Bhaven Shah,Co-Founder of Freight Bazaar, in an exclusive conversation with Ritwik Sinha talks about the evolution of the company, the increasing adoption of technology in the domestic logistics space and new offerings which the company intends to add to the base platform. Edited excerpts…
Please briefly take me through to your journey.
While working at Nagarjuna, the other co-founder Ganesh Rewanwar saw an opportunity in bringing the unorganized freight logistics sector on a common online platform. During that time, I was working for Water Health where the company had its own fleet of 50 trucks for delivery operations. Plus, I was also working with truck owners and enabling them with technology tools such as RFID based handheld devices. Soon after we met through a common friend, and started this journey with a vision to make FreightBazaar – India’s most reliable and efficient platform to manage freight transportation operations. We realized that through FreightBazaar.com, we can positively impact the entire eco-system including shippers, truck owners, drivers and environment. Reduction in surface logistics cost will help India to be globally competitive for exporting of Made In India products.
We launched the first pilot in Hyderabad. Encouraged by the results of the pilot, we started working on a full-scale integrated platform that can handle entire lifecycle of long haul transportation processes such as sourcing, discovery, trip management, billing, payment and performance management. During the process, we also acquired our first enterprise customer Gati-KWE.
During the initial period, we focused on building the workflow so that the end-to-end process of collaboration between shipper and supplier can be handled without any intervention from our support team. Also, we focused on building tools such as mobile app for suppliers and automated matching load alerts so that both parties can manage the interaction pro-actively from anywhere.
We hired key employees from technology and operations domains. We also set up an advisory board of mentors experienced in sectors such as logistics, supply chain and finance. After assembling the initial team, based on feedback from early customers and after a lot of work, we launched India’s 1st SaaS-Cum-Marketplace platform for Long Haul transport in Q3 2015. Slowly, we started adding more shippers and suppliers to the platform. We started building our operational capabilities in terms of the processes to ensure reliability and pro-active service required to build trust from the customers. We also implemented a robust verification processes for on-boarding to ensure only genuine and responsible players can participate in the transaction on the platform.
Today, FreightBaaar.com is India’s 1st SaaS-Cum-Marketplace Freight Logistics Platform with 1200+ member companies across 300 cities and 29 States.
Our unique platform improves efficiency and reliability of client’s transportation operations i.e. Truck Sourcing (spot + Contracted), Trip Governance, Data Analytics. We are also building automation and machine learning capabilities to make the freight rate discovery and other operations more data driven and predictable. India’s top logistics, 3PL and supply chain companies are currently using the FreightBazaar platform to move freight of various kinds such as food, cement, automotive, electronics, tyres and telecom.
Aligning with technology has been considered as a major bottleneck for logistics operations especially in a base domain like trucking. Is the scene changing now?
The scene has changed significantly over the past few years. With the penetration of smart phones, popularity of Facebook, WhatsApp social media platforms, proliferation of e-Commerce companies and App based services such as Uber and Ola, there is much higher awareness even amongst the fleet owners and drivers about how a simple smart phone can help improve their daily lives or business.
Truck suppliers today use FreightBazaar platform from their mobile app for various functions such as registration, load search, bidding and even tracking the status of their trips. Many of them are even publishing their truck availability through the app.
There is a heightened sense of awareness about the benefits of technologies like GPS vehicle tracking amongst the truck owners. The FreightBazaar platform has many tools for truck supplier and driver community. For example, supplier can receive automatic alerts for matching load. Plus, they can also track and manage trip expenses through the FreightBazaar Smartphone Application. Even Driver can publish his/her return truck availability from anywhere in India through our innovative automated IVR facility.
Similarly, on the shipper side, there is a general consensus that the freight world is moving towards a more structured, data driven and predictable future. The traditional logistics companies are looking at improving their bottom line by optimizing their transport operations through introduction of technology enabled processes. All inter-city trips are tracked live and pro-active trip statuses are provided during the entire delivery process. The platform provides tools for ePOD (Proof of Delivery). Many 3PL and supply chain companies are looking at expanding their target market segments and geographies using platforms like FreightBazaar, which provides PAN India visibility on available loads or trucks.
How would you explain your scale today? What’s your fleet size and how has it grown in the past one year?
Today, FreightBazaar has a registered member base spread across 300 cities and 29 states. Through the platform we have managed to service requirements on 200+ inter-city routes. We do not own any fleet. But, our registered supplier base has over 25,000 trucks. We have seen a significant increase in number of shippers and suppliers joining our platform in the last one year. In terms of the KPIs we track, we have achieved 100% Trip Success Rate, 80% on-time Deliveries on the trips managed through FreightBazaar platform.
What all value addition you are planning to add to your existing services portfolio?
We have recently just launched a cashless cards facility for drivers. This facility will reduce working capital requirements for truck owners and eliminate the need for drivers to carry cash during the trips. We are currently focusing on developing some IOT enabled services to make the long haul trips safer. In near future, we plan to roll out new tools for suppliers with regards to the new GST mandate. In addition, new value added services will also be rolled out for the long haul drivers. In future, we will be releasing more automation and machine learning based features to make freight pricing more data driven and predictable.
What are those broader milestones you would be chasing in the next two years?
Over the next two years, we will be expanding our physical presence in the key cities across India. This will enable us to increase supplier liquidity on the platform to serve the existing and future demand. We are targeting INR 500 Cr freight business managed through the platform over the next two years. FreightBazaar will be playing a key role in improving efficiencies and driving down overall logistics cost. This will also enable Made in India goods to become more competitive for the export markets.