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How He Built AirAsia’s Logistics Arm Teleport From Scratch In Singapore


Phan Chee Hau has had a vast experience working in the telecommunications industry, working for giants like Huawei and Maxis.

After completing his Master’s degree with Monash University in 2017, he was offered a role by the then-CMO of MyRepublic, Shivendra Singh (Shiv), to help launch and manage its mobile business. That was how the Malaysian ended up working in Singapore.

Shiv has since grown to become a “dear friend and mentor” to Chee Hau. A year ago, Shiv had recommended him to Teleport CEO Pete Chareonwongsak when they were looking for someone to help launch the delivery business in Singapore.

Established in Kuala Lumpur in 2018, Teleport is the logistics venture of AirAsia Group of airlines. It was originally known as RedCargo Logistics before it rebranded in 2019.

Teleport was initially launched as a Movement Control Order (MCO) initiative to support local businesses, but eventually the airline wanted to lend support on a longer term basis by offering businesses with the lowest commission model in town.

Growing Teleport In The Thick Of A Pandemic

“Without much thought, I joined Teleport at lightning speed in May 2020 amidst the circuit breaker (period),” said Chee Hau, who now serves as the company’s Growth Manager.

“To be very honest, I didn’t know what to expect of a Growth Manager when I came onboard. But now I realised (that) it’s pretty much everything to get our business running as we’re still new in Singapore.”

When he first joined, Teleport didn’t even have an office in Singapore so he had to work from his rented HDB room.

teleport delivery
Image Credit: Teleport

On his first day of work, he was asked by the then-Growth Manager to kickstart deliveries in Singapore the very next week. Basically, he needed to find both merchants and delivery partners in a span of 10 days.

“It literally scared the hell out of me (because) we had nothing in Singapore (yet),” recounted Chee Hau.

“We had to train those drivers to use our app through Zoom sessions, and I had to learn how to manage deliveries from colleagues who are based in Kuala Lumpur as I had never done operations before, let alone logistics, which was a new thing for me.”

Chee Hau pretty much hustled alone to make things work. He did everything that was needed to be done for the deliveries to happen, and “magically” managed to achieve it by utilising any available resources that he could get his hands on.

He leveraged on their business partners in Malaysia, airline ground staff in Singapore, and all the connections on their social media platforms to get started.

When it came to growing the team, Chee Hau said that the whole process of interviewing, recruiting and onboarding was done remotely through Zoom. All his new team members who joined also worked remotely from home to manage their delivery operations.

Just like how Google, Apple and Amazon started in a garage, Teleport Singapore started in a HDB.

– Phan Chee Hau, Growth Manager at Teleport Singapore

Beneath this optimism that they could one day grow to be as successful as the tech giants, Chee Hau confessed that he was actually going through a very tough time back then. He had lost his beloved father on the same day Teleport offered him the role.

Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions however, he couldn’t travel back to Malaysia to attend his funeral.

Regardless, Chee Hau held on strongly to his commitments with Teleport and worked every single day for three months without taking any days off. He was determined to build and strengthen the delivery business — this was his way of making his late parents’ proud.

Conquering The Delivery Space In SEA

teleport airasia
Image Credit: Teleport

“Teleport offers door-to-door logistics services anywhere in Southeast Asia,” explained Chee Hau.

It has exclusive access to AirAsia’s network of more than 125 cities and 10,000 weekly flights across the Asia Pacific and 164 countries via its interline partners to North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

One of the core business areas of Teleport is leveraging technology to consolidate the end-to-end logistics process (ie. belly space, first-mile, fulfilment to last-mile), which is critical for a seamless customer experience.

Teleport started its first Instant deliveries in Singapore in May 2020, just a few days before the circuit breaker was lifted. This was also about 1.5 months after the company started door-to-door on-demand deliveries in Kuala Lumpur.

It currently offers two types of delivery services: a 60-minute “Instant” delivery service, and a four-hour “Flash” delivery service.

