A new high-level freight forwarders network will operate as a 'virtual multinational', with obligatory cooperation among members, a single worldwide brand, exclusive territories, and other advantages now enjoyed only by the biggest players.
Applications are being accepted to join the Conqueror Freight Network, in which carefully selected members will work with each other on at least 50% of their shipments and follow other rules to maximize the benefits of "disciplined cooperation", enabling them to compete against the largest forwarding groups.
"The idea is to mobilize the top rank of independents to work together as another 'mega-forwarder', while keeping their independence," explains Antonio Torres, a freight forwarding veteran and mastermind of the Madrid-based Conqueror network. "But this calls for high admissions standards and for intelligent, monitored cooperation among our members."
Each Conqueror agent will operate as a 'virtual branch office' in one of 564 cities in 175 countries, receiving freehands, routed cargo, and sales leads from other members. Like the multinationals, they will also benefit from global coverage, a payment-protected environment, collective negotiation with carriers, and internal discipline.
"Globalization has brought a steady increase in market share for a handful of multinational forwarders at the expense of even the best local firms," Torres says, citing a Transport Intelligence study showing that in 2008 just ten companies accounted for 42% of the global freight forwarding market. "The mega-forwarders have followed their customers, opening branches everywhere, while the independents have watched helplessly from the sidelines. But our members will be able to bid for the biggest contracts."
Torres, who has managed both small and multi-branch independents and also held key positions in multinational forwarder groups, believes that independents face a "cooperate or die" situation in today's market. He finds a parallel between Conqueror and Spain's world champion soccer team: "It was give-and-take cooperation that gave Spain the advantage in this summer's World Cup, more than the quality of the individual players."
The Conqueror brand is to be promoted worldwide as an attractive new alternative for shippers, who will no longer have to choose between the personalized service of the strongest local independent agents and the global reach and lower prices of a multinational forwarding group.
Applicants must undergo audits and supply proofs of solvency, strength, and good reputation. But those chosen will pay no membership fee for the first six months. "This will be a probationary period for both sides," explains Torres. "We have to be certain that every member is able and willing to add value to the brand, and bring business to the network."
"We're assuming that most qualified freight forwarders will want to join, since they risk nothing, and the rewards --more volume, worldwide scope, efficiency, prestige-- will be enormous. They keep their independence while participating in a global enterprise alongside the best agencies in the business, each one in its own exclusive territory. And there are other features --including valuable business tools-- to help our members grow and to reduce expenses and risks," Torres says. "They're the best, and they deserve the best."