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Q&A: Rocky Subramanian, President, FourKites

LM Group News Editor Jeff Berman interviewed Subramanian about his new role and various market trends and themes. The interview is below.

Earlier this month, Chicago-based FourKites, a provider of real-time tracking and visibility solutions across transportation modes and digital platforms, said it named Rocky Subramanian as its new President. Subramanian comes to FourKites from his role as Executive Vice President and CRO for Ceridian, in which he helped to Ceridian to grow to more than $1.2 billion in revenue. Subramanian also was Senior Vice President and Managing Director for one of SAP's largest market units, handling various roles, including sales, go-to market strategy, operations, and services for the company's enterprise software portfolio. 

LM Group News Editor Jeff Berman interviewed Subramanian about his new role and various market trends and themes. The interview is below.

LM: What, in your opinion, are the key drivers for FourKites, and, by extension, yourself, in this new role, to drive FourKites’ growth and strategy initiatives?

Subramanian: When I first learned about FourKites, Mathew Elenjickal, FourKites CEO, and the team's vision for the industry really stood out. And through my conversations with them, it became clear that their vision is informed by collaboration with customers—that customer focus and clarity are foundational to growth. 

As I learned more, it also became evident that FourKites already has a world-class platform built by an innovative and talented team. Given that Gartner estimates 2022 revenue for Logistics and Supply Chain Management software to be more than $20 billion, our total addressable market is very large and growing. 

Yet we have only scratched the surface. FourKites is evolving from a multimodal transportation visibility provider to a unified, end-to-end supply chain intelligence platform. That means we will unlock even more value for our customers, several of whom are in the Fortune 500, and our rapidly expanding network of transportation providers by arming both sides with the insights and workflows needed to drive efficiency, improve productivity, lower costs and keep inventory, transportation and customer-facing teams aligned.

In addition to the growth and network effects we can achieve with our existing customers, continuing to build a supply chain tech ecosystem with the likes of FedEx, Microsoft, Mitsui & Co. and others will unlock new opportunities, helping us reach even more customers. 

The ingredients for FourKites to grow 10x are there—now, we must execute. 

LM: What are the main ways in which you can leverage your previous roles at Ceridian and SAP, and other companies, at FourKites?

Subramanian: My experience at Ceridian and SAP taught me how to operationalize and execute the same growth opportunities that FourKites now has: 

  1. Provide strategic value to customers with the industry’s most advanced and highly-differentiated solutions
  2. Deliver that value at scale 
  3. Grow our ecosystem of strategic partners who can act as a multiplier of the value and scale we create

And it all starts with people. I've had various roles throughout my career, from software development to implementation and sales. That experience has taught me how to eliminate silos and ensure teams are aligned and focused on the right goals. 

I was also fortunate to learn what it takes to go from a niche solution serving the mid-market to a full-blown platform that serves some of the world’s largest companies. 

LM: What do you view as the key tasks and objectives in your new role?

Subramanian: As President, I oversee all customer functions and strategy at FourKites, partnering closely with Mat Elinjickal, our Founder and CEO. This structure is important as we scale the business—when you’re in hyper-growth mode, there are tough tradeoffs to evaluate and decisions to make and you cannot lose sight of the customer. In the near term, my objective is to learn as much as possible by speaking with as many employees, partners and customers as I can. 

Overall, the industry is growing and evolving quickly – we have a great foundation and we want to make sure we capitalize on the opportunity to further accelerate our growth trajectory. To do that, we’ll be laser-focused on creating new value for customers in a way that is a natural extension of today’s business. 

LM: What do you see as the biggest issues and challenges in supply chain management and logistics?

Subramanian: Supply chain managers must be able to anticipate and mitigate potential disruptions and risks while also finding ways to improve efficiency—a challenge that’s getting harder every day. While the industry has made great strides in digitization, arming supply chain leaders with the right data at the right time is still difficult. Silos and a lack of standardized data definitions and workflows muddy the full, real-time picture of their supply chain. 

But I believe we’re about to witness even more rapid and profound changes in supply chain technology, and it’s a big reason why I joined FourKites. 

As the market matures, consolidation and standardization will occur. We’ll continue to see the cost of computational power decline and the availability of structured data increase, which are foundational to improving algorithms and training artificial intelligence. 

AI in supply chains will accelerate real-time monitoring and accurate supply and demand predictions, optimize transportation and logistics and improve collaboration. Data-as-a-service solutions like Snowflake will also help the supply chain tech ecosystem work together. For example, FourKites’ Data Connector allows customers to connect to FourKites’ datasets hosted on the Snowflake cloud and access all their FourKites data directly, leveraging their existing business intelligence tools to combine supply chain data with other data like company financials to gain more powerful insights. And it doesn’t require any integration setup or engineers to get started. 

So while there are many challenges today, I think the world of supply chain management is about to change quickly. 

LM: Do you think supply chain and logistics operations are starting to get back to a more normalized pre-pandemic tempo? If yes, why? If not, why not?

Subramanian: I agree with Matt when he said, “We shouldn’t equate transportation logistics — managing and storing goods as they move through our supply chains—with supply chains writ large.” While there are no longer 100-plus cargo ships anchored off the coast of L.A.-Long Beach, many shippers are still grappling with inventory imbalances, material shortages and high costs.

When you think about the supply chain in terms of planning, sourcing, making and delivering goods, it was significantly disrupted by the demand shock of the past two years. Now, planning and sourcing have become a challenge as the geopolitical and economic environment creates new headwinds. 

And at the root of it all is uncertainty. On this point, I’ll borrow from another CEO—I also agree with Jaime Dimon [Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.] when he recently said, “Of course, there is always uncertainty. I am often frustrated when people talk about today’s uncertainty as if it were any different from yesterday’s uncertainty. However, in this case, I believe it actually is.”



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About the Author

Jeff Berman's avatar
Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review and is a contributor to Robotics 24/7. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis.
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