Having a cost-effective sales and marketing strategy can save the cruise industry a huge amount of time and effort. World Cruise Industry Review speaks to Mikko Varjanne, founder and chief operational officer of SHIPSU, about connecting industry buyers and sellers through a centralised sourcing platform.

Could you tell us a bit about SHIPSU? How did the idea of centralised sourcing come about?

Mikko Varjanne: The background of this company is in the Finnish shipbuilding cluster, which has been involved in shipbuilding and cruise vessels for decades. We might be IT-oriented – I have been involved in many projects involving web services and software as a service, business models and so on – but the core team knows the business of shipbuilding extremely well.

When I came to this business in 2005, I realised the cruise and shipping industry was a very old-fashioned and traditional business. As the world starts to change, the industry traditions and ways of working are quite stable.

In 2010, the situation in the Finnish shipbuilding cluster was extremely problematic. During the recession, the industry lost the Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas projects.

When the providers of shipbuilding services realised that they couldn’t sell their products and services, many of them started calling us because they knew we were selling refurbishment services directly to the shipyard owners and working on the shipyards around the world.

Of course, we were selling our own products and services. These companies getting in touch needed to do their own marketing rather than rely on us.

This made me realise that, as an industry, we need a new way of marketing, a way of presenting our products and services on a shared platform, something that could bring together the providers and buyers of the marine industry globally.

This became my mission: to gather everybody in one marketplace where the sellers, the providers of services and their products could show their compatibility, and where buyers could find what they need.

So how does that work? Can you give us an example?

Say a cruise operator gets in touch to tell us they need to find maritime-certified mattresses for their cabins. Usually, this would be difficult; there aren’t too many mattress manufacturers out there that have the correct maritime industry specifications.

What we can do is use our platform to find out about the companies that provide this service. Somebody from our team can then notify those companies about an offer – what type of mattress is wanted and how many are needed, for example. We can do this in less than five minutes in a cost-effective way without an expensive middleman.

You don’t have to make any unnecessary investments in your own software; we have a fully functional trading system that works as a link between the buyer and the provider, all the way from the request for quotation to the purchase order, depending on the needs of the user. I’d say that is pretty efficient.

We’re not just a static web-based service; we actually notify the sellers whenever there is an open request by someone sourcing a service. We have a lot of knowledge about what exists in the market, and we have the tools – the longlists, the shortlists and all the other information – about who is selling what.

Do you see the industry’s demands changing in terms of centralised sourcing?

At SHIPSU, we don’t just want to be a one-stop shop for buyers and providers to use and see products – we also have a number of interesting tools in our R&D pipeline for different areas of shipbuilding, shipping
and on-board operations.

The online marketplace for marketing, sales and sourcing brings together providers and buyers from the global marine industry. The service offers the possibility to market and sell products to the end buyers without commission or unnecessary middlemen.

Solutions for sourcing and sales

The user can choose a buyer or provider profile depending on their needs in the maritime industry. SHIPSU offers a marketplace to which the providers can insert their product, service and company information. From this shop-like environment on the web, the buyers can source easily.

To avoid unnecessary investments in your own software, we offer a fully functional trading system that works as a link between the buyer and the provider, all the way from the request for quotation (RFQ) to the purchase order, depending on the needs of the user.
To ensure safe trade, SHIPSU requires users to register, meaning that the company’s field of business and references are viewed before verification.

Provider Premium profile – for marketing and sales

The profile allows maritime product and service provider companies to make their sales easier and faster, while increasing their online visibility. Provider companys simply insert products and services to SHIPSU Market with references, certificates, specifications, videos, pictures and other additional information. From the market, buyers are able to browse and search for the best solutions.

The provider can get direct RFQs through SHIPSU or via e-mail and is able to quote through the system − all with an annual fixed rate price, without limitations on trades and without hidden costs or commissions − simply and safely.

As a provider you can also test SHIPSU’s Provider Lite version, which is free, yet not as effective at boosting your marketing and sales as the Premium version.

Buyer profile – for better sourcing

The profile encompasses marine industry buyers such as shipyards, architects, fleet managers, and cruise and shipping lines. For these companies it is a free sourcing tool that gives them access to a database of over 2,500 service and product provider companies with over 10,000 products and services.

With a few simple steps you can send requests for multiple companies without revealing your contact information right away. This also means that you are free from unnecessary spam when sourcing.

If you are unable to find what you are looking for, you can always make an open request for the providers to answer to. SHIPSU sourcing is optimised sourcing for lean-management, meaning you can save money from your company’s sourcing budget as there are no hidden costs. The easy and quick-to-use marketplace will reduce the time and money spent on sourcing.