Father-son's logistics startup has a differentiator: radius-free deliveries
Ratnesh Verma, former Senior Vice President at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, faced a series of personal pain points back in 2018 while trying to send and receive packages.
Traditional courier companies were reliable, but not on-demand and instant. Most on-demand delivery companies operate in a radius of up to eight kilometres. Additionally, while the gig economy has generated employment opportunities for people, it also has cons with respect to employee welfare. Most importantly, when it comes to scaling, logistics services often come at the cost of customer experience.
Ratnesh started ideating on a logistics startup in April 2019. By June 2019, he started testing the service model on a low-tech basis and after several iterations, his startup Pidge finally went live in September 2019.
Based out of Gurugram, Pidge currently operates in five Delhi-NCR cities, Delhi, Noida, Faridabad, Gurugram, and Ghaziabad, fulfilling both on-demand local deliveries and courier needs.
“Pidge’s USP is providing radius-free deliveries. And with its large geographical area, Delhi-NCR seemed to be perfect for its launch,” Ratnesh says.
An alumnus of Stanford University, Ratnesh has spent 25 years working with Hyatt Hotels. His last role included heading Hyatt’s development in the Asia-Pacific and Southwest Asia region, covering 50 countries. He joined Whitbread, the parent company of Premier Inn and Costa Coffee brands, in 2015 as the President and Managing Director.
In early 2018, when Ratnesh identified the problems in the logistics industry and started to develop the idea in his mind, “It was constantly being bounced back by my family, including my wife and two sons”, he says. However, his eldest son, Rushil Mohan, who was then pursuing his MS from Northwestern University, was interested.
Rushil is an alumnus of the London School of Economics, and his approach was data-centric. “I would spend hours discussing this idea with him, and he could quickly validate the discussion points with secondary research and present meaningful insights,” Ratnesh recalls.
These discussions led to the idea of the two of them working together, and in December 2018, after completing his Masters, Rushil joined the venture as a Co-founder.
Several brainstorming sessions were held to decide the name of the company. It was on a Sunday morning, when Ratnesh, Rushil and his mother were sipping coffee that she spotted a pigeon and joked about naming the company ‘Pigeon.’
Rushil came up with Pidge, a shorter version of Pigeon and that stuck in their heads. “The name also derives inspiration from pigeons, which are believed to be the original carriers of messages in ancient times,” Ratnesh adds.
Today, Pidge has a team of around 100 employees, including over 50 on-roll delivery executives.
The logistics startup offers two key services – an app-based service for immediate and urgent delivery needs, and web-based services for facilitating multiple deliveries from a single pick-up point.
The app, available for both Android and iOS users, lets customers organise pickups for any item -- from a laptop to a box of sweets, within 60 minutes of order placements. This service is also used by businesses dealing with highly perishable goods like bakeries. This service comes with no minimum guarantee or order size. Moreover, the app allows businesses to create shared wallets, receive invoicing, and frame user rules.
The web-based service is based on the multiple deliveries model, where the pickup point is fixed, but the deliveries have to be made in multiple locations. “This is essentially relevant for businesses and ecommerce players who have to get their products picked up from a certain place or warehouse, and get them delivered to their customers,” Ratnesh explains.
For this service, Pidge has developed a package-based pricing mechanism. The cost is based on the size of the package and the number of packages that need to be delivered. This service is also available for individuals to take care of occasional needs such as sending out wedding invites.
“The reason why Pidge’s business product is so adaptive to individuals and businesses alike is because it involves various levels of tech integration. Whether somebody wants to share their data over WhatsApp, or through Excel sheets, or pass the information directly through API and direct integration, it can be comfortably achieved by Pidge. This is over and above third-party platforms like Shopify that it is constantly working on,” Ratnesh says.
Addressing the pain points
Pidge solves existing pain points in the Indian logistics industry. It enables on-demand pickup and instant delivery, every day between 7 am and 11 pm, and is radius-free. It ensures security and reliability by having on-roll delivery executives, live tracking, and transparent and no-surge pricing. Additionally, it offers live customer support for queries and concerns.
It provides a three-level proprietary security system:
- Digital level, where its double OTP (one-time password) and unique package barcode ensure that the right package reaches the right person.
- Tamper-proof bags ensure privacy and protection of items in transit.
- Hiring reliable full-time and on-roll employees. Each delivery executive is hired after meeting rigorous selection criteria along with extensive background checks. It also offers a five-day training programme. On ground, executives are constantly monitored for quality assurance.
“We also offer life insurance for our delivery executives, and medical insurance for their families. This inculcates a sense of confidence in them, which they further pass on to their customers,” Ratnesh explains.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Pidge has introduced measures as per guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation. All its riders are provided with masks, gloves and sanitisers. Pidge has also introduced contactless delivery.
“We are providing free logistics services to one of our business partners, who is sending 300 boxes of food for the needy on a daily basis,” Ratnesh says.
The numbers game
Pidge has been bootstrapped since inception, with an initial capital of $3 million. Its revenue model is based on transactions per order. It charges a minimum fee for the first few kilometres and a fixed price per kilometre after that. Its compounded revenue growth for the past six months has been over 110 percent month-on-month.
Pidge acquired its first 1,000 customers through word of mouth. It has on-boarded 35,000 users in the last six months, and has recorded a customer repeat rate of over 50 percent.
Currently, Pidge is providing its services to brands in the hygiene and sanitary space, meat delivery companies, pet food brands, and cloud kitchens and bakeries. Some of its clients are Taj, Zappfresh, Bombaykery, FoodTalk India, Pet Sutra, and Masala Monk.
Ever since Pidge launched its app, it has witnessed double-digit week-on-week growth for almost 26 consecutive weeks.
Market overview and way forward
The logistics sector earned infrastructure status in 2017, when its market size was estimated at $160 billion. According to IBEF, the Indian Logistics Market was expected to reach $215 billion by 2020, logging a 10.5 percent CAGR over 2017. Gurugram-based Delhivery attained the unicorn status in March 2019, after raising funds from SoftBank.
Besides that, LetsTransport, Blowhorn, Lalamove, B2B player Blackbuck are also disrupting the logistics sector. On the on-demand delivery side, Pidge competes with hyperlocal delivery app Dunzo. In fact, recently Swiggy Genie is also helping citizens send packages to each other in their locality.
Going ahead, Pidge plans to focus on growth: acquiring new customers, launching services across multiple geographies, and launching new products. “We will raise additional capital when there is an imminent need to support growth goals,” Ratnesh says.
Edited by Javed Gaihlot