Qafila Team for web
Atif Rafiq, Founder and CEO of shipping and logistics company, Qafila, and the brand’s Co-Founder, Jithin Manoharan Image Credit: Supplied

Please share a bit of brand history on Qafila.

Jithin Manoharan (JM): Qafila is the region’s first digital freight forwarder that uses tech-knowledge and technology to solve that complexities around moving freight.

Since our inception in 2018, Qafila has been awarded with the Logistics Startup of the Year in 2019 and we are backed by incubators like In5 Tech, which is part of Dubai Holding’s TECOM and by Intelak, which is supported by Emirates Airlines, Accenture, Microsoft and Dubai Tourism.

There is a lot of talk about digitalisation in the logistics sector globally. Is the UAE on board in this space, and if yes how is Qafila as a major industry player helping buck the trend?

JM: The logistics sector is going through a digital transformation globally underpinned by adoption of new norms and innovative technology. It is well known that the UAE has a highly advanced logistics industry and has been on the forefront of this digital revolution within the Middle East region, with noteworthy innovations such as DP World Boxbay and DP World Cargospeed.

The UAE has also been pioneering the framework of the commercial drone ecosystem with the relevant Civil Aviation authority in developing laws to regulate drone delivery and flying taxis.

What are the two greatest challenges you perceive in the post-Covid phase for the logistics sector and how is Qafila planning to counter and mitigate the same?

Atif Rafiq (AR): The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of complex global supply chains. In my opinion the two greatest challenges in a post-Covid world will be transparency and visibility.

Bringing transparency in the relationship between buyers and suppliers which till today remains predominantly paper-based, is key. Digitising the buyer-supplier relationship will be a fundamental element for building a strong and sturdy supply chain.

Whether it be identifying supply-side capacity constraints, quantity/price volatility, liquidity or sustainability issues these kinds of data-driven risk assessment and improvement approaches will be key to building up more resilient and sustainable supply chains.

We need visibility to realise these solutions and we would have to transition to a new model for supply chains which will be underpinned by a rapid adoption of digital technologies like AI, mathematical modelling, machine learning algorithms and cloud services to find ways to extract critical data from the enterprise supply chain and correlate it with external “major events” data to deliver visibility and real-time business insights.

To deliver insights in days, hours or minutes, rather than quarters, these solutions will have to be integrated with, and embedded in, existing workflow processes.

With Qafila we provide a comprehensive dashboard that lays out the full status of your shipment, down to the last detail. The dashboard refreshes every 30 minutes to provide a real-time overview of the entire supply chain be air, sea or land.

The current crisis is an opportunity to reset a system that has relied on outdated processes.

Creating smart and nimble supply chains is the key to building a global supply chain that’s capable of weathering future storms.

The logistics sector is in a constant state of flux. How do you read the industry changing in the next five years and where do you see the brand in this time period?

AR: In my opinion the next five years will see decentralisation of manufacturing capacity, with many industries replacing old traditional strategy of seeking economies of scale by concentrating production in a few large facilities.

Instead, they will replace large plants that serve global markets with a network of smaller, geographically dispersed factors that are more resistant to disruption.

Finally, everyone should use this crisis to take a fresh look at their supply networks, take steps to understand their vulnerabilities, and then take action to improve robustness.