E-commerce has been expanding across the globe in recent years, causing an unremitting demand for logistics services. Smart lockers, apart from courier service and self-pickup at stores, are a growing trend as the facilities allow users to pick up goods 24 hours a day, without waiting for deliverymen and opening hours of stores.
Among the entities seeking to capitalize on this phenomenon is Hong Kong-based Pakpobox, a startup that was founded in 2014.
Pakpobox Hongkong currently has about 3,500 compartment doors installed in 60 locations in Hong Kong, including shopping malls and residential areas. The startup handles more than 20,000 parcels every month. Hongkong Post is one of its clients.
The family of Pakpobox’s co-founder and chairman Sheldon Li has been running an international logistics company called Morning Express for 30 years.
Li’s entrepreneurial journey, however, was not purely built on the back of his family business.
Having realized the rising popularity of e-commerce and manpower shortage confronting Hong Kong’s logistics, and taking reference from overseas examples of smart lockers for parcel self-pickup, Li deemed the business as having huge potential. He thus suggested to his father he explore such market.
His father, however, disagreed with his idea, believing the family logistics firm should add more store locations, boosting the number of self-pickup locations.
As he and his dad held different views, Sheldon Li started his own business after enlisting some members on to his team.
Pakpobox has so far raised funding of close to US$2 million (around HK$15.6 million) since its establishment, with Japanese venture capital investment firm Infinity Venture Partners, cross-border e-commerce solutions provider 4PX Express and Hong Kong VC investment firm SQ Capital among the investors.
The startup currently has 15 employees in Hong Kong and 37 developers in mainland China. Last year, its revenue reached HK$10 million. Aside from the market in Hong Kong, it has expanded into into mainland China, Macau, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia and the Maldives, operating more than 18,000 compartment doors in total.
Alfred, aiming to gather power from the community and build a community culture, is the new brand of service rolled out by Pakpobox. Alfred, accompanied by a mobile app, partners with other businesses, thus upgrading Pakpobox’s smart lockers so as to provide users with services including return of goods, laundry, purchasing fruits and soup delivery. The new brand acts as a link between businesses and consumers to satisfy Hongkongers’ needs in daily life.
Take laundry as an example. Users can select the laundry service in the app and then put dirty clothes in the smart locker. Staff will regularly collect the clothes for washing. The users will be notified of picking up the clothes after the items have been washed.
Though business has been encouraging, the startup has has faced some challenges and troubles along the way. Matthew Ng, co-founder and chief executive, recalls an incident of being betrayed.
After Ng shared thoughts with some partners, they set up their own business, utilizing stolen ideas.
The incident taught Ng a lesson that he should protect himself by putting everything written down officially in black and white when handling all sorts of things, the CEO says.
Another problem the company faced was in relation to property and land use. According to Ng, there have been cases where the startup was refused permission to install its smart lockers.
Ng says a property management company has since then taken an initiative to reach out to Pakpobox for a partnership, and invited the startup to deploy its smart lockers.
Pakpobox expects to increase the number of locations of smart lockers in Hong Kong to 75 by the end of June.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 28
Translation by Jonathan Chong
[Chinese version 中文版 (1)]
[Chinese version 中文版 (2)]
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