge difference as now, freight forwarders can select the flights they want to book on with CO2 in mind. They can compare price, airlines, transit time and CO2 when they make their selection. This is a great step and a competitive advantage in this context of increasing awareness and needs for more sustainability, as it will help to reduce CO2 emissions.

We also have the best Track and Trace solution available via APIs that covers more airlines than any other traditional solutions with better data quality and we calculate CO2 emission for every shipment based on the real flights. As of now, we cover all the events for more than 100 airlines, and it is growing every week.

Based on your careers page, it seems you are putting hiring a top priority. Are you finding it hard to find the right talent for specific jobs? What would be your advice/message to the next aspiring interviewee?

Never easy to find the right people in the early stage, but I was lucky enough to meet people as passionate as I am about tech and airfreight. We have now reached a point where we receive a lot of applications from great talents, lot have been in the industry for some time and clearly want it to change and be more modern, so we share the same goals. We are looking for people that have a strong will to make this change and have expertise in air cargo or in tech company but can also adapt to a very fast-moving environment. Passion, commitment and expertise are the skills we’re looking for. We are launching new features every 2 weeks and a new product every quarter, we are in the midst of the industry transformation. My advice or message to the next aspiring interviewee will be if you are looking for a thriving company that offers a wide range of possibilities and the opportunity to showcase your talent, CargoAi is the perfect place for careers opportunities and fulfillment.

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