This Startup Is Using Technology to Disrupt the Freight-Forwarding Market in India
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While import-export business is common in India, less has been talked about those businesses which are making the logistics easier for shippers, i.e freight forwarders.
Mumbai-based Freightwalla is a digital freight-forwarding startup which is involved in B2B international logistics. It uses technology to provide efficient, reliable and transparent supply chain to importers and exporters.
What Problem Is It Solving?
Founded in 2017 by Sanjay Bhatia, Bharat Thanvi and Punit Java, Freightwalla is a full-stack digital platform for businesses to plan, book and manage their international freight shipments online. “We organize end-to-end cargo movement for importer and exporter companies,” said Sanjay Bhatia, co-Founder and CEO, Freightwalla.
According to Bhatia, the traditional freight-forwarding is a manual process due to which several errors creep in, causing companies to lose money. Freightwalla’s digital platform solves this issue and helps in minimizing errors, reduce overall cost of logistics and also saves time for shippers. Speaking to Entrepreneur India, Bhatia explained that certain steps in the cargo movement process normally takes up to two-three days but with Freightwalla, things get done within seconds.
According to the company, it provides advanced tools for pricing and sailing schedule discovery along with other features such as real-time tracking of shipments and transhipments. This allows shippers to take corrective actions and save themselves from penalties due to delayed delivery.
Bhatia said that his family has been in this business for more than 50 years now and thus he noticed the gaps and errors in the existing manual process such as lack of transparency in pricing, no visibility of cargo movement and mistakes in documentation.
“I realized that all of these problems that the industry has can be solved with technology. Earlier, when I used to work with a venture capital firm in Singapore, I started seeing a lot of these technology businesses coming up in the same freight-forwarding industry and that's when I came to know about what sort of technologies can be used and how they can be used to actually solve the problem. When the basics of the business started to come in place, I thought I want to try this in India,” Bhatia said.
Following this, Bhatia connected with his two co-founders who he knew individually. While Java, who worked previously at Amazon and Microsoft headquarters in Seattle, brought in the technology to the business, Thanvi brought in his vast experience of 15 years in the freight-forwarding space.
According to the company, the following features are what makes Freightwalla unique from the traditional freight-forwarding companies:
Rate discovery: According to the company, normally clients get rates from forwarders via an email with trade lanes mentioned. With Freightwalla, the shipper gets a couple of options to ship their goods between ports. It offers instant rate discovery from many different shipping lines enabling the customer to make decisions very quickly and with all the cut-offs, sailing schedules and transit time.
Local charges: The local charges are generally not provided by the forwarders resulting in additional charges being added to the bill. Freightwalla provides this breakup during rate discovery itself with full transparency for cost saving.
Documentation: Several discussions happen to finalize documents via email and manually highlighting/changing information on the bill of lading (BL). Freightwalla offers finalization of BL and shipping instructions via tools on the portal to eliminate errors and save time.
Track and trace: Traditional offline forwarders do not track and trace containers once they have left the port of loading. This is an important service available with Freightwalla as the container may get stuck at the transhipment port due to congestion or delayed vessel arrival and sail, among others. Freightwalla tracks containers until it reaches the destination port. “Even during transhipment delays, our technology is able to provide near real-time updates which enable good information flow resulting in the relationship between consignor and consignee being managed better,” according to a company release.
Invoices: All invoices are made available on the portal which in turn saves time during financial audits of companies.
The digital freight forwarder recently raised $4 million in Series A funding round led by global venture capital firms Amplo, FJ Labs and Rogue One Capital. Existing investors Kae Capital and Tekton Ventures also participated in the round.
According to Bhatia, these funds will be deployed to expand geographically and also upgrade the company’s technical prowess.
Bhatia added they plan to expand its geographical presence across west India for sales and also set up a pan-India door-to-door logistics service. “We are looking to add more technological capabilities in our workflow management, costing and planning tool and also in our tracking services,” Bhatia added.
When asked about international expansion, Bhatia said while it makes sense to expand beyond India for become an international logistics company, they do not have any such plans for the immediate future.