Trukkin is a Dubai-based trucks aggregator, connecting shippers, transporters, brokers and drivers. The startup has raised $3.5 million to date and recently expanded its operations to Pakistan. Here, founder and chief executive officer Janardan Dalmia outlines the company's experience during the pandemic and why he decided to expand to a new market during lockdown.
Transport and logistics is a sector that is in dire need of innovation and disruption. It is a sector that suffers from a lack of transparency, reliability and efficiency. I founded Trukkin in 2017 to address these challenges using IoT-enabled route optimisations, highly trained truck drivers and efficient fleet management. Since our inception, we have managed to grow from our base in Dubai to Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC and as the world entered a lockdown, we decided to continue our growth and launch in Pakistan.
As factories closed and global trade slowed, the logistics sector faced uncertainties due to limited movement. Although passenger traffic completely stopped as cities underwent lockdown, essentials and food deliveries had to continue.
As soon as the lockdown hit, we knew we had to make drastic changes to the way we functioned. It was a now-or-never situation for us and thankfully, it paid off. We were able to ride the lockdown wave by switching from generic cargo to essential goods in open sectors, which helped us avoid the problems other providers faced. We also had to onboard more drivers and transporters and work with agility and adaptability to convert the challenges posed by the pandemic into opportunities.
As an example, when trucks registered in the UAE were not allowed to enter Saudi Arabia, we mobilised our trucks in Saudi Arabia to bring goods into the UAE and take the cargo from UAE back into Saudi Arabia. This method allowed us to adapt to logistical, legal and geographical movement-related challenges that we met head-on and worked around to ensure continuity and success.
Another opportunity we embraced was the decision to expand to Pakistan.To many, expanding to a new territory during such a time of economic decline and uncertainty is incredibly risky. But for us, Pakistan represented an opportunity that had been on the drawing board for a long time. When the pandemic and the resultant lockdown threatened to inhibit growth and added uncertainty, we decided to march ahead and show how we could change the way the logistics industry handled this challenge.
Expanding to Pakistan showcased our commitment to the region and our belief that logistics is a resilient business that is here to stay. The transportation and logistics industry in Pakistan has seen many changes over the years. Growing at a CAGR of over 18 per cent since 2017 and valued at over $35 billion, this industry is the mainstay of thousands of individuals in the country.
However, compared to the global logistics industry, Pakistan’s logistics sector is highly fragmented and comprises small, independent players. With cash payments and spot rates making up most of the financial arrangements, there is very little transparency and the whole process is highly inefficient.
This inefficiency hits the bottom line of many involved in it, including brokers, shippers, transporters and drivers. According to the Pakistan Infrastructure Implementation Capacity Assessment, inefficiencies in the unorganised transportation sector cost Pakistan’s economy nearly Rs. 500 billion annually, which is between 4-5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
For Trukkin, the decision to expand to Pakistan during the pandemic was not a rushed one. We had realised the importance of the country as a service location both geographically and economically. It is a large, untapped market with immense growth potential. I believe that problems are the foundation for growth. The hiccups we faced included apprehensions about team safety, the overall economy of the region and our sustenance in the long term, but our belief in the resilience of the logistics industry solidified our resolve. We decided to step up, modernise and reinvent things when all seemed to be lost.
As we travelled through Pakistan to establish our home base in the port city of Karachi, we understood the local workings and realised the need for our solution to bring together and revamp its vibrant trucking industry. What we realised later was that the problems faced by the logistics industry in Pakistan were more or less the same as in the rest of the world—lack of transparency, reliability and efficiency.
It took us significant legwork and a lot of creativity to get around the lockdown, the red tape and the hesitation to move to a digital solution. We faced some difficulty due to the inability to meet people in person, but we were fortunate to find great talent in Pakistan in significant numbers. Our teams across geographies connected every day and did not let the physical distance between us hamper our journey to success. This was complemented by the job and role security provided by Trukkin to all its employees during and beyond the lockdown.
This has ensured a highly motivated and hardworking team that was on the ground the moment transportation opened up. We were agile and adaptable, which helped us strengthen our foothold in this relatively new market for us. Our launch in Pakistan is the beginning of a new movement that we hope will empower everyone from truck drivers to brokers, shippers and transportation fleet owners, using technology to replace archaic systems that are prone to human error and fraud. This will help in reducing transportation timelines and associated costs while increasing profits for everyone involved.