Is it even possible to organize the intercity truck industry in India via tech? ReturnTrucks thinks soJubin Mehta
Sudhakar Vintha has a steep climb ahead of him. Just like many of the trucks on the highways of India. These freight trucks are a constant part of the landscape of this beautiful country. Often unnoticed, these trucks play a huge role in keeping the country functioning. And Sudhakar along with his team at ReturnTrucks wants to make these trucks more efficient.
How? ReturnTrucks connects truck and load owners through a truck and load matching platform. Customers can post the truck availability and load availability for free and load owners can book their truck. There are more options like exchanging information, tracking trucks, etc.
Sudhakar has worked with companies like Cisco, Yahoo and Toyota for more than 15 years. Post this, he decided to start a company in US on elementary education primarily serving using interactive mobile applications (Smart Kids). Moving on, during one of his trips to India, he found a necessity for a platform like ReturnTrucks. "I was stuck looking for a truck one day. It was urgent and later on I found that there was a truck waiting for a load very close to my place during the same period. I found a necessity for connecting different parties in this industry and an opportunity to build a technology platform to connect them," says Sudhakar. Along with him and a few other folks from the industry, Sudhakar put together a team to start ReturnTrucks.
The rickety road
Talking of the industry, Sudhakar says, "With 80%+ truck operators with less than 5 trucks, this $120 billion industry is wide open for different players and requires a lot of on-ground work to bring technology awareness and inculcate best practices. The current truck booking is heavily dependent on the intermediaries in the form of Booking Agents and Brokers." There seems to be a huge inefficiency in the way the system operates which leads to lower utilization of trucks, especially when a truck is returning to the home destination.
This is where ReturnTrucks wants to come in.
The small and medium players require affordable solutions that actually help them get loads and empower them with technology in building their reputation. According to Sudhakar, the biggest opportunity in this industry is to connect loads to these small truck operators and bring visibility into the shipment status. The load owners typically are corporates. For ReturnTrucks, the focus is on return trips to ensure the truck owners reduce the lead time for the return journey while the load owners are assured of timely delivery at a comparatively lesser cost as well as reduce carbon footprint.
Based in Vizag, ReturnTrucks started in December 2013 after spending 6 months to analyze the market which is dominated by agents/transport operators with no intra connectivity between each other. The first beta product was launched in March 2014 and Returntrucks.in has been well received by both the load-owners and transporters in the markets that they have entered so far. They acquired 5700+ truck operators and 4600+ load owners in 12 months including a big delivery channel and some of the state government projects. Currently, RT exchanges ~750 leads every month and successfully connects ~200 loads a month on a standard pricing and a projected reduction of 150 metric tons* of carbon footprint.
For a lay person like me who has not yet tried such a service, it seems difficult to figure out how the service works but going through the 'find trucks' tab, one can see where the trucks are. ReturnTrucks boasts of customers like Nagarjuna Group and India Post.
The road ahead
Completely bootstrapped, the ReturnTrucks team is 14 member strong at the moment. For ReturnTrucks, the plan is to expand more into Chennai and Bangalore in the next 6 months. Alongside, the startup is gradually introducing India-specific value adds like one-click insurance, easy-to-manage GPS tracking solutions – Trac247. Talking of the vision, Sudhakar says, "ReturnTrucks is committed to work in the large road-transportation eco-system in India and be a technology enabler to build in efficiency in the transportation business."
This is an audacious effort by the ReturnTrucks team but the market seems to be at the right stage to try out all these innovations. Logistics is one of the buzzing sectors with quite a few efforts, YourStory conducted a meetup to check the pulse of what people are doing:
Companies like Shippr and Blowhorn are organizing the smaller trucks intracity while ReturnTrucks wants to go after the inter city, cross nation market of trucks. Still early days, ReturnTrucks will be an interesting effort to check whether tech can be used to organize every imaginable 'unorganized market'.