Dalibor Michalek works in RAILVIS.com as Senior Sales Manager. He graduated from the Faculty of Law in Slovakia and has 5 years of experience with railway companies and wagon rental companies in Vienna, Austria, where he held manager and lawyer positions.
RM: How did you get this job?
Dalibor Michalek: I used and knew RAILVIS.com before, as I worked in the railway sector, specifically for a railway company and a car rental company. I was fascinated by the idea of an interactive meeting of supply and demand on a daily basis, as I myself lacked such a product in the daily market. At the same time, I like the innovative practices and ideas in the more conservative rail sector and the desire to be part of it! I like the "vibe" of start-up companies, where experience meets vision in the need to bring something new to the market. During the first meetings I had a good feeling about the team and saw that there were good people working there, which also convinced me to be part of the RAILVIS.com team.
RAILVIS.com makes it easy to request prices and capacities in rail freight transport
RM: RAILVIS.com has been on the market for more than three years. What are you currently working on?
Dalibor Michalek: In May we launched the possibility to request rail freight prices across Europe. This service is aimed at all railway undertakings, operators, forwarders and industrial companies. In addition to long- and medium-term projects, it is also possible to request last-minute transport capacity, so-called ad hoc trains. For rail customers, this is a significant time-saver, an opportunity to secure the best possible transport capacity and also to reduce costs.
RM: Can you explain this in more detail?
Dalibor Michalek: A customer, e.g. a rail forwarder, needs to transport 1000 tonnes of goods from Rotterdam to Budapest. He fills in the platform with the most important data for his project. The system then recognises all the available routes (alternatives via Austria or the Czech Republic), all the border crossings, and the request reaches all the carriers - national, private and the smallest regional carriers, who have the option of offering either the entire route or only the part of the territory they know best. The system is then able to put together the sub-routes from different carriers and finally add up the total price. This gives the customer a choice of different solutions - an entire route with one carrier, or a route made up of several carriers. The final choice of solution is up to the customer, based on price level, capacity, suitable route and transit time, or experience with the carriers.
RM: What motivated you to develop this new functionality?
Dalibor Michalek: Rail performance enquiries have traditionally been complicated by phone or email. Customers only contact their known carriers and do not have the time or capacity to research all available options and routes. The European rail market is now largely privatised and in Germany alone there are over 300 different operators who may offer different regional services but may not be as well known outside their own area. In this way, the system shows all available options quickly and clearly, which is a great help when pricing or planning rail transport.
RM: In the three years you have been in the market, have you seen a change in customers' perception of digitalisation in rail freight?
Dalibor Michalek: We are certainly seeing a significant shift in a positive direction across Europe. We now have over 300 rail companies across Europe and this number is growing. We are already an established product in the rental or sale of wagons and locomotives. The simplicity of the platform and our business model helps. We have a strong internal operations team behind the scenes to help dispatchers and transport company managers enter the right data quickly and efficiently. The business model is based on an annual fee, after which users have complete freedom in terms of the number of enquiries sent or quotes entered. The vast majority of customers have already renewed their membership several times, which is an indicator of satisfaction and motivation for us to continue developing the platform.
RM: What is the interest in RAILVIS.com? How do you get new customers?
Dalibor Michalek: The platform is already well known in the railway market, so it is not unusual for new companies to contact us to find out more or to confirm their annual membership. To this end, we have an international sales team who communicate with new potential customers, as well as maintaining good relationships with existing customers. In addition to the Czech Republic, we have sales representatives in Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Poland.
RM: Which European countries are you most successful in?
Dalibor Michalek: The German rail market, which is the largest in Europe, has been key to the success of our platform from the start and we now have the most customers there. We are also very successful in Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the countries of the former Yugoslavia, and finally in the Czechia and Slovakia, where the environment was rather conservative at the beginning. We are now expanding into Poland, France, Italy and the Balkans.
RM: You are coming up with a lot of new things - I suppose this must be accompanied by an increase in staff. What is the current composition of the team working on the RAILVIS.com platform?
Dalibor Michalek: Our team already consists of more than 20 people. In addition to the aforementioned traders, we have a growing team of IT programmers and an operations team that helps platform users with the accuracy of data entry. We are very pleased with our cooperation with the University of Žilina and its Faculty of Transport, where we are able to recruit qualified young people who see our platform as the future of rail freight transport, without us having to motivate them in any way.
RM: At the beginning of this interview we mentioned the new functionality of "rail transport price enquiry". But you have come up with another innovation, what is it?
Dalibor Michalek: It is the use of spare capacity on existing trains. Let us take a practical example: a rail operator plans a full train from point A to point B. Up to 2,000 tonnes of goods can be transported on this route, but the carrier will only use 1,400 tonnes for his train. The remaining capacity of 600 tonnes can be offered to the pan-European market, and other operators can add individual wagons or locomotives on very favourable terms. The same applies to locomotive runs, i.e. the locomotive travels a longer distance completely empty. Of course, it's also a matter of chance that the requirements for a similar route and at a similar time come together at different companies. However, railway companies are already seeing that a certain percentage of this is successful, in which case there is a significant saving or additional profit on both sides.
RM: That's the current news, what are your plans for the future?
Dalibor Michalek: We are trying to minimise the amount of manual work done by the railway companies. We are looking at ways of linking the systems so that available capacity can be displayed as automatically as possible and we can reduce the workload on dispatchers, which is already stressful enough. We are also planning new functionalities, such as the ability to efficiently request the repair of railway units or railway personnel. Our aim is to gradually make it possible to request and offer everything to do with the railway via our online platform.
RM: Finally, a personal question: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Dalibor Michalek: I enjoy the fact that we have really experienced people in our team who know what they are doing and how to do it. It also motivates me to be better and to develop both professionally and personally. On the other hand, I know that my contribution is building something special that is already helping to achieve our clients' goals. I also find it rewarding to get to know new people, companies and the stories behind them 😊