Emerging Entrepreneurs

Uber way! Need truck? Call LetsTransport

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on January 19, 2018

(from right) Pushkar Singh, CEO & Co-founder; Sudarshan Ravi, co-founder; and Ankit Parasher, Co-founder,LetsTransport.in N RAMAKRISHNAN

The start-up aggregates trucks and offers on-demand hyper-local services

Pushkar Singh is all of 25 and the venture he founded along with his two IIT-Kharagpur friends, just about a year old. He talks like a veteran about the logistics industry and recollects the first customer that his hyper-local logistics start-up, LetsTransport, got.

It was a hardware shop in Bengaluru’s Shivaji Nagar area. Pushkar remembers walking into the shop and pitching his company’s services. “They were pretty amused, not impressed,” he recalls. The hardware shop owner asked Pushkar if he could provide them with a truck “right now.” “What we were pitching was we will service it within an hour,” says Pushkar.

LetsTransport had not built up a reliable network of trucks. Still, he did not refuse the order. “I reached out, looked up my directory, called up a couple of numbers and got a vehicle, cleaned it up and gave them the service,” says Pushkar. That set the ball rolling for LetsTransport. A year on, that hardware shop continues to rely on LetsTransport for its logistics needs.

So, how did Pushkar and his two co-founders – Sudarshan Ravi (24) and Ankit Parasher (25) – hit upon the idea of starting a hyper-local logistics venture? On graduating from IIT-Kharagpur in mechanical engineering, Pushkar joined ITC in its foods division. Sudarshan, who graduated in economics and finance, worked with JP Morgan and Accenture Strategy Consulting, while Ankit, a B.Tech in Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering, joined CA Technologies.

The trigger point

Even while at IIT-Kharagpur, the three friends had discussed the idea of doing something on their own. During his stint in ITC, Pushkar was exposed to the logistics side of the operations and found that it was quite an interesting business to be in. His role at ITC included interacting with truckers, nearly 80 of them at a time, especially at the time of product launches, when raw material supply had to be ensured and products had to be distributed.

“I was based in Bengaluru. We worked with leading transport operators. That is when I realised that technology can play a role and enable supply chain pretty easily,” says Pushkar.

He could understand the gaps from a client’s perspective and at the same time figure out the gaps from the operator’s side. That is when LetsTransport was started to cater to the B2B needs of logistics.

The trio point out that logistics comprises the supply side (the truck operators) and the demand side (those requiring goods to be moved). The logistics industry is segmented into the large companies such as ITC; the SMEs, which include the retail outlets and small manufacturers; and, the B2C segment, that is individual customers who book trucks. It took the trio a few months to understand the requirements of each segment, the challenges they would face and how the truckers operate.

According to them, they did pilot for two months from November 2014 and the venture took off in January 2015. They put in their own savings and launched the business and in August, raised about ₹9 crore ($1.3 million) from Rebright Partners and angel investors Ankush Nijhawan, Gaurav Bhatnagar and Manish Dhingra, which they have used to build the team, improve technology and expand operations.

LetsTransport does not own any trucks. It aggregates trucks and ensures that service levels are maintained. The venture trains the truckers who are on board, so that service levels are maintained, and connects them to those requiring vehicles. It works on two models. One is the captive fleet, which is exclusively associated with LetsTransport, for which it gives a minimum guarantee. The other is the on-demand fleet, which acts as a buffer when there is a spike in demand.

In expansion mode

LetsTransport is present in Bengaluru and Delhi and will gradually expand to other cities. It gets its money from clients that need trucks to move their goods and, in turn, pays the drivers. It charges the clients on a per kilometre basis. Right now, LetsTransport does only intra-city movement, but once it has a multi-city presence, it will start doing inter-city logistics.

According to Sudarshan, LetsTransport counts almost all the major e-commerce players, including Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal as its clients. The company works on ensuring high utilisation of the trucks so that the truck operators’ income rises. For instance, average utilisation levels of the trucks they engage with have increased from 40 per cent to 55 per cent. Their aim is to ensure that fleets are available in different parts of a city so that the trucks need not go empty for a long distance to pick up cargo or return empty after disgorging the cargo.

Just as they found it difficult to convince their first customer, Pushkar says convincing truckers too was quite a task. But once they started seeing the benefits, more of them joined up. It was like a Uber or Ola driver earning more than what they did, explains Pushkar.

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Published on January 11, 2016
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