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How Boxnbiz, a tech-driven forwarding firm, is disrupting the international shipping and freight industry

Vishal Krishna
2nd Apr 2018
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Boxnbiz’s web app offers a single dashboard solution to manage end-to-end supply chain with instant quotes and real-time visibility of shipments.

At a glance

Startup: Boxnbiz

Founders: Biplob Barik and Ricky Goyal

Where it is located: Bengaluru

What do they solve: Saas-enabled freight forwarding and customs brokerage tool.

Funding: Self-funded

Global shipping is still a paper-driven industry with few interventions from cloud-based software tools. Businesses, freight forwarders, and shippers still connect with phones or emails and have no way of reconciling rates. Imagine how an Oyo Rooms for the shipping industry could change the way logistics rates are discovered.

This is what Biplob Barik and Ricky Goyal envisaged, and they created Boxnbiz, a two-year-old startup that has enabled the logistics ecosystem on the shipping side to discover original and dynamic pricing.

Biplob, 27, and Ricky, 26, met during their graduation in 2009 and became good friends while they were preparing for their post-graduate exams. They joined a master’s programme in business administration in Pune.

“At the time we always used to discuss about startups, but the real twist came when we came to Bengaluru to join work in 2011,” Biplob says.

Biplob was picked up by Allcargo Logistics, one of the largest less than container load consolidators in the world, while Ricky was placed in Oracle Financial Services.

Ricky and Biplob

Genesis of the idea

The idea of Boxnbiz was born during Biplob’s service in Allcargo.

“I found that the shipping industry is still manual and opaque. The entire supply chain in international shipping is handled by multiple agents and continues to be operated over emails, fax, and paper, which makes the information systems complex,” Biplob says.

On one hand, shippers struggle to find the right service experience; on the other, freight forwards have to struggle to increase sales and maintaining customer service. All the paperwork means it is not an efficient way of figuring out profitable business routes and transactions.

According to PWC, every day, trillions of dollars’ worth of goods are shipped across borders. Most of this includes paperwork with software systems that capture data and are not dynamically linked.

Biplob contacted Ricky since his father had a road transport business, and Biplob believed he was on to something.

In August 2016 they started with a web app where shippers could search for instant freight quotes, manage their data and documents in a single dashboard, and track their shipment online. Freight forwarders and agents could use the technology to automate the pricing and customer service.

Boxnbiz was formed with an initial investment of Rs 7 lakh and the duo operated their business for three months without any manpower. Biplob got a senior manager from ACL to join them and added six more people to work on the project; this is how the basic prototype was launched.

The startup got its first business of 20 containers from a well-known refrigerator manufacturer in November 2016.

The company started with a marketplace model where shippers can globally search quotes, manage bookings, and track shipments online while freight agents could increase their sales by publishing their rates online.

However, merely connecting these two sides would not work. The tech needed to create visibility in the supply chain and found that shippers could benefit with the right information when all agents and parties on the supply side were connected through a single platform so that the entire chain could be in sync with the information flow.

The problem? Presently, due to time zone differences and outdated communication tools, traditional freight agents are not able to communicate in real time. The small- and medium-sized businesses market doesn’t have any software that could automate its communication and operations with its partners.

According to KPMG, there are close to 1 million small- and medium-sized businesses that export from India and few have solutions for logistics. They still work on email.

“So with this in mind, we started our partnering programme where we tied up with small-scale freight agents, providing them entire IT system to run their business smoothly and increase their sales by becoming our preferred partners. It's quite similar to what Oyo is doing in the hotel industry,” Biplob says.

BoxnBiz provides free-of-cost software, which shippers can ship their goods globally. They also provide IT infrastructure to SMBs (freight forwarding companies), which is mostly free. They charge for premium tools like accounting, tax filing and carrier schedule manager.

The startup makes 15 percent on each booking. Its strategy to scale is to partner with the 200,000 freight agents, customs brokers, carriers, or customs to bring them on the platform. This, the founders feel, will create only one line of communication and a massive network effect. Presently, the company has crossed Rs 1 crore in sales revenue and has a client base of 20 large companies.

The market for global trade is massive, according to Boxnbiz, with goods worth $19 trillion shipped across the border annually.

Logistics costs in India are 14.5 percent of the product cost; the global average is 6 percent. This shows there is huge opportunity for the public and private sector to use software to reduce the cost.

As per ASSOCHAM, the logistics market is currently estimated to be around $3.5 trillion.

The biggest challenge in this industry is the disorganised nature of the logistics sector in India because it is a manpower-heavy industry, and there is a lack of IT standard, equipment, and poor systems integration.

The company competes with Flexport, Freightos, Freight hub, Freight Bro, Cogoport, and Vamanship, which are solving similar problems for shippers and SMBs.

Mohandas Pai, Founder of Aarin Capital, says: “The industry works on massive scale. The founders must scale up fast and the technology adoption should be faster.”

Uniqueness of the tech

BoxnBiz is a Saas-enabled freight forwarding and customs brokerage company, helping importers and exporters to ship their goods globally by providing a single platform to search instant freight quote, manage bookings, and track shipments online.

The technology standardises thousands of line items and codifies them to provide a standard rate card so that price procurement can be quick and efficient. The system scans and pulls out data and structures it so manual entries can be reduced and efficiency can be increased.

Apart from automation, their tool can be integrated with any kind of business operation software such as ERPs or CRM.

Their purchase order tool can be linked to SAP PO management tool. The moment the user (shipper) places a PO with its overseas supplier, the Boxnbiz team gets a notification and starts taking actions to link the chain.

This method is also known as forwarded integration; Boxnbiz has automated the same. Now that Boxnbiz has done all this, it is only important for them to scale up and generate enough revenues to become a valuable company.

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