IN FOCUS Excellence Awards Interview

Innovating textile trade: Air8's data-driven approach to empower SME exporters

Global innovations company focused on providing digital solutions to the fashion industry and a Category Award Winner for Innovation

In this exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to speak with Jason Wang, the COO of Alvanon, a leading new-age apparel and fashion technology company that has won the 2023 Just Style Excellence Award for Innovation and Product Launches. Alvanon has been at the forefront of shaping the future of fit in the fashion industry for over two decades, providing sizing standards and fit specifications for consumers' bodies. In our conversation Wang discusses the future of fit and fashion technology, from anticipated industry trends to insights on Alvanon’s mission, goals for the future, and what sets them apart. He also introduces MyAlva, an exciting new venture with the potential to transform fit for consumers and the industry. Alvanon is working towards creating a sustainable future for the apparel industry, including the development of a new technology, BodyAI, designed to reduce overstock inventory and their transition to 3D printing for their physical mannequins.

Just Style: Can you outline Air8's origins and the mission and vision of Air8?

The most recent Asian Development Bank study estimated that the gap in trade finance availability has now reached $2.5 trillion in 2022 up from $1.7 trillion in 2020. Such significant widening of the gap resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as ongoing macroeconomic factors and geopolitical tensions globally.

Air8 has been created in late 2021 to address this widening working capital gap, particularly for SME exporters across the globe.  We ensure that these SME exporters gain quick and convenient access to affordable financing via our base of funding partners, both banks and non-bank financial institutions.  

Alvin Ho Tse Ming

Being an affiliate of global supply chain manager, Li & Fung, we are deeply entrenched into the supply chain flows of our SME clients globally, thereby possess a deep understanding of their working capital requirements. At the same time, our ability to acquire quality assets has attracted a wide base of financial institutional partners which leverage our extensive industry insights and data analytics. We thereby seamlessly link our SME clients to our multiple funding partners via our technology-enabled, easy-to-use cross-border supply chain financing platform, which efficiently processes transactions for all parties involved.

Just Style: In what ways does Air8's approach to financing stand out from traditional financial institutions?

Our focus clients are the multiple SME exporters from emerging markets across Asia, especially India, Bangladesh, China, and SE Asia countries. The most significant pain point SME exporters in these countries face is stable and affordable financing. However, banks typically overlook these SMEs as they are unable to gain sufficient access to data to fulfil their credit underwriting and KYC (Know Your Customers) requirements. Over at Air8, we leverage our data-driven insights and supply chain domain knowledge to resolve this issue.  

Utilizing AI and machine learning, we generate actionable insights into the data extracted from SMEs, including data gathered from different sources, such as credit bureaus and public databases. We utilize diverse data sources to create comprehensive supplier profiles that help evaluate crucial factors such as credit risk. We deliver values to our financial institutional partners because we empower them to use actionable data to understand SMEs' credit risks, thereby optimizing their credit decisioning through our technology. 

Insight-based Technology Platform – A8 PulseLink. Credit: Air8

Just Style: How does Air8's data-driven platform uniquely support credit decisions for SMEs in the apparel industry?

Our data-driven financing platform enables us to better assess the credit worthiness of our counterparties more quickly than the traditional credit underwriting approach. This significantly reduces the waiting time for the SME exporters and greatly enhances their client experience, while enabling them to seize market opportunities in a timelier fashion. In addition, we are leveraging alternative non-financial data to supplement our credit underwriting. This not only allows us to finance a wider range of assets without incurring additional risks, it also helps our funding and insurance partners to gain a more holistic view of the risks involved for the assets we originate.

Just Style: What key technological improvements has Air8 made to facilitate SME financing in textiles?

With a solid foundation built on proprietary data from a multinational supply chain solution provider, alternative data and public data, we have developed a powerful data model that processes over tens of thousands of transactions from the past few years, involving thousands of SME exporters across the world. This model allows us to effectively pinpoint key factors for engaging new SMEs and assess their creditworthiness. 

Moreover, we have combined the latest Language Learning Models with our deep industry knowledge to automatically extract vital information from documents. This innovation is key to our AI-driven Customer Service and Operations, ensuring a top-notch experience for our clients. 

On the risk management side, we've implemented a network graph to gain better insight into the relationships between business entities. We also monitor how global news and economic trends might affect their financial stability. 

Finally, our micro-services open architecture ensures that we can seamlessly connect with clients, partners, and financiers, facilitating efficient communication and enabling robust supply chain finance solutions. 

Just Style: How is Air8 contributing to the integration of sustainability and ESG within the apparel supply chain?

Air8 has an unwavering commitment to sustainability and ESG principles within the apparel supply chain. At our core, we recognize the critical role we play in fostering positive environmental and social impacts throughout our operations. 

Our journey towards sustainability begins with a robust Supplier Code of Conduct policy, which sets clear expectations for ethical behaviour, environmental stewardship, and human rights standards across our supply chain. By holding ourselves and our suppliers accountable to these standards, we ensure that every aspect of our operations upholds the values of transparency, fairness, and responsibility. 

Furthermore, our company's Sustainability Statement and Commitment serve as guiding principles that drive our decision-making processes and strategic initiatives. We understand that sustainability is not just a buzzword, but a fundamental imperative for long-term success. As such, we are dedicated to continuously improving our environmental performance, promoting social equity, and enhancing governance practices throughout our organization. 

Air8 Team.

In alignment with various funders' ESG-related requirements, we have developed a comprehensive two-year plan to further enhance our sustainability efforts. This plan encompasses a range of initiatives, including but not limited to, implementing a more sophisticated governance on ESG, embedding climate risk into our risk assessment, promoting labor rights, and fostering diversity and inclusion within our supply chain.

Ultimately, our aim is to catalyze positive change within the apparel industry by integrating sustainability and ESG principles into every facet of our operations. We firmly believe that by working collaboratively with our partners, suppliers, and stakeholders, we can create a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable future for all.

Just Style: Could you share a success story where Air8 has helped an SME navigate the complexities of global trade?

The current global climate presents unique challenges for SME exporters, particularly in the apparel and general merchandise space. Extended payment terms from buyers and stricter credit restrictions from banks strain working capital and limit growth opportunities. 
• An Indian exporter with turnover slightly less than 5M USD had faced extended credit terms from their UK buyer, with barely sufficient notice. This exporter approached us, and within the same day, applied for our post-shipment factoring solution and thereafter, successfully secured access to funding which helped ease their working capital constraints, and enabled them to increase their exports. 
• Another Asian exporter of slightly larger turnover had secured a brand-new order from a Polish client, but needed financial security to fulfil it. Despite the low profile of the Polish buyer, we could quickly underwrite it using our proprietary data-driven credit risk engine and provided the necessary protection, allowing the SME exporter to confidently accept the order and pursue further growth. 

These are just 2 out of the many cases we successfully service on a daily basis.

Just Style: What measures does Air8 take to ensure transparency and build trust with suppliers and funders?

We adopt clear, compliant, yet expedient due diligence and credit policies in all our dealings with our partners - regardless of whether they are suppliers, buyers, or funders. We are also transparent in our legal agreements and take due care to clarify doubts and queries where they are raised. This approach has been proven to gain our partners' trust as evident in client feedback.

Contact information

Air8 Pte. Ltd. 
​​​​​​​3 Kallang Junction, #05-02, Singapore 339265

Air8 Supply Chain Finance Platform: