How empathy helped LetsTransport ride the logistics wave

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2020

LetsTransport, the tech-logistics firm, has trained over 45,000+ truckers in India

LetsTransport enables urban distribution through a large network of mini trucks in India

Empathy is developed by regularly listening to another person’s thoughts, helping build both closeness and respect. Pushkar Singh learnt a valuable lesson in empathy when he met up with truck drivers to get his start-up, LetsTransport, on the road.

“It was our first consignment. We had gone to a naka around tea time and started talking to drivers for the delivery. None of them bought our story. They had no faith in us, though they appreciated youngsters getting into business,” said Singh.

The ex-IITian decided to step up and volunteered to go along with the driver. The trip was 80-km long and took seven hours to get to the destination, but in that time a strong bond was built – of trust and empathy.

The co-founder and CEO of LetsTransport had begun his journey – of enabling urban distribution through a large network of mini trucks in India. What he had not factored in to the equation was the unorganised nature of the trucking industry.

“These truck drivers are an underserved lot,” Singh told BusinessLine, “unlike an Uber or Ola driver. They are even a notch lower than a Swiggy (food delivery) rider, in terms of being organised. None of them even had a bank account. By sitting with them in their trucks and talking about their problems, we gained a lot of trust,” said Singh.

The key challenge

When the co-founders thought of building an app for truckers, they ran into another roadblock. “Little did we realise that truck drivers have not graduated beyond a Nokia 1100. Their transition to a smartphone and teaching them internet banking was a huge eye opener, again a lesson in empathy,” said Singh, recalling the early days in 2015.

It was then the onus of on-boarding the truckers to their platform started in earnest. Engaging with the drivers was a difficult exercise, since most were unprepared for mentors and unable to understand the operational set-up.

“We had to go back several times to discuss strategies and streamline operations to get this unorganised industry to utilise our technology,” said Singh, adding: “On-boarding policies and periodic checks were all tied in with accompanying drivers to a nearby bank or an NBFC, to help them sort out their short term needs.”

Today, the start-up has several products for its drivers, including health insurance, and is spread across 12 cities with five offices.

The venture has been profitable since launch. “We made ₹200-300 in the first trip and have been profitable ever since,” said Singh. Current revenue hovers around ₹300-400 crore, with the only investment made towards building the requisite technology.

LetsTransport, the tech-logistics firm, has trained over 45,000+ truckers in India. Along with his two other IIT batchmates Sudarshan Ravi and Ankit Parasher, Singh is well on the road to fulfilling his passion: “Of building something of our own and creating a legacy combined with identifying an opportunity to create a large outcome.”

Aiming to disrupt the $30-billion urban logistics industry, the start-up is leveraging technology with the trucker community, helping enterprises reach consumers faster.

Key role for tech-logistics solutions

Given the increasing demand for on-time delivery from shoppers, tech-logistics solutions are playing a key role: from demand forecasting to last-mile deliveries, tech-logistic solutions are keeping track of inventories and bringing in transparency.

The firm had raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Dubai-based NB Ventures and Japan-based GMO Ventures in 2016, and a seed round of $1.3 million from Singapore-based Rebright Partners and others in 2015. Recently, it also raised $14 million as part of Series B round led by Fosun RZ Capital and Bertelsmann India Investments.

The start-up is now planning to hire 400 people — operation managers, supply managers, supervisors and ground-level teams — across 14 cities.

Published on January 20, 2020

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