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Why We Founded Opply – an Interview with CEO Helen (Part 2)

A little while ago we posted the first half of an interview with our co-founder and CEO, Helen Murphy, here on the Opply blog. 

Today, we’re picking up the conversation with her to talk all things Opply and Supply Chain Tech.

How is Opply’s technology unique in its approach to solving the supply chain problem?

I should begin by establishing that, within supply chains, there are three core issues:

  • Sourcing supply
  • Managing supply
  • Financing supply


To tackle sourcing, we’ve created the world’s biggest and highest quality database of suppliers globally. We have over 10 million suppliers in our database; we have all of their details and we know exactly what they do, so we can instantly match buyers to the right supplier.

This enables buyers to find relevant suppliers almost instantly. Before Opply, this process – which is an essential first step – would take an average of four months.

I should also mention that a big part of the tech that underpins Opply is data. Every single request that comes through our platform, every single order, feeds our algorithm. So it starts to learn exactly who you are as a buyer: what sort of things you order; it can predict when you’re going to go out of stock; it knows when you should and shouldn’t sell things.

And so our technology actually starts to help you manage your business as well. The benefits are ongoing.

Once we’ve matched buyers with suppliers, we also ensure that they can all communicate on one platform together. Before Opply, there were countless emails, phone calls, and separate invoices. Now they can keep all of their correspondences on one platform. We’ve even integrated with sample email systems, so suppliers can actually reply in their familiar way by email or whatever else and that will automatically translate onto Opply’s platform. This way, no one ever actually has to step off the platform to keep track of communications.

Another challenge with managing supply is waste – something which amounts to an astonishing $1 trillion problem. This waste generally comes from bad forecasting; a small brand has an average 20-30% forecast accuracy, so 70% of a given product often goes to waste. So when a brand realises they’re not going to sell this 70% of a product, we can use Opply’s technology and extensive user database to figure out who can buy that. This means we can transform buyers into sellers, who can sell on their over-ordered, poorly-forecasted stock. And so we can create a circular economy within the whole market which both reduces waste and increases profit – a win for everyone involved! 

Last, but by no means least: how do we tackle finance? In the B2B world, there isn’t an end to end financing solution that exists. There’s lots that exist where you can pay by credit cards in Europe, or you can invoice within North America – but there’s not a single provider that does card payments and bank transfers globally, in B2B. So we’re tackling that as well, as an industry. This means that half our business is actually payments. We make the payment processes so much easier for brands and suppliers who obviously use our platform from countries all over the world.

 

It would be great to understand how exactly you measure your success within the supply chain industry?

I would say our success as a company is measured by our brands’ and suppliers’ success. One of our big missions is to ensure that less brands fail because of supply chain problems. And if we can make that happen, then I will go to sleep happy at night. And to accomplish this our goal is to digitise this end to end consumer goods supply chain worldwide. 
 
There are also some other key factors we consider: the time it takes brands to order from suppliers, the quality of the goods, and the transparency of their production journey. And we aim for brands to produce consistently high quality goods – something we actually measure through reviews rather than certifications. There are so many certifications out there, but as we saw from programmes like Seaspiracy, certifications – like Fairtade – can often be nonsense, right? 
 
Once orders have successfully made it from A to B, brands get to review all of those aforementioned factors. And we consolidate that feedback. I guess, that’s the beauty of Amazon, right, is you can generally trust other brand reviews versus certification. 
 

Speaking of certifications, I was wondering whether you have considered pursuing an Opply certification that brands could use to signify to people that they are all the things you stand for: sustainable, transparent, and of the highest possible quality?

I think an Opply certification could certainly be on the cards. This aspiration is why we felt like we have to be involved in the actual order – it’s why we’ve really inputted ourselves in the full purchase flow, from producer to consumer. Unless you are directly involved in that chain, there’s always something hidden and it quickly becomes impossible to achieve that true transparency. We think that by digitising this whole chain and obtaining full transparency by being involved at every stage, we will be able to say with certainty that a given product was created sustainably – and that it’s a quality product.

 

So, before we wrap this up, I have one final question for you: where do you see the future of Opply over the next 3-5 years? 

As I have mentioned, our mission is to fully digitise the supply chain for consumer goods. In five years time, that’s where we would love to be. And obviously, it will take a lot of work to achieve this, because there are 25 million brands and 14 million suppliers worldwide. In order to digitise all of this there has to be a deep tech solution to deal with the volume of customers who all think very differently. For example, a farmer thinks very differently to a BTC brand owner. Ultimately, we really need some deep learning tech in order to overcome that. 

If we can fully digitise the consumer goods supply chain, we can achieve a more transparent, cost-effective, sustainable supply chain marketplace which will result in higher quality products as well as a greatly reduced carbon footprint for brands across the globe.

The picture Helen conjures for the future of supply chains is a potentially very bright one. It seems that, through Oppy’s technology we can hope to see supply chains become less of a problem and instead become part of the solution. A fully digitised supply chain could not only solve financial problems relating to cash-flow, but it could also solve ethical and environmental problems too. Helen’s “people before business” mantra rings true when you realise just how many individual lives – from farmers to small business owners – could be improved by Opply’s technology. 

For further insight into Helen’s professional journey, you can find her LinkedIn profile here.

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