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Movinga’s boss speaks to The Mover

May 13, 2016
Editor Steve Jordan spoke to Movinga’s Director Bastian Knutzen to find out more about the company and how it operates.

In our March edition we reported on the extraordinary case of Movinga, a German-based start-up removals company which has obtained US$25 million in Series B funding from venture capital firm Index Ventures and claims to be Europe’s fastest growing removals company.

After more than forty years in the moving industry I must admit to being more than a little sceptical about Movinga’s claims. Not about the finance, though that is remarkable, but after launching in the UK in September last year Movinga says it’s completing more than 1000 moves a month; that I do find hard to swallow, especially as the website was not working at the time. 

Following our article in March, I asked Movinga for an interview and Director Bastian Knutzen was more than happy to oblige. I began by asking him how he’d managed to convince a banker to cough up 25 million bucks to someone without any experience of the industry to start a removals company. 

“I worked in Internet marketing for a number of years and gained a lot of experience working around the world in places like Russia, South America and South East Asia,” said Bastian. “I moved house eight times in three years and although the moves were carried out very well by the removal companies, the process of getting an accurate quotation involved people visiting the house to do a survey, which seemed to me expensive and slow.  One of my moves was from Berlin to Paris and although my overall customer experience was good I had to pay for the truck returning to Berlin empty. I was sure that by taking the process online and using my Internet marketing and data skills we could reduce costs and avoid empty runs." 

Bastian and his co-founder Chris Maslowski obviously impressed their backers with their business model and subsequently secured the finance they needed to make their brainchild a reality. 

The company currently employs over 400 staff and, although it initially had a fleet of over 100 liveried vehicles it is now in the process of selling those and will, in future, operate solely through suppliers. It also has a network of franchised partner companies working under the Movinga brand in Italy, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany. Packing materials and operatives’ clothing carrying the Movinga brand are supplied by Movinga to its franchisees. According to Bastian growth is currently running at 100% per month! 

To ensure high standards, overseas work is carried out by partner companies who are all FIDI members: unfortunately for contractual reasons, Bastian was unable to reveal the identities of any of Movinga's partners. 

Having worked for 20 years as a salesman for overseas removals I was interested to know how Movinga's algorithm and telephone estimating system handled that side of the business.  I remember vividly the sleepless nights when I thought I might have underestimated the cube and have to suffer the consequences and expense of an overflow. Getting it wrong with a domestic move is bad enough, but dropping a clanger with a move to somewhere like Beijing or New Zealand is an absolute nightmare.   

"So far for us it has never happened," said Bastian. "But if it ever did we would pick up the bill and our partner company would not be expected to pay for an additional shipment." Clever stuff - much cleverer than me!  I was sceptical about never having an overflow but Bastian assured me it was true and said he'd ask his operations manager to contact me to explain in more detail how the system works and maybe get some input from me about my experiences of doing it the old fashioned way.  The call is scheduled and, if there are any revelations, I will report in a future issue.  

As with domestic moves, Movinga's software collects data from every move and effectively learns to allow for discrepancies between what is stated by the customer on the inventory and what turns out to be the true cube, so the more moves they complete the more accurate the estimates become. The system isn’t fully automated and staff at Movinga contact the customer by telephone to verify the information before quoting a price.  

I did a little Internet research looking for customer reviews about the Movinga service.  On 24 March, when I checked, the Trust Pilot site had 27 customer reviews for Movinga, 16 of which were 5-star and only five were one star (one of those was from another moving company having a grumble). If these are genuine, and I have no reason to suspect they are not, it seems that most customers are happy with the service provided. 

Like me, I expect many of you reading this will find Movinga’s claims hard to believe. But, the world changes and there is no doubt that intelligently using data and computer technology can improve efficiency in any business and the removals industry is no exception. Venture capitalists are not fools and the fact that so much funding has been obtained for a start-up company clearly shows that in their opinion at least, Movinga is set to succeed. Time will tell, but if this is the future of removals it will shake the industry to its core just as Uber has in the taxi business and easyJet and Ryanair did in the short-haul airline industry 20 years ago. 

Movinga has told me that it is actively looking for new suppliers especially throughout France and Italy, in Eastern Germany and the Ruhrpott, and in all regions of the UK especially in southern England and Yorkshire.   

The company supplied me with a copy of its Supplier Framework Agreement which runs to 11 pages.  It is written in clear English (not baffling anyone with legalese!) but does include some strict conditions for suppliers which should be studied carefully before committing.  These conditions include a scale of fines for late arrival; the requirement to carry a live link to Movinga on your website; and restrictions on trading with companies considered to be competitors.  

Any company wishing to apply to become a Movinga supplier can get more information by emailing (.de/.it/.fr as applicable); a partner manager will then get in touch.  My recommendation, however, is to seek legal advice and not to sign anything until you are absolutely certain that you are content with the conditions of the agreement. 

If Movinga proves to be a success others will inevitably follow.  In fact some traditional moving companies are already making greater use of online systems to streamline their services.  Interesting times! 

Extract from The Mover’s March issue 

Movinga customers are able to obtain an instant quotation for their move online by simply entering key information such as the number of rooms, the number of people in the household and of course the date and addresses of the properties involved. Clever software then works out an accurate quotation meaning an in-person visit by a surveyor is not required. Once the quotation is given and accepted by the customer the price is fixed and Movinga guarantees that no additional charges will be made. Unlike most removal companies, payment is not due until 24-hours after the move is completed. 

Prices are kept low by using spare capacity in carefully selected partner companies’ vehicles, avoiding empty or partly full runs and optimising available space. A special routing algorithm is used to match jobs with partners running with part loads.  The company claims that prices are kept up to 70% lower than typical moving costs.  

Photos: Top; Movinga founders Bastian Knutzen and Chris Maslowski; Middle right: the Movinga team.
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