Westward Venture

First Published on Bunkerspot by Gabian Chew

10 August 2016 – Gabian Chew finds out how Ascenz Solutions, a Singapore firm which built its business on mass flowmetering technology, grew from local startup to global contender.

Singapore technology firm Ascenz Solutions to date has installed its proprietary remote fuel consumption monitoring system onto more than 350 vessels and sold over 1,000 mass flow meters to various maritime firms such as Evergreen, Pacific International Lines and Maersk Oil Trading.

The BW Ventures-backed company further secured funding of SGD 1 million ($740,000) in May from SPRING Singapore's Venture Debt Programme (VDP) jointly organised by banks OCBC, DBS and UOB to support Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Ascenz intends to expand physically in Europe and Africa this year with its own team and manpower supporting the regional operations and services.

'The Ascenz team is working hard to bring our products and services to the next level by developing first-of-its-kind technologies and an around the clock servicing and maintenance team,' Gary Ong, Corporate Director of Ascenz tells Bunkerspot.

'We are also growing our company functions and talent acquisition with recent hires to beef up capabilities in corporate planning, sales, marketing and communications.

'With constant revision and internal reviews to improve, complemented with funding and our continued revenue growth, we are realising these targets one by one in a steady but ambitious manner.

'While we are growing healthily, we have to budget carefully in funding our development work. We are fortunate that the Singapore government has numerous initiatives to support our development work with grants.'

However, Ong also attributes the success of the firm to its very first product and business - a remote fuel consumption monitoring system that is recently rebranded under Ascenz's 'Shipulse' suite of solutions.

Humble Beginnings

'The remote fuel consumption monitoring system was a tool earlier introduced for ship owners and crew members to monitor fuel consumption, after one of the founders realised there was a need for this from interaction with industry players in the workboat segment,' said Ong.

'The two co-founders, who are ex-Singapore Navy then went into a deep dive with their expertise in the maritime space and uncovered potential areas that the company can service.'

Ascenz's product later grew from the fuel consumption monitoring system to focus on ship performance management systems that include proprietary data acquisition systems, dashboards and an online portal that features analytical modules, complete with end to end service and technical support with quality assurance.

'The drive of the company was simple: to discover opportunities and develop products that meet market needs,' adds Ong.

'With the help of strategic investors and a strong advisory board, we were able to expand the product offering and team.

'Today, we have our product suite, Shipulse, which is our proprietary technology to help fleet managers and crew monitor, control and manage risks through data intelligence and smart shipping transformation.

'But this is not the end, we are constantly pushing ourselves to develop more advanced technology and applications that upgrade our offerings on a regular basis, thereby ensuring we stay on top of the market and competition.'

Fast Forward to the Present

Today, the 2008 established firm has expanded from its Singapore headquarters to having operations and agents in 13 other countries.

'And, we are still expanding,' says Ong who adds that the company's territory is going beyond Southeast Asia and Asia, into Europe and Africa.

'We see many opportunities in various geographies around the world, hence we need to put in effort seeking good partners for different countries,' states Ong.

'It is fortunate that we have a growing track record and that has allowed us to attract quality partners and this has led to joint ventures and agent relationships spanning different regions.'

'Ascenz has set its eyes on the global market and is working to penetrate organically and strategically by working with the right partners and with the support of our diverse clientele.

'This also applies to our business model and offerings, where we expand and advance with agility and responsiveness to various market callings.'

Venture into Nigeria

Ascenz started operations in Nigeria around the end of 2015 through local agent Citrans Telematics Solutions, which has since exclusively carried Ascenz products after dropping products from other similar vendors.

'The feedback is that not only as we price competitive, we also offer stronger technical and service support as compared to other companies,' explains Ong.

'Our confirmed clients are all going for the full remote vessel monitoring system,' he reveals.

'Since our inception into the Nigerian market around end of last year, we have gained much traction and interest from the local market with the support of our agent.

'We have successfully secured business for around 10 vessels from two initial customers within a span of a few months.'

According to Ong, Ascenz's solutions help prevent misreporting vessel fuel consumption while increasing procurement accountability - issues currently plaguing the Nigerian offshore industry.

'With our systems, charterers and operators are able to acquire and monitor operational data such as fuel consumption and engine load to effectively manage operational costs and optimise performance,' he notes.

The physical distance and time zone differences between the Singapore and Nigerian markets, meanwhile, make communication a challenge.

'As our agent in Nigeria is dependent on the Singapore HQ for remote assistance, training, quotation and drawings etc, our engineers often have to work odd hours to deliver services and support to them,' says Ong.

'Also, being a risk zone poses potential danger and challenges to the physical safety and well-being of team members who may be required to work there.

'However, we are still able to serve our clients effectively given that our agent is extremely proactive and willing to learn.'

Moving on, it appears that Ascenz will be expanding its product availability from the maritime sector towards other markets in Africa.

'Other than the push from the growth of the local market and economy, our agent is also proactive in going beyond maritime into potential markets, with initiatives in parts of the fuel value chain from storage to retail,' Ong tells.

'This boosts our confidence in the local market as being receptive to new technology and indicates great interest in expanding the applications of our solutions.

'The outlook is bright so far with the increasing amount of prospective request for quotations.'

As the testament to our track record, we have since installed our system onto 350 vessels and sold more than 1,000 mass flow meters to support our product offering. - Gary Ong, Corporate Director of Ascenz Solutions.