Yatra.com, the travel platform that was recently listed on the stock exchange, aims to expand its freight business globally and achieve break-even in the near term, says its CEO, Dhruv Shringi.

He compares today’s freight sector to the business travel industry a decade ago. “The thought of getting into the freight segment actually came about during Covid... because the dynamics of the freight industry are very similar to what business travel was 10 years ago: highly fragmented, very opaque, and ripe for technology disruption.”

In October 2020, Yatra.com initiated an end-to-end freight forwarding service, Yatra Online Freight Services, connecting businesses to multi-modal logistics. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the company expanded this venture, leveraging its corporate travel relationships and technology. “With a 60-member team of industry professionals, as of March 31, we envision this freight platform becoming a global product, poised for substantial, sustained growth beyond corporate travel,” Shringi says.

Yatra Online Freight currently serves 35-40 large and mid-sized customers, with the average monthly expenditure per customer ranging from ₹10 lakh to ₹15 lakh. Its freight-forwarding platform is equipped with real-time features, including instant quotes, seamless booking, shipment tracking, customisable dashboards, and digital documentation.

Despite investing ₹3-4 crore per quarter in the past year, Yatra.com appears confident of sailing comfortably financially. “I think the business will get to break-even in the relatively near term. So I don’t see [a need for] substantial investment, from a P&L [profit-and-loss] point of view, going forward.”

In fiscal year 2023, domestic freight traffic in India surged by about 12 per cent to touch 7.25 lakh tonnes, exceeding pre-Covid levels during FY 2019. This growth was propelled by factors such as a low starting point, economic resurgence, heightened demand in e-commerce, and increased airline capacity. Domestic air freight is expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9-12 per cent from 2023 to 2028, while it’s 2-4 per cent for Indian port traffic.

Shringi is hopeful that Yatra’s freight business will succeed at a faster clip compared to corporate travel due to the rising adoption of technology. “My sense is that while corporate travel took 6-7 years (excluding the Covid years) to reach this stage for us, the freight business may be 30-40 per cent faster.”