Who is The NOW Network (and why it matters)?

Back in May 2020 NOW Network president, Mush Khan, was interviewed for the Digital Oil and Gas podcast by Geoffrey Cann. In that interview he summarized the different sectors of the oil and gas industry, who The NOW Network is, and how we are trying to revolutionize the industry. I’m going to share an excerpt of that conversation in this blog post. If you want to listen to the entire podcast you can find it here.

Geoffrey: What is The NOW Network? I mean, first blush, I might, if I were to ask my children, they’d say, Oh, it’s clearly a new channel on Disney. But I guess that’s not the case. The NOW Network is about innovation in dealing with this whole fuel delivery element of the supply chain. So, perhaps you could just elaborate on what The NOW Network is.

Mush: Sure, yeah. And perhaps it would be a lot more fun if it was a Disney channel, or a new meditation channel, but it’s a lot more business oriented than that. So, the way to think about the industry is that it’s one of those industries, and I’m talking about the final mile for the energy industry or the downstream sector, that’s still relatively traditional in the way that these transactions are happening. I mentioned earlier for those 25 million plus transactions happening every year it’s not unusual for these deliveries to be made using paper documents, or emails, or phone calls or maybe you can text them.

There is some technology in our industry, but it’s rare for there to be one sort of technology that helps you track what’s happening in this entire supply chain from end to end. And Geoffrey, this might be even hard to believe for your listeners, but I’ve still seen the presence of fax machines in this industry. That sort of gives you an idea of where we are in terms of innovation. And so, The NOW Network is here to address that problem. And the idea is that we believe that this entire supply chain can be a lot more transparent, a lot more automated, provide a lot more information to not just the ecosystem partners but the customers on what the status of the order is.

The NOW Network is here to make this very complicated, very hard-working industry, much more transparent. Make the transactions easier to track on this exchange. And this is important right now, I think, to sort of remove all the human hands that are touching these orders along the way, sometimes literally touching them. And our belief is that by automating these transactions, by liberating back office folks and drivers and others that are working in this industry, that we are going to allow those folks to do much more higher value-added work for their customers, because once you liberate people from rote work then you can really engage human creativity and create transformative customer service experiences that you just can’t do when you’re busy filling out paperwork.

Geoffrey: Why is it important for the industry to embrace this now, in your view?

Mush: Well, I think there’s a lot of things that are happening right now. And there’s several big factors and trends that I think are driving this industry. And the way that we think about it at The NOW Network is that there’s some big forces on the supply side and on the demand side. First of all, on the supply side, there’s tons of crude. We as a world, and certainly as a country, are able to produce a lot more crude and refined products over time. From a demand standpoint, it’s really been interesting to see what was happening even before COVID-19. And there’s a ton of really interesting research that talks about things like the impact of electric vehicles, the urbanization of populations as we sort of move closer into big cities, and even changes in mobility and how we might use things like car sharing or ride sharing. 

When you put these factors all into a bucket, it looks like the demand for gasoline, probably at best, is flat going forward and perhaps even declining. I’ve seen some reports that suggest gasoline demand could decrease by 20 to 30% over the next decade, which would be a dramatic decrease. That’s all in the backdrop of people actually driving more too. Engine efficiency is going up and people are consuming energy in different ways. Those two factors, a lot of supply and flat or even declining demand, is putting remarkable pressure on the supply chain, so we think now’s the time to really think about how to do things differently and to arm these supply chain partners with ways to become exponentially more efficient, and ultimately liberate them to offer a different kind of experience for their customers.

Geoffrey: And can you explain why there is such a low level of automation in this dimension of the supply chain?

Mush: Well, sometimes that’s a mystery to me. I think there’s probably lots of reasons. It all boils down to what is the catalyst for change? And I think we can all think of lots of industries where, even though looking backwards, there may have been a catalyst for change, but at the time, things were working okay. I think that that Jim Collins, in his book talks about good being the enemy of great. I think that can happen, and has happened in our industry. Things are actually functioning, and to your earlier point, we haven’t been missing out on getting deliveries. Gas tanks are generally full unless a big event has happened. 

Perhaps there hasn’t been a big reason to change even an apparent reason to change. Then also, there’s just human nature. I think all of us struggle sometimes with embracing change and not because you necessarily don’t want to or we’re not smart enough, or that we’re not strategic. It’s just we can all get sort of dialed into a certain way of doing things. Sometimes it’s difficult to make those changes, but we believe that now is the time to really embrace that change, and technology is merging with what’s happening in the industry and it’s an exciting time for us to take what we’ve built out to the marketplace.

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