Author: Nicholas Demetriou, VP Marketing, essDOCS
27 Aug 2015
Technology has reshaped the global economy to such a degree that commercial processes that were once thought revolutionary are fast disappearing from existence. Where once the vast majority of transactions required paper of some form or another, the transition to digital means that many of these same tasks can be completed using a paperless, electronic alternative. This is certainly the case in most developed countries and numerous emerging economies, where major technological advancements are forever reshaping how businesses communicate, operate and transact.
Nowhere else is this transition more essential than in the trading business, where the shift to paperless is gaining major traction, rapidly expanding both in scale and scope. Whether relating to the digitisation of critical shipping and trade documents, such as bills of lading, or the emergence of digital trade finance in the banking space – in addition to the automation of countless other processes relating to day-to-day trade operations across the entire supply chain – growing regulatory and pricing pressures have pushed the industry, increasingly, to paperless alternatives in order to comply fully with new legislation, maintain a profit, and fulfill environmental obligations.
We definitely embrace the disruptive aspect of what we do, which fuels a company ethos centred on transformation and innovation. Why settle for the way it’s always been done if it can be done better?
To realise these opportunities requires cooperation with leading service providers. It’s here, more than ever, that essDOCS enters the equation. “Our solutions enable companies to automate and accelerate their trade operations and finance processes. This has increased productivity and significantly reduced costs for these organisations. Global trade and finance are certainly cyclical industries, heavily affected by global economic developments. However, the significant cost benefits arising from our solutions offset negative economic circumstances to a great extent – i.e. the very cost-saving nature of our offerings often incentivises companies to adopt our solutions in difficult economic times”, stated Alexander Goulandris, CEO of essDOCS.
“Having said that, decreased customer budgets during an economic downturn will often impact revenue, and we have been negatively impacted when companies have made strategic decisions to shelve all non-core projects”, Goulandris added. Rarely named among the most prevalent concerns weighing on companies in the present climate, the impact of paperless trade is significant nonetheless, particularly for those that have been slow in their digital uptake.
Changing the game
Driven by a mission to digitise global trade and finance processes, essDOCS aims to transform an industry in the midst of change and to assure stakeholders of the benefits of switching to paperless. From world-renowned Fortune 500 companies down to forward-thinking SMEs, the company’s flagship solution, CargoDocs, is trusted worldwide by close to 3,000 companies. Serving importers, exporters, traders, ship operators, banks and more, the company’s solutions enable users to automate trade processes and reduce working capital requirements, while also improving compliance and visibility considerably.
With a presence in 65 countries around the globe, and a user base that stretches across some 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies, essDOCS “electronically links physical shipping and logistics to the financial supply chain, facilitating straight-through processing, compliance with industry-accepted best practices, improved cargo shipping operations, and automation of trade finance and payments”, said Goulandris.
Speaking on what differentiates essDOCS from competitors, Goulandris added: “essDOCS was founded with the vision of revolutionising century-old paper shipping and trading processes.” Crucially, investors have bought into the company’s 25-year plan, confident it can guide the transition to paperless trade.
Innovative technology and highly professional delivery methods also play a crucial part in providing suitably flexible solutions to replace the paper form, and all while providing for what is essentially a very conservative industry. “We definitely embrace the disruptive aspect of what we do, which fuels a company ethos centred on transformation and innovation. Why settle for the way it’s always been done if it can be done better?” According to Goulandris: “This is not disruption for the sake of disruption, but quite the opposite. It’s an approach informed by one of our core company values: engagement. That is, interacting actively and consistently with all stakeholders to achieve simple, long-term solutions to complex customer problems.”
The right approach
“Over the last few years our competitors have started to copy some of the above approaches – which, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery”, said Goulandris, who has been instrumental in essDOCS’ growth story.
“We believe that integrity, respect and professionalism are key to our success. We focus on the simplest solutions and on managing change across our customers’ global operations”, Goulandris claimed. What differentiates essDOCS’ ethos from others in the industry is the company’s effort to cultivate an environment that focuses on teamwork, the development of lasting relationships, and personal growth. “It’s crucial to provide the flexibility and self-authority to enable people to deliver their best”, added Goulandris.
This focus on people feeds through into the company’s sustainability initiatives, of which it has many. “Externally, our solutions eliminate paper and printer cartridge use, as well as courier transport from global trade processes. As a result, companies embracing our solutions benefit from a significant reduction of their carbon footprint”, said Goulandris. “Internally, we take giving back very seriously and, as such, participate in several sustainability initiatives.”
Speaking on the company’s workforce, Goulandris noted that 20 percent of employees started their first job with essDOCS, while 10 percent started as interns. “We believe in bringing in and nurturing talent, and have developed the essDOCS Academy – our in-house training platform – to assist in this mission.”
Looking to the future, the company will take the next two years to expand its Greece, Singapore and Taipei offices, and, in doing so, allow “qualified, eager and talented individuals to find satisfying work in their hometown”.
As far as essDOCS’ wider ambitions to boost paperless trade are concerned, the company will continue to occupy the top spot and do more to quicken the transition to digital. “We are seeing a major mindshift across the industry, particularly over the last two years”, said Goulandris. “There is a real willingness to embrace digital processes, backed by real results and customer success stories”
For Goulandris, this is the beginning of a very exciting chapter, as he sees two key themes taking shape in the industry. “The scale and scope of paperless is expanding beyond e-docs into further automation and integration. On the trade facilitation side, data integration with government single windows and customs authorities is becoming a reality. And in the banking and finance space, banks and their corporate clients are adopting FinTech solutions that enable them to automatically combine shipping data with innovative trade finance instruments, such as the Bank Payment Obligation.”
“In a world of big data, social media and cloud technology, the shift to paperless, digital processes is inevitable and irreversible.” As Goulandris put it: “The ongoing journey to paperless trade is certainly at its most exciting juncture yet.”