Sometimes opportunity stares you in the face, as a glaring problem. For Srishti Lakhotia, a chartered accountant by training there was a family business that was into manufacturing raw materials for steel companies. “My dad, Suresh Kumar Lakhotia, faced a lot of problems with logistics. In fact, it was so severe that many times our sales or purchase team would spend 70 per cent of their time organising the deliveries and shipment.”
The entrepreneurial spirit in Srishti got charged. She knew her father’s company was facing a logistic problem and so were most small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). Srishti conducted a small market survey and found out the problem was widespread in the SME sector.
“Many SMEs face such problems. The unavailability of trucks, late deliveries, higher cost of transportation all add to their costs and causes a headache. How to solve it?” And then bingo! Srishti felt why not use technology to get a solution to this logistics problem?
Technology threw up a solution which was Logistics Junction. “We did a beta launch of the software in March 2017 and by August 2017 we were transacting business. This is an online portal for truck booking. Companies and truckers can come on this platform and connect with each other to do business. Logistics Junction acts as a one source contact to connect multiple SMEs and truckers all over India. There are also two booking app s – LJ booking app and LJ pilot app. “This worked for both sides, the demand as well as the supply. The SME sector needed a logistics manager to handle their day- to-day deliveries without having to deal with the usual problems like lack of vehicle tracking, higher freight cost. At the same time, truckers too face the issue of their vehicles standing idle for days on end as the entire trucking business is currently un-organised and routed through brokers.”
To get started, Srishti hired a team of marketing people who went around meeting truckers. “I had a team of five men who would go into the field and meet truckers. Initially it was difficult to get them on board. They could not grasp the idea of using technology for their business. Most of the truck drivers are old and averse to technology, but their sons who join the business were more open to the idea.”
What also helped was Srishti used her father’s company contacts with truckers. “Since we knew them, they introduced us to their network and that’s how we got started with the business.” With the supply side taken care of, Srishti now had to focus on getting customers.”We used a mix of digital and traditional marketing. We did online campaigns and also put out stickers on over 1,000 trucks informing people about the service. In fact we got two customers through the truck ads.”
Srishti used a few crores all funded in-house. “Our major cost is from operations since this is the nature of our business. I had to spend on not just the digitisation, the app and the staff but also on executing an order. Currently she is looking to raise a further ₹2.5 crores to fund growth. “We want to expand to other cities too. Currently we can take jobs from and to Pune. We don’t have the bandwidth to get into other cities as we need an operations team there. I plan to approach strategic investors for this.”
Srishti understood the nature of the business early on. She knew that the agri and steel and allied products were the two sectors to focus her energies on. “Time is very important to the agri industry. And then cost. Generally what happens is that a company will just look around and ask any trucker who is present at the time. His produce needs to reach the market fast as it is perishable. And cost is important as it adds to the final cost.”She understood that availability could be met with by her platform. “And because all the truckers bid for a particular trip, the cost is very competitive. Moreover we also tied up with a third party to provide crates to agro products. This was so that the plants/crops could be placed properly in the truck without damaging the goods. The trucker was willing to take on the burden on this cost because he too was getting good business from our platform.”
Srishti also noticed that Pune sends out a lot of agricultural produce to Raipur and Raipur produces a lot of steel and allied goods that can come back. “This helped our truckers get a return load which is very important for them to stay viable. He can carry vegetables and bring back steel.” Easy availability of trucks to the customer and assured trips and return trips to the truckers is what helped her business grow to 850 truckers and ₹2.5 Crores turnover per month. Currently she transports about 800 to 100 tonnes per month.
“Our focus currently is full truck loads, so business gets better for the trucker. Recently, we have also diversified into house-shifting services in Pune. Our aim is to provide an integrated service platform for niche and enhanced transportation management and, eventually, end to end logistics management solutions catering all industry verticals in the SME segment on the one side
and be a trusted partner for truckers, truck owners and fleet owners or managers by facilitating hassle-free digital interface, on the other side.”
Logistics Junction currently has 210 users with 35% growth in users on a month on month basis. Also in the pipeline are plans to expand the services to Mumbai, Raipur, Bengaluru. “Our technology roadmap is to increase the capability of our platform and include features to make Logistics Junction the one stop solution for all logistics management solutions.
“Logistics is the backbone of our economy, I believe growing big is a by-product, but the aim is to become a brand that can cater to both the unorganised sectors of small and medium-sized enterprises industry and truckers to make our nation’s logistics hassle free.” Tall order that.