This has been the worst of times and the best of times.
By staying resilient in face of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Worldwide Logistics Group, a domestic logistics company headquartered in Shanghai, has been seeking new opportunities amid the immense challenges.
"In the early days of the outbreak, our group was one of many that was hit hard, resulting in a substantial decline in business volume compared with previous years," recalled Yu Jingrui, manager of the group's publicity department.
According to Yu, a lack of labor force has meant enterprises also had a lot of difficulties in transportation.
In large transportation hub stations, such as docks, many links have not been operating smoothly because there has not been enough workers. As such, many goods could not be transported in a short time.
According to the needs of the epidemic prevention work in various regions, many provinces and cities set up epidemic prevention stations on roads, resulting in longer transport times, higher transport costs, and lower efficiency.
In this case, the Worldwide Logistics Group was faced with the problems of increased expenditure and decreased revenue. The company continued to pay its employees during the temporary shutdown, but the epidemic's impact meant many others were unable to deliver products within the required timeframe, resulting in an inability to clear orders in time.
Difficulties arise and must be overcome. After the outbreak, the Worldwide Logistics Group and Chinese living overseas took advantage of their abilities to transport materials in order to organize donation activities at cost.
Using a big data platform, overseas Chinese and Worldwide Logistics Group's own global transportation network have made outstanding contributions in the fight against the epidemic. In total, 40 batches of medical supplies with a combined value of 60 million yuan (around US$8.5 million) were transported, donated by 21 countries around the world.
At the same time, the Worldwide Logistics Group responded to the nation's call in a timely manner and has been looking for new operation methods. The use of the Internet to communicate with customers and manage the enterprise has also helped.
Over the past three months, despite a massive drop in business among logistics firms and shipping agents, the group secured 20% growth year-on-year. This achievement can largely be attributed to its multifaceted business model.
"Our extensive logistics services, which cover ordinary goods, hazardous items, less than container load, full container load, warehousing, tow trucks, shipping and air parcels, as well as our overseas subsidiaries in 16 countries and regions, such as Britain, Australia and Southeast Asia, have enabled us to offset the impact caused by the pandemic," Yu explained.
She added that many of the logistics companies and shipping agents that went bankrupt during the pandemic only provided services to targeted customers. "They can provide low-cost, flexible services in normal times, but their financial vulnerabilities in times of crisis led to them going out of business," she elaborated.
However, diversity only partly explains how the company has managed to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. To better facilitate logistics during this hugely challenging time, Shanghai Flying Fish Supply Chain Tech Co Ltd, a big data company jointly invested in by the Worldwide Logistics Group and e-commerce-conglomerate Alibaba Group, has endeavored to seek opportunities that enable commodities produced by local manufacturers for overseas markets to be transported.
Its additional business at the height of the epidemic in China also involved the transportation of donations from Alibaba to affected countries and regions all around the world, as well as rendering assistance to tens of thousands of foreign-trade manufacturers and agents functioning on its platforms.
"During this special time, we've cemented our sales management, fostered closer communication with our customers, and expanded targeted services for overseas products by utilizing online agents abroad," Yu explained.
"We also tightened control over our receivable account to ensure the safety of our financial chains and to empower our purchasers and overseas online business agents as a whole with the competences needed to surmount economic difficulties during the pandemic," she added.
However, the challenges have not only been in business operation, but also in the regular day-to-day management.
According to Yu, the company's staff have been getting used to working longer hours in order to respond promptly to demands during this special period whenever they arise, which has put them under great stress.
However, while adopting remote office administration, the company has noted that big data can play a significant role.
"That's why we need to get a good command of digital technologies to improve work efficiencies," Yu said.