Digitising construction sector, Y Combinator-backed Tenderd helps rent, track equipment
Though Arjun Mohan had decided to build his own startup in Silicon Valley, life had other plans for him. Having grown up in the UAE, he had seen his father's business and when Arjun's father fell ill, he started helping him oversee the business.
He noticed that the company was already renting out construction equipment to other contractors. While this wasn’t the primary business, Arjun realised that the vertical could be developed as a separate, online tech platform.
This got him to startin 2018. It is an online marketplace and software development company that helps companies rent and keep track of heavy machinery like bulldozers, trucks, cranes etc. Today, Tenderd, has evolved to be an AI powered analytics platform for efficient and sustainable fleet operations.
It helps companies increase utilisation of their capital equipment and vehicles, reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions during operations. It's currently being used by the largest organisation in the construction, E-commerce, logistics, and energy sectors globally.
Headquartered in Dubai, the Y Combinator-backed startup enables construction companies to rent machineries such as air compressors, dump trucks, bulldozers, cranes, and more. It also developed its subsidiary, TenderdTrack, to transform heavy equipment into "smart" machines. It helps companies keep track of the entire fleet of heavy machinery.
Tenderd has a presence in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. In 2019, the startup raised undisclosed funding from investors including Y Combinator, Peter Thiel, Paul Graham, Beco Capital, and others.
Arjun moved from the UAE to Canada in 1998 to study at the University of Toronto. After pursuing MSc in Management from the Richard Ivey School of Business, Western Ontario, he decided to start up in Silicon Valley and in 2017, founded Eureka King to help publishers with online marketing.
However, in the same year, his father fell sick and Arjun had to return to the UAE. That’s when he observed his father’s company with a keen eye and realised that though equipment gave value to the business, no technology or data was being used.
“When I started helping in my father’s company, I noticed that many of these construction companies were managing their capital equipment in the same manner as a hundred years ago. That’s when I thought that there was an opportunity to bring what I have experienced, observed and learned in Silicon Valley to the space,” says Arjun Mohan, Founder and CEO of Tenderd.
Though he planned a different career, and even his mother didn’t want him to enter the construction business, life came full circle when Arjun founded Tenderd.
Online marketplace and its challenges
Another reason why Arjun felt the need for an online marketplace is many construction companies were renting heavy equipment instead of buying them. This also necessitated keeping track of the entire fleet to make informed decisions, especially as the machines are gas guzzlers and required optimised use.
“Construction is a trillion-dollar market in the UAE and the capital equipment renting market is a massive niche space within that which needs to be cleaned and explored,” says Arjun.
But reforming a sector like construction wasn’t an easy task as Arjun found it difficult to explain to industry veterans the need to integrate technology.
“Industry veterans thought about our work as a joke; we were seen as a fairly young and inexperienced team trying to tell industry leaders how to run their businesses. I have, in fact, been thrown out of offices of big construction companies as they didn’t simply trust us,” he recalls.
That company is now one of Tenderd’s customers.
Today, apart from the construction business, Tenderd is also renting equipment to other industries such as logistics, oil refineries and more, having collaborated with companies like Saudi Aramco, Colas, Amazon, Larsen & Toubro, and others.
In the early days, Tenderd focused on renting idle assets but the team worked on building tech.
“I built the first website with basic coding and we had been backed by Y Combinator by then so we could further fix the tech and software,” says Arjun.
The team of 42 members handle two products under Tenderd—the online marketplace and the TenderdTrack software.
The marketplace allows clients to pick and choose the machinery from the catalogue, add it to the cart, mention the location and scope of the project, and submit it to the Tenderd team for a quotation.
Launched in January 2021, the proprietary app TenderdTrack works on a SaaS (software-as-a-service) model. Clients can use the software after paying an undisclosed annual subscription fee. Within the platform, there are different apps for GPS tracking, fuel tracking and efficiency, regular performance reports, real-time communication management with technicians, and more. Clients can pick and choose these apps according to their needs.
The company charges an undisclosed fee for the software.
“What sets us apart is that we provide companies with real-time carbon emission monitoring of their assets as many people have a strong focus on sustainability,” explains Arjun.
Market and future
Its competition includes companies like Sanayaa App and BuildSouq for the older model, and for its newer model competes with Samsara and Trimble.
As the pandemic subsides and economic activities resume, Mordor Intelligence predicts that the UAE is likely to lead the race in the heavy equipment renting market. The GCC construction equipment/machinery rental market was valued at $4.07 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $5.81 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate of 6.15%.
The team is now looking to expand deeper into the market and also expand in different geographies within the GCC.
Disclaimer: This copy has been updated to reflect correct a factual error in the founder's initial business plans and add some information about competition.
Edited by Kanishk Singh