Cohesio Group’s journey commenced just over six years ago. As the tech solutions provider gets ready to call Körber Supply Chain home, we talk people, challenging the norm, anticipating trends and why every successful business venture should be a mutual alignment of vision, culture and values with Nishan Wijemanne, CEO at Cohesio Group.
Nishan Wijemanne’s epiphany came in 2013. “The industry needed change and an influx of innovation,” he says. With a gap in the market for flexible solutions, to be truly on the cusp of technological innovation it is fundamental to pursue a growth strategy.
“Some of the larger players in this field were just concerned with retaining their major clients, without pursuing any kind of growth or innovation strategy. The tech on the market was only available to large enterprise customers. Even then, the process was long, costly and difficult to integrate,” Nishan Wijemanne, CEO at Cohesio Group says.
Nishan’s curiosity and drive for innovative solutions has led him and his core founding team to develop one of the most successful start-ups to come out of the Australian and New Zealand technology sector.
Starting as an idea scribbled on a napkin over lunch, fast-forward six years, and Cohesio Group now boasts a world-class portfolio of Australia and Asia Pacific’s largest retailers and logistics providers.
Rapid growth and a prominent market position in voice and Android Voice technology and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) for supply chain and retail led Cohesio to be acquired in 2019 by global logistics giant Körber.
Advanced technology solutions for the masses
In 2014, the logistics and supply chain industry were ripe for disruption. With the technology available largely unaffordable to the masses, and a high level of inconvenience through lengthy and costly implementation processes, technology options to power the mainstream were rare.
“There was not enough innovation happening in the market. Opportunities to push the boundaries and really make a difference in supply chain capabilities were passing people by,” Nishan says.
Traditionally the mindset in the supply chain has been that any tech solutions introduced in the distribution centre would be different to those instore. But as e-commerce takes up a larger share of the retail spend, the boundaries between retail and logistics are blurring. For Nishan, this presented the ideal opportunity for a new era of supply chain operations.
“We were the first to think of retail and supply chain as one. When you challenge that traditional approach of thinking you need one solution for the DC fulfilment and one for front of store or e-commerce fulfilment, you can create more visibility and tremendous value,” he says.
With many retailers now exploring ways to gain efficiencies from thinking of their entire operation as one, Cohesio was ahead of the trend. Chemist Warehouse’s recent same day Click and Deliver offering, powered by Cohesio’s award-winning ignito software solution is a good example of this approach.
The leading pharmacy retailer now picks online orders at the store most local to the consumer. This has enabled Chemist Warehouse to accelerate its pick, pack and collect turnaround time for an essential service during COVID-19.
This approach can also be seen with the latest deployment of Android Voice solutions for Kmart. The first project of its kind in Australia, Cohesio has worked with Kmart to establish a holistic solution that will help the retailer fulfil its online and instore orders in record time.
For Oliver Blombery, General Manager – Supply Chain at Kmart this kind of tech is set to transform Kmart’s e-commerce capabilities. He says by working with Cohesio’s inhouse software development team, Kmart has been able to gain a much greater ROI of its equipment spend as well as cope with a record rise in online orders.
Furthermore, fashion retailer Cotton On relies on Cohesio for its click and collect offering. Travis Robertson, Head of Multichannel Operations at the retailer says right from the outset Cohesio Group understood what they were trying to achieve. “By developing a click and collect solution, we were able to take its retail operations to the next level of digital success and customer experience,” he says.
Powering Australia’s largest retailers
From day one, Cohesio made its commitment to continuous improvement and innovation. Sourcing the brightest individuals from across Australia and New Zealand’s tech talent pool, the inhouse team works tirelessly to develop solutions for its array of customers.
“We have a pool of investment funds that are applied to developing and trialling new technology, and a team who thrive on innovation and learning new skills,” Nishan says.
Pioneering the launch of goods-to-person AMR solutions is another example of a team mindset that is ripe for innovation. Cohesio now boasts four world-class AMR solutions for logistics and retail operations including micro-fulfilment centres.
This is evident in Cohesio’s long term business partnerships with some of the region’s biggest brands including Wesfarmers, Cotton On Group, Chemist Warehouse, CEVA Logistics and Toll. Along with rapid expansion across the APAC region with customers throughout South East Asia.
People above processes and profits
At the heart of Cohesio is a commitment to people and partnerships. Nishan has built a team inhouse who exercise total dedication to their clients and customers.
“Our people are the face of success. During COVID-19 everyone has risen to the challenge of continuing to service our customers. Many of our clients have entrusted us with huge transformations as the world of retail has had to pivot to deal with major uplifts in online sales,” Nishan says.
This commitment to people is also integral to the way that Cohesio approaches its suppliers and customers. “Before we approach any project, we make sure there is a cultural alignment between us and the customer. This approach has been integral to our success and is the guiding principle behind what we do,” Nishan says.
Rizan Mawzoon, Head of Transformation at Cohesio Group says it’s a level playing field when it comes to customers. “When our customers work with us there are no boundaries or layers that need to be broken down. Our attitude is one of collaboration and partnership and we do whatever it takes to move projects and solutions forward,” he says.
Transparency and accountability are high on the priority list for Cohesio, and creating meaningful partnerships and relationships are the most crucial aspect of any project. This attitude enables the team to approach each project case by case, and if necessary, walk away from opportunities.
“If a customer doesn’t have the same vision as us, or we are not aligned culturally, it’s mutually beneficial for both parties to part ways. We work so closely with our customers, we become an extension of their business, so it simply will not work if there is a misalignment from the get-go,” Nishan says.
That being said, since its inception, Cohesio has not lost one single customer and has now formed strong relationships across some of Australia’s largest blue-chip companies, demonstrating that a partnership approach based on trust and collaboration is mutually beneficial for all parties.
Being bold pays off
What started off as a goal to disrupt the tech market and push the industry forward, has in six years turned out to be a rollercoaster ride for Nishan and the team. But for Nishan, this is just the beginning.
“We’ve only just scratched the surface of what can be achieved. Australia has a long way to go in terms of adopting technology. It’s the start of a new era for supply chain and retail, but we still have a long way to go in terms of educating and encouraging businesses to adopt new technologies. While it’s been a great journey so far, I’m excited to see what’s next,” he says.
Looking forward, Cohesio has an exciting future as proceeds with a global rebrand and integrates into Körber Supply Chain. With a global reach and a network of entrepreneurial solutions providers, Cohesio is well-placed to reach new heights and conquer uncharted territories now and well into the future.