New Silk Road SME resilience

The tide of the coronavirus is about to hit its peak in Europe. However, instead of waiting to get washed away, Bremen based New Silk Road Network says now is the time for businesses to put their recovery plans into action, and avoid being left high and dry.

There can never be a good time for a crisis like this, but some times might be worse than others. That might well be the case for New Silk Road Network (NSRN), the start-up designed to bring together the smaller rail freight players on the trans-continental routes, and give them a collective voice in the logistics chain, covering the Asian, Middle Eastern and European markets. They are advocating a quick response and a quick return to operations, by planning now for the fastest possible recovery.

“For us, as a newly founded network, we have thought long and hard about what this means”, says Ziwei Liu, chief executive and co-founder of the network, who has swiftly adapted to changed circumstances, and seamlessly kept the network buoyant. “We can make the best out of the current situation and continue to deliver maximum value for our supporters. Thanks to the great start we had, we have quite a decent buffer of work to face in the coming months. I received confirmation from a new Chinese company just this afternoon”.

Make the best of it

Most businesses could be forgiven if their recovery planning did not include a scenario for the collapse of the world economic order. However, being more optimistic, Ms Liu says there is a window of opportunity, which businesses can access, if they have enough belief in their own ability to recover. She went behind the scenes to explain how they were making the Network function, while much of the world copes with lockdowns and reduced economic activity.

Ms Liu is chief executive and co-founder of the New Silk Road Network

“First and foremost, our team has switched to mainly home-officing, and is fully operational”, says Liu. She is confident that, with any necessary reconfiguring of work-place support services, membership operations can be handled as normal. Indeed, from the communications point of view, there should be no real difference for members. “All emails, calls, and enquiries will be handled without delay, and can still contact me directly using the same company channels”.

Recruitment will put up later

However, in a mirror of the spread of the virus, there is a lag in the effect the pandemic is having on membership recruitment. “It is an unfortunate, but unavoidable fact that our momentum in gaining new, and qualified supporters for NSRN has slowed down in the past weeks”, says Liu. “This situation will likely continue for a period of time”.

The process of selecting trustworthy and capable companies is primarily conducted on a face to face basis. “We rely heavily on referrals, but most of all in-person meetings with potential companies”, says Liu. “Sadly, with the current situation and travel restrictions, we have had to cancel or postpone many trips and appointments”.

Gearing up for the future

However, to make the most of the opportunities presented, existing members are getting the full attention of the NSRN team. The company is using the time to refine its own processes, so members present and future can benefit as much as possible. Among the initiatives, there’s a new website about to be unveiled, and a newsletter to help the Network maintain visibility and profile.

The Network is also continuing to gear up for their first planned Annual General Meeting in September in Warsaw. “This is part of our commitment to becoming a practical knowledge hub for the Belt and Road Initiative, and an effective marketing channel for our members and partners”, says Liu. “While everyone is practicing social distancing, we believe it is more important than ever to stay connected digitally. We hope that our efforts will provide some sort of value in these difficult times”.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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