Founder Spotlight of Inteluck: Kevin Zhang
Founded in 2014, Inteluck provides contract logistics services using IoT (Internet of Things) and transportation management system technologies to companies in Southeast Asia. Their variety of logistics include domestic full truckload transportation (FTL), warehouse management, freight forwarding, cross border transportation, and other customized supply chain services, all of which have helped thousands of people during the COVID-19 pandemic; their implementation of precautionary BD strategy saved many of their customers from going bankrupt.
Inteluck’s core mission is to build the most efficient, data-driven end-to-end logistics service that maximizes and improves logistic efficiency by leveraging technology and data to create value for both the customers and vendors at minimum cost. While Inteluck found its start in the Philippines, the company’s headquarters are located in Singapore, with operations in other Southeast Asian countries, and have set up offices in China and other regions.
Inteluck — Background information.
Inteluck has been awarded second place in the “the Philippines’ Growth Champions 2022” by Statista and Inquirer. In the Philippines, they have achieved a revenue absolute growth rate of 4,587% and an average Y-to-Y growth of 261%. Additionally, Inteluck has been named one of the fastest-growing companies in the Asia Pacific this year by the Financial Times. They placed 10th out of 500 companies from Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Australia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and other countries.
The genius behind the company
Inteluck was founded by Kevin Zhang, a graduate of Nankai University in China. During his years in college, he dabbled in and found success in many areas. He developed two language-learning apps that taught Chinese, reaching success in only six months with a million downloads combined. He also attempted some writing, publishing an article in one of the top magazines in his college. Although Zhang sought out many opportunities, his trip to the Philippines made a significant impact on him to the point where he decided to start Inteluck without knowing the language, connections, and rules of the country. Zhang’s own values are reflected in the founding of Inteluck, as his beliefs in creating value for others’ lives are shown in his work.
Kevin with Inteluck’s employees
1. What inspired you to start your company in the Philippines? Why did you choose to enter this market?
In 2014, there was an occasional chance that I had a trip to the Philippines, and there I met the owner of a large logistics firm who was in great pain with their fleet management. Since it was my major, I was able to create an IoT platform to assist them in resolving the issue and save a lot of money. At the same time, while I was there, I noticed a few appealing factors about the Philippines, their large population, rapidly developing infrastructure, and economics. Most importantly, I really love the people here in the Philippines during my short stay, who are optimistic, kind, and family bonded. So I decided to stay and hope to use my skills to help not only large logistics companies but also most logistics SMEs to grow.
2. What was the most difficult part of establishing a company in a country where the rule of law was still developing?
The beginning stage was the most challenging but also the most delightful period, since I didn’t even know how to speak English, didn’t know anyone, and didn’t know any processes or rules. To learn and explore further, I purchased a used car and drove all over the Philippines, visiting numerous islands, observing and talking to many individuals in different businesses and locations, and had a near-death experience twice. However, all of these experiences helped me gain deep industry insights and accumulate our initial local market knowledge, experience, and network foundation.
3. Do you think Chinese culture makes you stand out as a foreigner in the market? If so, how does it cause advantages or disadvantages for you, and how do these things make you who you are today?
I’ve always believed that distinctions in culture or nationality are not important. We are all human, the same tiny creatures living on this planet and all coming from the same universe. Every individual is unique, we grew up in different cultures, however, humans have common personalities and characters. While I believe the things that make us different will be our team, who come from different nations, we all share the same values, which are kindness, diligence, responsibility, and dedication. Every single day, we can all benefit from each other’s expertise and experience in order to improve ourselves, and this has brought us the greatest advantages.
4. Can you tell us how COVID-19 has impacted your company? How and what did you do to restore or improve it?
Since our target market is offline economics industries, COVID had a huge impact on our customer’s business because of the incessant lockdowns, curfews, alcohol ban, and other regulations, over 80% of our customer bookings decreased by almost 70% during the pandemic. However, our overall sales numbers still grew more than double last year. One of the key reasons why we were able to advance is because we implemented a precautionary BD strategy from the beginning that diversifies our customers to different industries, even though most industries have been and are badly hit by the pandemic, few industries like E-commerce and Telecommunication are still growing, and we captured those opportunities.
“One of the key reasons why we were able to advance is because we implemented a precautionary BD strategy from the beginning that diversifies our customers to different industries, even though most industries have been and are badly hit by the pandemic, few industries like E-commerce and Telecommunication are still growing, and we captured those opportunities.” — Kevin Zhang, Founder of Inteluck.”
5. How do you plan to achieve the “cross-border story” of Inteluck?
So far, we already have cross-border operations under our land transportation services team, from Thailand to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. We also have international shipping operating both ways between China and the Philippines or Thailand. By expanding our services to new countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia, we will accelerate our cross-border services by international freight as well as between more ASEAN countries.
Inteluck — Shipment tracking system.
6. Among all your accomplishments at Inteluck, which one made you the proudest?
We helped and are continuously helping many of our trucker partners resist and avoid the market risk and grow without difficulty. During the pandemic, many large logistics enterprises were downsizing or going bankrupt, not to mention the small and micro truckers. I received many messages from our trucker partners stating that they appreciate Inteluck, since our bookings have helped them and their families a lot during the pandemic, otherwise, they would have shut down their business. Some of our trucker partners started from 2 trucks in 2020 and bought 12 additional trucks during the pandemic because of Inteluck. I believe that these are the proudest moments not only for me but also for all of our team.
7. Can you share the story of how you met Headline and what your experience has been working with us so far?
It was an unforgettable moment in my life back in 2015, I met Akio Tanaka and the entire Headline Beijing team when I almost gave up on Chinese market VCs at the time. I met more than 30 VCs in two weeks, but none of them had experience with the SEA market and some didn’t even know where the Philippines is located in. Akio’s rich knowledge, experience, sharp angle, and humble personality impressed me a lot. So far, we have had really great experiences working with Headline Asia. Headline Asia never pressures you but believes in you, and always offers all the help whenever you need it, it’s really our honor to be one of the Headline portfolios.
8. What’s something your parents told you that still influences you today?
Life is short, always create meaningful things and always help others within your abilities. My parents are simple and normal, they never expected me to be successful, but their kindness has been planted in my heart and influenced me up to now. They taught me there is no different level of human, the value of every individual is not defined by their wealth but their kind heart and personality. Every person on the planet should be respected, cherish your time to create meaningful things, and help more people within your ability regardless of small or big.
“Every person on the planet should be respected, cherish your time to create meaningful things, and help more people within your ability regardless of small or big.” — Kevin Zhang, Founder of Inteluck.
9. What’s next for Inteluck?
Foot on the ground, do our job well and solid every day, and create more value to our customer and vendor partners by fulfilling our responsibilities, with us continuing to grow more markets, hope we can create more value and help more.
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*This article was edited for clarity.