Even as logistics and shipping remain the very backbone of the e-commerce revolution, the logistics industry has been unorganised since it came into being. Even though players in the space are offering various degrees of differentiation in sophistication, efficiency, and reliability at a range of prices, their discovery is largely sporadic and still a matter of chance. There is indeed a major gap between shippers and logistics companies, where shippers aren’t able to leverage lucrative deals on shipping for their consumers on the one hand, and competent logistics companies aren’t able to reach out to thousands of companies due to limited sales resources on the other.
“This gap had to be eliminated and we’re using technology to create a win-win for all stakeholders, creating a new sales channel for logistics companies and bringing economical prices and automated shipping processes for the shippers,” says 23-year-old Bhavik Chinai.
No mountain high enough, or valley deep enough
Bhavik has been in business since 2013, with exposure to logistics, venture capital and event management. He holds degrees from Harvard, London School of Economics, Indian School of Business and Narsee Monjee. Rohit Chemburkar, 33, has been an entrepreneur since 2005, having tried his hands at logistics, digital media and software development. He went to Jai Hind College before going to Stratford University.
Bhavik crafted Vamaship in October 2015 – India’s first aggregator for logistics companies that ship through air, water as well as road. It brings the two stakeholders together and takes a percentage off each transaction as its fee – which is its prime revenue model. “Today, within seven months, we have a fairly large partner base and shippers can ship any type of commodity through air, ocean and surface in India, to over 10,000 pin codes and to and from 200 countries globally.”
Ten-thousand pin codes, but India’s ‘400’ was chosen as the undisputed base for this blooming business. “Both Rohit and I are based out of Mumbai and the logistics space in Mumbai is the largest in the country. Mumbai has an excellent talent pool and we’re growing very quickly due to quick access to customers,” Bhavik opines.
Messages in the bottle
Rohit and Bhavik met at a conference in 2015, and then met again when Vamaship needed a CTO. Rohit takes care of the technology strategy and execution, while Bhavik focuses on growing the business.
They built the platform very quickly and released the beta to customers large and small, for feedback. The core challenge they faced was adoption of technology by traditional players. Despite partners having access to excellent software that can stream real-time data, it’s adopted only by a fraction of industry due to the implementation challenges and slow return of investment that they have anticipated. As a marketplace, Vamaship’s success depends on adoption of technology by partners - which is taking time. Another challenge has been to coax shippers to shift away from old, paper-based processes to automation.
With feedback, though, they were able to go beyond pure shipping to building a trade platform for shippers where trade data of India is freely accessible, with customs duties and HS codes for exporting or importing any commodity. “Such similar allied features and value-adds are ensuring customer stickiness,” says Bhavik.
The road less ‘tracked’
Since they started in October 2015, Vamaship has amassed over 100 logistics partners – spanning e-commerce logistics companies, freight forwarders, trucking brokers, trucking companies, and courier companies, and over 500 customers companies – ranging from the world’s largest mining company to Instagram sellers who have barely been selling for two days. They have aggregated over 30,000 trucks in India, and are growing 2x in revenue month-on-month, since February 2016. “Our biggest success has been collaborating with the world’s third largest bauxite mining company for their global logistics through Vamaship. Other major success has been India’s largest jewellery website, Caratlane, and the fastest growing lifestyle startup, Label Life signing up and shifting their shipping onto Vamaship,” says Bhavik.
The startup's association with diamonds goes beyond a business-client relationship – they are also mentored by the managing director of the world’s largest diamond company. They even raised $500,000 in a round of funding in March this year from BVC Ventures. Plans to scale up entail expansion from three cities to over 20, on-boarding 10,000 paying businesses and hiring talent to help scale quickly. “We’ll be announcing our next, larger round within six months,” says Bhavik.
Logistics is a trillion-dollar industry globally. There are a lot of domain specialists like City-link, Blackbuck, Rivigo and Porter for trucking, Flexport and Freightos for freight, and Ecourierz and Shipdroid for courier. But Vamaship remains to be India’s first aggregator for all three modes of transport. However, they continue to face competition from these domain experts, so, as a strategy, being a marketplace, they are collaborating with tech-enabled startups like Blackbuck instead of competing with them.