Truckola aiming at 'tech-led' disruption in trucking

Raghav Himatsingka, Founder & CEO, Truckola

Mumbai, Jan 27

Truckola, a tech-led startup in the logistics business, aims to solve a recurrent problem in the transportation industry – of giving ‘visibility’ and reliability of service to cargo owners and giving ‘steady’ business to vehicle owners – who often own single trucks and are fragmented. Truckola's online platform helps aggregate demand and supply for inter-city transportation of goods and help cut costs for cargo owners while improving incomes for vehicle owners, says Raghav Himatsingka, Founder & CEO, Truckola.

Raghav’s boyish looks belie a wise head that has the experience of working with the family business (which was in trucks and transport) for nearly a decade. Returning after completing an industrial engineering (supply chain logistics) degree from Georgia Tech and a management education at Stanford, – an experience that he describes as life changing, Raghav was keen to do something that would use his skills. He joined the family business almost as a default option but grew restless after a while. Soon, after discussions with his father, he started two new units – dealing with heavy lifts and automobile transportation. These grew to a reasonable size before being impacted by the overall slowdown in the economy and Raghav was soon looking for fresh challenges. Spurred on by a chance remark from his dad while talking about the technology enterprises that some of his college mates were starting, Raghav resolved to act quickly on one of his ideas to make a difference in the trucking industry.

This was an industry that he was more familiar with – but he was also conscious that the industry was seen as being operated by street-smart people – but one which didn’t enjoy a great reputation and which was considered a laggard as far as technology adoption was concerned. As Raghav recounts, the trucking industry journey begins with a driver who buys his own truck on borrowed money, begins to make money, grows prosperous, expands to five trucks, brings in his friends and relatives and expands further – and then struggles with reducing profitability! The challenge of scaling up successfully is partly managerial but there are also other issues. Suddenly finding good quality drivers for trucks becomes an issue, finding loads for trucks a challenge, keeping the trucks from idling while the meter ticks on borrowed money is a perennial challenge. And of course, getting and retaining the right kind of people has its own difficulties. Very often at this stage things go out of control and pilferage tends to increase and profits decline. This is one reason that there are not too many transport companies with a turnover of over Rs 1,000 crore. Raghav felt that the industry was ripe for some technological disruption and started Truckola in September 2015. Initially starting as a market place, the start-up changed its business model quickly when it realised that this may not be sufficient to bring in the volumes.

Raghav said that Truckola was aiming to bring the benefits of a large company to a small trucking company – which was basically to get it sufficient number of loads, getting it suitable discounts on purchases, say of tyres, diesel, or spareparts etc. By connecting factories and cargo-owners who need regular logistic support with fleet/individual truck owners through a tech platform, Truckola seeks to ‘Uberize’ the transportation of goods. Truckola does not own any trucks and follows what is called an ‘asset-light’ strategy. Truckola also wanted to address the gaps in the market for cargo-owners. Currently, when a factory wants to transport goods to or from its premises, there are usually a number of phone calls made back and forth about rates, availability of the appropriate type of trucks, space, routes, return loads etc. It is usually a frustrating experience, says Raghav. Truckola seeks to change this by providing a transparent,reliable and stress free experience. A dashboard is provided for the client ( factory) where it is able to monitor everything online – from fixing the truck, to tracking its progress, getting proof of delivery and finally billing.

Business has been picking up and practically doubling every few months according to Raghav. About 10,000 vehicle owners have come on board the platform and Truckola’s services are currently being used by about 120 clients. He is confident that billing volumes would soon cross Rs 5 crore a month and keep growing exponentially thereafter. The start-up raised an initial round of funding of Rs 4 crore last year but expects that the next round will be substantially higher to scale up its operations. In this business, there is still a gap between the time the client (factory) pays the bill (roughly 45 days by industry standards) and paying the trucker ( which happens immediately). Raghav says that Truckola has tried to bring down the 45 day period to below 7 days but it is still a stretch and will require more working capital to manage this gap when volumes increase. That’s where the next round of fund raising may come useful.

Published on January 27, 2017

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