Redbox — from local to international

Paradigm shifting local business takes huge strides.

Traditionally sending and receiving packages throughout the islands of the Maldives has been fraught with difficulty — even purchasing from the capital while you are island bound has had the major inconvenience of having to arrange your own transportation as outlets did not offer direct shipping. Vendors who wished to ship to Malé have had it even worse.

Redbox offers to change all that. 

Redbox is the first local courier service that operates both nationwide and internationally, catering to your logistic needs.

We sat down with Mr Hussain Shihad, Chief Operating Officer of Redbox to gain some insight into the paradigm shifting start-up.

Maldives Financial Review: Tell us about how it started?

Hussain Shahid: Redbox began in 2015 as RB International, when Avas Cart was launched as the first e-commerce platform in Maldives. Our main target was to launch a nation-wide delivery service reaching all of the Maldives. At the time we partnered with Air Asia as our first international affiliation. After Avas Cart dissolved, we wanted to maintain the brand name. So we registered under the name in the Maldives and became an independent courier company.

In 2018, we established a trade line with MyUS and with this partnership our brand became the first local brand to evolve into an International courier service. This was a huge achievement for the Maldives. We now have international franchises in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China and India and are currently negotiating opening new franchises in other countries.

MFR: What is the scope of the business?

Shahid: In the logistics industry, couriering is one of the aspects. Our scope extends from couriering to airfreight, sea freight and sea couriering as well. At the same time, we are also providing consolidation and fulfilment services. 

There is no limitation to what you can bring. It can be any weight, height or measure. However, our prices are subject to differ; based on custom charges. We have cleared and distributed cargo from the UAE so we even distribute bulk, large and heavy, cargo. 

Recently in In Malaysia we introduced Assisted Shopping. Our teams go to the vendors and send products photos to customers. We purchase the exact products they need enabling international purchasing from home.

Assisting Shopping is also customised for two types of customers. Business customers with established suppliers can have their goods dispatched to our warehouse straight from their suppliers and we ship to Malé right to the customer's doorstep. Businesses without established suppliers can opt to have us purchase for them and ship directly to their doorstep.

MFR: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?

Shahid: Like for other businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a real challenge for us. We ran multiple CSR programs with STO to distribute staples and food all over the country. Our International service was at the startup stage during this time. With most businesses forced to go online, and having a high percentage of self-employed entrepreneurs, it was the ideal time for us to offer startups and existing businesses a hassle-free, affordable, delivery option.

Couriering is mostly expensive if we consider other services. For startups and small businesses, with the high logistics charges, the final selling price of their products tend be driven extremely high. Our main target was to reach out to as many businesses as possible and help them lower their courier expenses. Alhamdulillaahi, we were able to achieve this. We are confident that our service offers the most competitive prices in all sectors. Regardless of which region, our prices are not subject to variations in international courier service through MyUS. The only variant would be the cost of goods being high and additional customs charges.

MFR: What are some challenges faced in starting up Redbox?

Shahid: The biggest challenge in Maldives for a startup in the delivery business is the geography. Being geographically scattered, transportation is not fully developed and some islands have inconsistent transportation routines.

The tourism sector is challenging since there are no direct transportation services for locals to transport certain goods unless they are a resort supplier. In order to provide a nationwide delivery scope, we were challenged in figuring out how to build relationships to exiting delivery channels. Since we are headquartered in Malé, service is very dependent on trust for agents residing in islands. We have 189 agents across the Maldives. Including Redbox franchise agents and local island agents. Our total workforce amounts to 250.  The reason we are the largest courier is because we ensured reach of service to all islands in Maldives as well as neighbouring countries.

Our routes are mainly via sea and air. Greater Malé and Hithadhoo are the only places we can utilise land transportation. When distributed through ferry and boats to islands, delays happen due to inconsistent routines. Since customers expect the parcel to be delivered the day it arrives in the warehouse, it is important to ensure safe and secure delivery through sea vessels.

MFR: How do you manage a geographically dispersed workforce?

Shahid: We maintain a network of channels on both social media and web-based platforms to connect and communicate with staff. We also have an internally developed, centralised system through which agents are notified — they will receive a call from central along with a text message to ensure they are aware of new packages arriving on their island. Overall, it is difficult to manage due to the nature of operation, but we have complete trust in our agents to get the job done and by far, it has been  a remarkable success.

MFR: What is your biggest success?

Shahid: It is our team. Everyone on the team since we established Redbox. Our turnover is incredibly low, and our working environment is vastly different to most places. We give priority to flexibility since everyone works under a lot of pressure. This work environment enables staff to ensure their needs are met — including leisure time during the hectic daily schedule. We have an area for gaming and coffee accessible to all staff. We do not fixate on time spent at work but rather apply a more flexible and lenient time schedule for staff to complete their work. Our team is incredibly young and energetic and they put in their 100% to work.

MFR: What is the next big milestone for Redbox?

Shahid: Our vision was to become the largest courier company in Maldives. We have achieved that within a short spectrum of time. We have leaped one step ahead by becoming an international brand. We are fortunate to have achieved such a big milestone earlier than we expected with the hard work and dedication of our whole team. It has been a great motivation for us to go that extra mile. 

Our next big milestone is to expand and establish franchise agents in as many countries over the next few years with the aim of enabling locals to purchase goods and ship from a broad range of areas across the globe. In the process we are also continuously working towards improving our business processes and speed of service. 

We also plan to establish our own sea fleet operating in the Maldives to address the current challenges causing delays in our service. We believe that if transportation is under our control, we will be able to cut short the lead time and deliver goods to customers more promptly.

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