This Bengaluru startup aims to be Swiggy and Dunzo of water tanker supply

Bengaluru startup Tankerwala allows customers to book water tankers on-demand across the city. It has a network of over 1,300 verified water tankers.
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In 2020, Shravanth Donthi and his wife Moulya Amar Nath moved to Moulya’s parent’s house in Banashankari, Bengaluru — one of the oldest areas in Bengaluru that has proper water supply and sewerage networks — as they were expecting their first child. 

“Nevertheless, we often ended up without water at home, and we had to find a supplier on Google or Justdial. We never received water on time, and every time it was an unpleasant experience. We decided to develop a hassle-free mobile app to book a water tanker on-demand,” says Shravanth. 

The couple-duo started Tankerwala in January 2021 to book and supply water tankers on-demand across Bengaluru city. The startup competes with other notable players, including Just Pani, Bookmycan, and Bringjal, among others. 

The startup has a network of over 1,300 verified water tankers, supplying water exceeding volumes of 100 million litres, and ensures they reach the customer within 60 minutes. 

What does the platform do? 

Tankerwala works on a hyperlocal on-demand delivery system. Customers can avail of quality water by choosing the location, the capacity, delivery slot, and by paying for the delivery.

While doing their research, the duo found that over 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress every day. In fact, major cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai, have a shortfall of about 10,000 million litres per day. 

“With rapid urbanisation, the demand and supply gap is expected to increase, and soon, other Tier I and II cities will face this crisis. To bridge this gap, people are relying on private tankers daily,” explains Shravanth. 

The problem statement

Finding a water tanker supplier is the hardest step for any customer as they are limited to a particular jurisdiction and operate within three to four kilometres. In fact, while the vendor’s telephone numbers are listed on the vehicle, they are unavailable most of the time. 

According to TechSci Research, major players operating in the Indian water tanks market include CST Industries, Shubham Acqualink (India), and UIG Water Tanks.

"Unlike our competitors, who list water suppliers as a directory, we have deployed an app that facilitates the placing of orders on the platform and assures delivery within 60 minutes,” says Shravath. 

With the industry still unorganised, both suppliers and customers face numerous problems.  For the customers, these include: 

  • Deliveries not made on time
  • Tankers not available when required
  • No assurance for water quality
  • Unfair and inconsistent pricing 
  • High premiums charged based on peak seasons and demand
  • Unpleasant experience while coordinating with the driver.

For the suppliers, the challenges were:

  • Inconsistent demand during non-peak season, leading to loss of business
  • Pilferage of margins due to unawareness of commission taken by the drivers at the time of delivery
  • Constant price negotiations with customers
  • Loss of time while navigating to customer location
  • Long distances for deliveries reduce the turnaround time, resulting in loss of opportunity.

The workings 

Tankerwala facilitates seamless, streamlined booking, and delivery of water tankers. The startup also offers locality-based pricing, ensuring uniformity in prices for all its customers in a particular locality. 

The average order value at Tankerwala is Rs 840.50.

It also has a real-time status update of tankers with location information and driver details. 

A customer has the option of scheduling tankers at their convenience and flexible payment options. The app also supports an in-app wallet to preload money for quicker check out and hassle-free deliveries. 

Tankerwala also offers a subscription option for regular customers to schedule deliveries throughout the week and 24/7 customer support. 

For independent suppliers, the Tankerwala driver app optimises their operations by providing a simple UI for quick decision making, guiding drivers with language barriers, a real-time dashboard for seamless fleet management, electronic fund transfer to the supplier’s bank account to avoid pilferage by drivers, and the ability to set own pricing within a bracket. 

The app is also GPS-enabled for seamless navigation for drivers. 

Challenges 

All the groundwork for Tankerwala was done amidst the COVID-19 lockdown last year, and the startup was incorporated in June 2020. However, building the core team was a challenge as its tech team was working remotely.

Shravanth explains unlike the hyperlocal delivery platforms (Dunzo or Swiggy), distance-based mobility apps (Ola or Uber), or distance-based logistics apps (Porter or Lalamove), Tankerwala looked for a new approach to deliver water tankers hyper-locally. 

Since every tanker has to return to its water loading point after delivery, the app’s allocation algorithm is built based on the market dynamics.

Moreover, the water tanker industry was never exposed to technology, and the literacy rate among drivers was very low. 

“To facilitate the adoption of the driver app, we started providing a pictorial representation of orders to the driver, which is language agnostic,” says Shravanth. So far, Tankerwala has executed over 4,000 deliveries worth over 22 million litres of water, generating a revenue of over Rs 30 lakh. 

The startup has also recently, secured contracts worth Rs 60 lakh to supply water to the Oracle India office in FY 21-22. Tankerwala supplies water to many homes, apartments, hospitals, hotels, construction sites, and other facilities across the city. 

These include Sri Jayadeva Cardiovascular Sciences and Research Hospital, Oracle India, Ozone Residenz, Assetz East Point, Border Security Force – Construction, Indian Railways, Metro – Cash and Carry, and Sterling Terraces. 

The unit economics at Tankerwala is between 13 and 15 percent. The startup is planning to expand operations to Chennai, Coimbatore, Mysore, Delhi, and Hyderabad in the coming years. 

Edited by Suman Singh

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