More Than Deployment: This Fleet-tech Is Reshaping Modern Logistics

LocoNav is addressing the problem of fleet tracking and driver management

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When it comes to fleet management, most business professionals often envision trucks and other commercial vehicles transporting goods as part of the supply chain. While that’s correct, it’s not the accurate answer.

LocoNav

In the broadest terms, a fleet is a large set of anything—for example, equipped with sensors and connectivity, each becomes another source of data on inventory, consumption, location, energy usage, demand, and more—gathered and transmitted across the Internet-of-Things (IoT).

Greater innovation continues to expand how IoT is deployed in manufacturing, transportation, and logistics, as well as in diverse uses from the fast-growing scooter and bike rental market and to medical devices that transmit patient data in real-time. In addition, electric vehicle charging stations are also fleets; and one that is expanding, given India’s plan to increase their importance across India; indeed, sustainability has been seen as a driving force behind the growth of IoT deployment.

LocoNav Inc. co-founder Shridhar Gupta believes that everyone has a purpose and calling in life. The most successful companies, therefore, are those that are built out of that purpose. When co-founder Vidit Jain and Gupta met at ClearTax as colleagues, they both wanted to give the world a global, scalable solution on the back of accessible technology that will have an incremental positive impact on life. Both of them had experience in building businesses and products, and the more they talked, the more they realized that they wanted to explore opportunities in the B2B space, especially where they could make the most disruptive impact using technology. One of the categories they began to explore was freight management.

The more they spoke to fleet owners, the more they realized that a problem even larger than booking a consignment was fleet tracking and driver management. When a commercial vehicle left on a run, the fleet owner’s only way of staying in touch with the driver was by calling him. If the driver was unreachable--either deliberately or for reasons beyond his control--the owner had no way of knowing or mitigating any financial losses that would occur. Conversely, if the driver had a flat tire or fuel theft, and the owner hadn’t given enough cash for contingencies, the trip would be in financial loss. These stories gave them a pause. The top 1 per cent of India is so used to their mobile phones giving them everything they need--locations of near and dear ones, cabs, food, groceries, and access to all their money on tap. But here was an industry that manages billions of dollars’ worth of goods and yet has such rudimentary coordination systems.

“So, as we delved deeper, we discovered that fleet management was an even greater problem to solve. We realized that not just in India, but across global emerging markets, over 200 million commercial vehicle owners and drivers don’t have easy (or any) access to technology and solutions to run their vehicles efficiently and save running costs. These fleet owners spent their entire day on phones tracking drivers and handling cash transactions, and due to the prohibitive pricing or hardware needs of the software, or access to modern devices, or network issues even, most of the new-age products being developed in western markets were beyond the reach of even larger fleet operators,” stated Gupta, in an interview with Entrepreneur India.

That’s how LocoNav came into being in 2016. Their driving belief ever since has been to democratize access to fleet tech for fleet owners and operators across emerging markets. According to Jain, “Each commercial vehicle is a business in itself with its own P&L. Every mile it travels brings revenue, and with it, an associated cost. This commercial vehicle is the atom of LocoNav.”

By leveraging the power of IoT and AI at LocoNav, the company is trying to centre all its efforts around this atom so that it can bring the enormous amounts of data generated from the vehicle into a single platform. This data enables the safety of the driver, vehicle, and the freight it is carrying, along with improving business efficiency for the fleet owner. All of this, in turn, improves the lives and livelihoods of everyone in the industry, benefits the larger logistics and supply chain ecosystems, and positively impacts climate sustainability, Gupta further shared.

The company recently raised $37 million in Series B funding from Quiet Capital, Anthemis Group, Sequoia Capital India, RIT Capital Partners, Uncorrelated Ventures, Village Global, and other investors. They previously raised $10 million in prior rounds and their total amount raised stands at ~$47 million.

Currently, as a full-stack and one-stop fleet-tech solutions platform, the startup is introducing the fleet management industry to SaaS offerings by leveraging data insights. They are device agnostic and already compatible with over 2,2000 devices from the simplest GPS location trackers to completely integrated Fleet Management Solutions like LocoNav ADAS. Their software solution is already available in over 25 countries and will enter new ones soon. The company is present on to offer value-added services and solutions to fleet owners like data-backed vehicle insurance called LocoNav Insure,  LocoNav Pay, and LocoNav RTO. They are rapidly expanding all of these and more to existing and new countries across APAC and EMEA.

According to Gupta, in the developed nations, the industry has become very large over the past decade and several players offer sophisticated tech catering to drivers and fleet owners who are tech-savvy, enjoy better roads and networks, and overall are more organized. However, in global developing markets, no one has ambitiously built a large player and they see themselves as the first movers there. The company is catering to fleet owners and operators who are not using tech of any kind too.

“In our markets, the industry is fragmented and spans a spectrum - from some large enterprises which hope to get efficiencies of tens of millions of dollars by using the right fleet management solutions, to small business owners for whom their commercial vehicle is their sole livelihood and fleet management can mean a better quality of life for their families and future generations. Combine this with the complexity of varied hardware, software and telecom networks, we see that competition of any kind varies in each market by type of solution provided and by scale. We believe our greatest challenge isn’t another company as much as it is really building out this category in a comprehensive manner. It is about bringing the fleet owners resorting to old-school devices and software to our world of accessible, world-class technology-led solutions,” he mentioned.

The company’s continued vision is to democratize access to fleet tech and empower fleet owners and operators with AI-based technology that will help manage fleet operations, provide recommendations for better decision-making and ultimately enhance fleet performance.

“As we realize our vision of democratizing access to fleet-tech, our mission is to bring safety to drivers and vehicles, business efficiency to fleet owners and operators, and also positively impact climate sustainability too,” Gupta claimed.

The company has some incredible growth plans but at the heart of all these goals is to create tangible, on-ground impact for a sector that sometimes gets subsumed into the larger logistics and supply chain industry and remains unseen by the world at large.

This platform is building the world’s largest network of connected commercial vehicles and leveraging that network to build a full-stack fleet services ecosystem. Their latest raise is to support LocoNav’s ambition to replicate its success in India across global emerging markets and help to build additional partnerships and channels, make strategic acquisitions, as well as establish a local presence in key geographies.

They are also strengthening their tech muscle by building technology and data science teams across San Francisco, Gurugram, and Bengaluru.

“In the Indian Fleet-tech industry, we want to double down on our market leadership over the next 2 years and also look at emulating our success in building our marketplace of services across other emerging markets,” he further shared.