“There Is Massive Potential To Leverage Technology In The Transportation Of Goods”, Says Ontruck COO Rika Christanto

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We spoke to Rika Christanto, the COO of Ontruck, about bringing digital innovation into the logistics and supply chain industries. Learn what she has to say about the potential of technology and her vision for Ontruck.

The road haulage industry has been doing things the same way for the past 30 years, limited by complicated telephone and email transactions that could be made more efficient using the right technology. Ontruck is a European road freight transport company dedicated to bringing transport into the 21st century by building the leading tech platform and carrier network for regional deliveries.

Based in Spain and the UK, the company has recently expanded operations into the French market with offices in Paris. Rika Christanto is Indonesian, grew up in the US and is now based in Madrid where she leads operations for Ontruck as one of the few women in leadership in the supply chain sector.

The logistics and supply chain industries tend to have more roles occupied by men than by women. Can you tell us a bit more about your background and how you first became involved in this sector?

I had my first experience in logistics when I led operations to create a nationwide dairy supply chain for an NGO in Uganda, but I think yes, it’s fair to say that in the logistics and supply chain sector there tend to be more men than women. Even working at the helm of a company that is bringing increased technological innovation into the sector we see the same imbalance because within the technology sector, we also still see a higher male to female ratio.

Personally, this has not been a significant issue. I started my career in investment banking, did a MBA and then entered management consulting. At every point, there were always many more men in the room than women. Today, as the only woman on the management team, I don’t feel different in any way and believe my opinion carries equal weight but it’s definitely encouraging to see that issues surrounding diversity and inclusion are being brought to the forefront of certain industries. Bringing increased female leadership into industries traditionally dominated by men is something I feel strongly about. For Ontruck, it is critical to ensure we develop the best talent and have a place of work that is diverse and welcoming to all.

You’re a co-founder of Ontruck and chief operating officer, can you tell us what a day at the office looks like for you?

Well, one thing that’s for sure is that things never get boring. I lead operations and finance at Ontruck, so as you can imagine every day brings with it a new challenge.

My day usually starts outside the office. I drop my triplets off at preschool, so I start my first meeting on the phone on the way to work. From 9 am to 7 pm, it’s typically back to back meetings. I usually split my time in 3 ways: first, 1-1s with my direct reports, which is my most enjoyable and important time of the day; second, discuss operational issues and product initiatives; and third, prioritize and track progress against strategic objectives with management. After some time for the gym or dinner or play with the kids, I’ll pick up at 10 pm for some proper ‘deep work’ time that I don’t get a chance to do during the day. This is where I spend the time to take a step back to review our numbers and work on critical projects that will move the needle.

Ontruck’s platform is helping to bring innovation into an industry known for being more traditional, could you tell us more about the goals and vision behind this?

So many industries are undergoing digital transformation today. But one area that has been lagging and where there is massive potential to leverage technology is the transport of goods. At Ontruck, we are focused on the regional transport market in which the different parties are communicating through calls, emails – even faxes. There is such a broad and fragmented network of actors in the transport ecosystem (shippers, drivers and fleet managers, broker middlemen) that have been operating in a slow, manual, archaic way of finding a truck and getting a price quote.

When we founded Ontruck, we were determined to do things better, faster and cheaper. We wanted to revolutionize the road freight industry to deliver the best service possible, in the most efficient way. Thanks to our technology, haulers secure loads more easily and get paid faster; companies can deliver their shipments with a touch of a button, and track it end-to-end; and meanwhile, we are improving the environment by reducing CO2 emissions for the broader community. We want to deliver this experience across Europe.

As you prepare for expansion into a new market, can you tell us about some of the main challenges that startups can expect as they enter into phases of scaling up?

Beginning to scale brings with it numerous challenges, but probably one of the most dramatic changes can be internal as you see your team grow and responsibilities expanding. I have to ask myself on an ongoing basis, am I empowering the people closest to the actions to make decisions, effectively and efficiently?

This is something that takes a lot of dedication but is intrinsic for growth and success, I think as startups move forward you have to work hard to strike the shifting balance between meeting the demands of the business, while also spending quality time to coach and “just be” with the team. If you can get to grips with this, your startup can remain resilient in the face of change that often comes with scaling.

Bringing digital innovation into traditional industries is not always easy, but last year you managed to launch in the UK and achieve impressive growth in the market. Can you share some insights into how your team made this happen?

We’ve absolutely been fortunate with our entry in the UK market and couldn’t be happier, but certainly, it’s not without a lot of work across teams of dedicated and talented people. I would say one of the main reasons we were able to achieve such positive growth has been attributed to our expertise within the industry itself. We are not just a technology or transport company, much of the value we are creating comes from putting people at the forefront of our operations.

Our teams understand the importance of establishing trust with local shippers and haulers – if you want to gain a foothold in a market you can’t overlook the power of personal relationships.

What are some of your future plans for Ontruck? Any details you can share?

We want to become the default platform for road transportation, bringing efficiency to all players in the ecosystem. For now, we’re focusing on achieving this across two dimensions, firstly by working to consolidate our platform to address both future client growth as well as growth for international expansion. We just launched in France in February so are currently consolidating our efforts here, and also in Spain and the UK where we are also present.

Secondly, we understand the demand and necessity of remaining innovative. We are constantly working to continue improving our algorithms and applying Artificial Intelligence techniques and Machine Learning to improve our routing mechanisms, load assignments, price optimization, and a better response capacity when faced with real-time incidents such as traffic jams or adverse weather conditions. Hopefully, this can help us remain on top of our game for the future!



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