COVID-19 SPECIAL

Going with the Flow to ride logistics wave

Flow Services co-founders (from left) Michael Wang, 39, Marvin Tan, 39, and Melvin Tan, 33. Flow is helping F&B firms in warehousing and storage issues, and handling inefficiencies in supply chains and deliveries.
Flow Services co-founders (from left) Michael Wang, 39, Marvin Tan, 39, and Melvin Tan, 33. Flow is helping F&B firms in warehousing and storage issues, and handling inefficiencies in supply chains and deliveries.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

While others are holding back on new ventures because of Covid-19, Mr Melvin Tan and two business partners decided to strike out and start a food logistics and warehousing business.

As the pandemic forces companies to restructure and rethink their operations, there has been a surge in demand for logistics and warehousing providers, said Mr Tan, 33, who used to work in a multinational food and beverage firm.

"Many companies will be consolidating or expanding during this period, so that is where we come in," he said of Flow Services, which was registered last month and will serve mainly small and medium-sized enterprises.

Flow currently has four clients. It will focus on helping F&B companies in various aspects, including warehousing and storage issues, and handling supply chain and delivery related inefficiencies.

The company, which has five staff, also has tie-ups with existing warehouses to provide storage space. For example, some F&B chains might have to close outlets due to lower footfall. Flow can help to transport or store their kitchen equipment in larger warehouses at better rates.

He and co-founders Marvin Tan, 39, and Michael Wang, 39, pumped about $50,000 into the firm.

Bigger companies in the sector usually make use of economies of scale to build efficient backend logistics operations, said Mr Tan.

"We believe the smaller players should be able to enjoy good backend process flows too, if not they will never be able to overcome that hurdle. Our goal is to help them on their transformation journey," he said.

Also seeing the increasing demand in the delivery sector during the pandemic is British national Oksana Scott, 38, who revamped her Singapore-registered visa processing firm into a courier service when the circuit breaker started in April.

Global Singapore, which is also a travel agency, started in 2012, and among its functions, specialises in visas for travellers to Russia. As tour and visa activities dwindled in early February, Mrs Scott decided to provide delivery services to try to retain her five employees, who are local.

"We had these two reliable couriers who were experienced, and the rest could help process the orders from home," said Mrs Scott, who relocated to Singapore in 2010 when her husband came here for work.

She anticipated the demand for delivery services to increase, given that many people would be working from home, and tapped existing clients to let them know of the company's new services. "After we got approval for our guys to be out and about during the circuit breaker, we helped our clients to deliver things like laptops, phones, documents and small packages," she said.

 
 
 
 

To cover the salaries of her local employees, she relied on government assistance and earnings from the courier services. However, the delivery services stopped last month when one of the couriers suffered a stroke and the other left to join another company.

But Mrs Scott has once again pivoted to a new focus, and her three remaining staff now do translation and legalisation services.

"We are waiting for the courier to recover... My employees are part of my family. I can't let them go without trying my hardest," she said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2020, with the headline 'Going with the Flow to ride logistics wave'. Subscribe