Adaptability wins races: Easyfresh

Rafael Llerena, CEO, Easyfresh, Global Reefer Logistics Suppliers, tells us why it’s important to shake hands with business partners, and not just sign the dotted lines. 

 

By Paula Stefan

 

In just a decade, Easyfresh has emerged as one of the leaders of the logistics sector. Its founder, Rafael Llerena, a seasoned entrepreneur with 35 years of experience in shipping, spearheaded the company to turn it into a dedicated reefer logistics suppliers with a strong presence in Europe, the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. The unique business concept is gradually expanding in Asia, Africa and The Americas, serving top names in the industry, reputed shippers, receivers and retailers. Easyfresh has four reefer focused partners: TPG, Slovenia, Gulf Badr, Egypt, Frigobreda, The Netherlands and Easyfresh, Spain. London born Rafael inherits the nuances from his family business operation in conventional reefer shipping, which is over a hundred-year-old. Right from the beginning of his career in shipping, he has believed in breaking set norms in the reefer logistics arena, keeping a strong focus on customer service. We caught up with him recently to know all about the projects that the company has taken up, the business philosophy that he follows and why he believes it’s important to shake hands with partners.

 

What is the best advice you were given?
My father once advised me: Shake hands and make a deal. Often, people think that the only way to make a deal is to sign a legal document, but if people want to get out of the legal document, they are going to get out of it. It may sound odd, but he said that when you shake someone’s hand, you have to honour the deal that you have made and you have to do what you say you are going to do. If you made a bad deal, shame on you, but that’s the deal you made, so you are done.”Actually agreeing to something with somebody has to mean something. In our day-to-day business relationships within Easyfresh, all of our deals are initially done with a handshake. Ultimately, we do paperwork, but if you want to know what the film is going to be like, watch the preview, and that’s what the handshake means to me. This policy has inspired our Easyfresh Code of Conduct. We have to be trustworthy in a world invaded by the IoT, Blockchain, Social Media, EDIs. It is in the essence of mankind.

 

Are you fearful of the risks inherent in pursuing new technologies in the reefer logistics industry?
Let me put things in order. Innovation can be a company’s most powerful tool and the key driver of value. But, there are too many creative and edgy new ideas that will not succeed. Sometimes, I prefer to renovate rather than to innovate. Or simply wait for others (who are already taking the risks), observe and select those applicable and realistic options. These have to be valid, yes or yes, for our customers. If not, why to worry and enter a techno-driven nightmare or a crazy race to nowhere. We prioritise cold chain versus blockchain, which means investing time in creative, workable solutions within the cold chain, ultimately our task, versus fancy. In other words, as the wise man said: Let others invent! We in Easyfresh, we will adjust to those innovations going forward, as long as those are suitable for our clients. It sounds radical. In fact, your message is rather unusual vis-a-vis other drivers of the transport and shipping arena. We believe in what we do. We know we are one of the change agents within the temperature controlled cargo trade. As a former basketball player, I admire Michael Jordan and to quote him: Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. This is what we apply to our mission, which is to supply integrated logistics solutions for perishable cargo globally. We have strong faith in our unique business concept and put passion in what we do. Therefore, after many changes and adjustments, we count on the support from our customers such as Keelings, Bama, Auchan, among many others. 

 

Containerisation and consolidation of the liner shipping industry has changed the way in which food moves between supply and consumption markets. How do you adapt to it?
Adaptability is the key to success. Our company is structured in such way that we constantly adapt, as soon as possible. This is one of the greatest assets of Easyfresh versus slow reacting and heavy players. Specialisation is another one. Our focus leads us to keep our eyes open and fully aware and updated of our business frame and its related circumstances. We have identified the changes in the cold chain all over and perceive same as a totally different challenge in each and every country or location. And to answer your question, we see the carriers’ consolidation as a clear opportunity for 3PLs. I am not taking into consideration the lower reliability ratios of the shipping lines. As far as I remember the ratio is down to 66 per cent according to Seaintel. In fact, the bigger ships, the lesser ports of call, and subsequently less fruit or food friendly port operations are in the cold chain equation. Another relevant fact related to the containerisation is the trend to store less volumes at destination. Cargo goes directly to the retailers, or to its DC or a facility sub-contracted by the supermarkets, maybe to repack, re-label or for order-picking or capilar distribution. However, foodstuffs are not stored there for very long. It simply goes quickly to the shop or to the consumer in case of online sales. We are facing an F1 cold chain scenario. And we are happily driving a Mercedes, like Lewis Hamilton is doing.

 

What other changes do you perceive in the way food is distributed worldwide?
Talking long-term, FAO has predicted that by 2030 global food production has to raise 70 per cent. And this will create a number of uncertainties, but likewise a number of new opportunities for dedicated logistics players like Easyfresh. Do not forget facts such as new production and consumption areas, cultural differences, food safety, ugly fruit concept, trendy organics and bio products, aquaculture versus traditional fishing, pricing volatility of the agricultural goods, the crazy retail dynamics and the war within the supermarkets. Besides it, there is a trend for lesser subsidies to agriculture, for example, within the EU. This together with the change in dietary styles, all over, the Masterchef effect with new trends and products all over. A real complex and challenging scenario that only organisations with a high degree of specialisation focus and adaptability will be able to cope with. Opportunities don’t make appointments, so we will be ready and, back to F1,  trying to being the pole position, while these arrive.

 

I guess rumours are more exciting than truth, but what about those related to possible mergers, a sale or even buyouts?
No truth in it, at all. It is unavoidable to be approached by other entities, given our excellent development, Easyfresh trade mark value, customer base, business concept and geographical expansion. It is rewarding to be asked, even by rivals, though I want to be very clear: Easyfresh pretends to remain independent. Some future strategic alliances may happen, for example, with online retailers and other industry related players, as long as we hold the reins. 
Moreover, we are in the process of incorporating a holding company, Easyfresh Global Ltd that we will keep as an investment tool, and an umbrella for the whole organisation. We read the future by the past and we have learnt that there is nothing like creating the future. And we keep on swinging and enjoying what we do. 

 

Managing Editor

Nidhi Raj Singh is the Managing Editor of L'Officiel India. You can find her hidden behind a book when she is not writing or taking photos.