According to Chee Hau, their pool of merchant customers include central kitchen operators, florist marketplaces, and entrepreneurial businesses that are highly dependent on a reliable logistics delivery partner for their daily operation needs.

“We deliver a wide range of items locally in Singapore; from takeaway food like dim sum and hawker ‘zi char’, to flower bouquets and cheese cakes. Some of the brands that you might be familiar with — Flower Chimp, Shake Farm, Ayam Penyet, Wingzone and Popeyes — are all powered by Teleport,” he added.

In the upcoming weeks, Teleport will also be starting on international deliveries with a delivery time of under 24 hours. It is currently operational in 77 cities across Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

They Weren’t The First, But They Can Be The Best

Like many other startups, Chee Hau acknowledged that they did not have all the “bells and whistles of technology”. The hugely lean operating model also meant that they were mostly a ‘one leg kick’ operation.

teleport tony fernandes
Tony Fernandes, AirAsia CEO / Image Credit: Teleport

I remember just a week into our launch, drivers said our app was crappy. Potential merchants (also) said we were at least three years late into the industry.

But just as Tony Fernandes (AirAsia CEO) said, when the airline started, our two planes were old and we were laughed at. We weren’t the first to start a low-cost airline, but we learnt from others.

– Phan Chee Hau, Growth Manager at Teleport Singapore

He added that it’s no magic for airasia to grow into what it is today; the same goes for Teleport.

Instead of complaining about their obstacles, they found their ways around with critical thinking and problem solving. They also automated the bulk of the repetitive and manual processes to help different teams in different countries work together.

Today, Teleport has over 370 staff and expects to expand to approximately 500 staff by the end of this year.

When asked what’s the turning point that helped to spike Teleport’s growth, Chee Hau cited the launch of airasia food in Singapore.

He reasoned that the initial struggle for Teleport is getting enough volume of orders to fuel the recruitment of the airasia delivery team. However, just days after the airasia food launch here, they received thousands of applications.

They had to conduct training sessions via Zoom for close to 800 of them within a span of three days. Chee Hau described it as a “remarkable achievement” for the team, as normal training sessions usually consists of only about 20 people.

As Teleport now powers the deliveries for airasia food in Singapore too, they have over 1,350 registered riders and drivers to date, who all form part of the airasia delivery team.

They will continually hire more to expand the team as airasia strives to better meet the growing delivery demands in Singapore.

This Is Just The Beginning For Teleport

teleport delivery
Image Credit: Teleport

Commenting on the growth of Teleport thus far, Chee Hau said that they have witnessed an average growth rate of 235 per cent month on month.

(We hope) to keep our deliveries above 10,000 a month. Some may think it’s a trivial number compared to the larger players, but we are just getting started. We are just getting our jet engines warmed up and preparing for take-off.

– Phan Chee Hau, Growth Manager at Teleport Singapore

On that note, Chee Hau stressed that their entry to Singapore is not a sign that they want to compete with the big boys here and wrestle for a slice of the delivery pie. Their goal is to simply provide a better value for businesses, along with affordable, transparent rates and fast delivery speeds.

In fact, according to CAPA – Centre for Aviation, Teleport is now the second largest cargo airline group in Southeast Asia (by capacity) after Singapore Airlines Cargo as of July 2019.

During the financial year 2019, Teleport delivered US$113.7 million in revenue and US$66 million in 2020.

Despite the decline in revenue, Teleport posted a positive EBITDA of RM17 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 although they were badly affected by the decline in cargo capacity due to closed borders. The positive EBITDA was attributable to its transformation in 2020 from a predominantly cargo logistics company to become a key last-mile delivery player.

For 2021, it had kicked off the first quarter by being appointed to deliver future vaccines arriving in Kuala Lumpur to East Malaysia, and a partnership with McDonald’s Philippines to be its delivery service provider for Metro Manila.

Moving forward, Teleport will continue to expand its partnership with airlines to strengthen its logistics, while working on converting selected passenger aircraft to cargo-only freighter planes.

Besides Singapore, it will also be expanding its door-to-door delivery services in key cities in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Featured Image Credit: Teleport / AirAsia





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