[Tech30] This Techstars-backed startup aims to optimise the warehousing industry in India

ODWEN, founded in 2019 by Vijay Anand Bhagavatula and Jai Misra, is helping standardise warehouses in India and making them easier to discover across the country. The startup has been selected for this year’s Tech30 cohort.
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For a country where online commerce has grown exponentially in recent years, India’s warehousing industry is still quite fragmented and disorganised. Accounting for nearly five percent of India’s booming logistics sector, according to a Knights Frank report, warehouses are an essential fulcrum for building robust distribution networks - and they have started to play an even bigger role now with the government’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ movements.

With an aim to standardise this fragmented business and to bring in more visibility, Vijay Anand Bhagavatula and Jai Misra started ODWEN in 2019.

The Delhi-based warehouse discovery platform has been selected as part of YourStory’s Tech30 cohort for the year 2020.

“Warehouse discovery is a huge problem for businesses that need storage solutions because there are hundreds of small operators that own a handful of spaces, and they don’t always have a strong online, discoverable presence,” Vijay tells YourStory.

Warehousing-related inefficiencies add at least 25 percent more to logistics costs borne by the end-users, a Knights Frank report said, which translates into more cash outflow for small businesses that have already been facing serious challenges. Logistics cost, as a whole, accounts for up to 17 percent of India’s GDP - nearly double than that in developed countries.

Those statistics are worrying because, according to Vijay, nearly 50 percent of all warehouses that exist today run empty. But ODWEN is trying to solve this problem.

Enabling discovery and standardisation

ODWEN positions itself as a one-stop warehouse discovery platform that helps users look for storage spaces in a particular location.

It enables users to refine their search results by allowing them to add filters such as price of the warehouse space, material that will be stored, the square footage of the unit, and the move-in and move-out dates.

The startup offers additional services such as consignment pick up/drops, forklift rentals, full-time supervisors and labourers, as well as office space rentals within the warehouses.

A big pain point that ODWEN helps ease for end-users is having to maintain multiple relationships with warehouse operators.

Typically, a multi city business looking for warehouses in 10 cities, for example, would have to independently go and assess storage spaces in multiple locations. The business would also need to maintain associations with multiple operators, and individually call up warehouses if they had a consignment coming in or going out.

A snapshot of ODWEN's online platform

ODWEN, which aggregates multiple warehouse operators on its platform, manages these independent relationships on the user’s behalf, so the business only has to interact with one touch point.

“At the click of a few buttons, businesses can manage their consignments across all the locations and warehouses they’ve rented through us - and that way they can focus on their core business more,” Vijay tells YourStory.

ODWEN also standardises the warehouses that tie up with it. It installs hardware such as CCTV cameras, barcode scanners, fire-safety equipment, etc., across all its associate-warehouses so that customers already know what to expect when they rent through the startup.

Bottlenecks

While setting up ODWEN, Vijay and Jai realised that inventory management was a major bottleneck for small businesses. Existing softwares were too complex and meant mostly for big brands, and small businesses were hardly taken into consideration while inventory management softwares were being developed.

So, the business partners decided to take matters into their own hands and developed a very simple inventory management platform to help small ventures track their incoming and outgoing catalogues.

ODWEN has generated between Rs 1 crore to Rs 3 crore revenue per annum so far, and raised Rs 5 crore in seed round from Techstars Bangalore. Its main competitors include other warehouse discovery platforms such as BoxMySpace, Godamwale, and StoreSpace, among others.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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