Soham Chokshi, Dhruv Agrawal and Harsh Kumar were inspired to create a smart logistics management platform while they were working with Deutsche Bank in India between 2013 and 2015.
“We were inspired by the Bloomberg Terminal, the digital platform that connects all banking industry players,” says Harsh Kumar, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Shipsy.
“We realised that the logistics industry, which drives global commerce — a multitrillion-dollar industry — was offline and required a digital platform to make it more efficient.”
The trio joined hands with Himanshu Gupta — all being Indian Institute of Technology alumni with an engineering background — in 2015 to set up Shipsy, whose real-time tracking solutions help businesses to efficiently execute their everyday logistics and supply chain operations.
Shipsy began its journey by addressing the last-mile logistics challenges.
But soon, the founders realised that it was the “tip of the iceberg” and there was an urgent need to marry the physical and digital parts of goods’ movement, Mr Kumar recalls.
They pivoted the business model to provide end-to-end supply chain and logistics solutions.
“We rapidly expanded the platform’s capabilities and depth to digitalise, automate and optimise siloed supply chain aspects such as first, middle and last-mile logistics, intermodal and cross-border transport,” Mr Kumar says.
It now offers many solutions, such as freight procurement, shipment tracking, route optimisation and planning, first-mile pick-ups, middle-mile logistics, last-mile delivery, courier aggregator and on-demand delivery.
The coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdowns emphasised the importance of supply chain management globally.
Companies across the Middle East and Africa reconfigured their operations to adapt to disruption caused by Covid-19, with many accelerating the adoption of new technology to optimise trade operations, according to a 2021 survey from Dubai-based ports operator DP World.
About 96 per cent of companies in the Middle East, the highest of any region globally, said they were in the process of reconfiguring their supply chains, higher than the global average of 83 per cent.
Global trade declined by 9 per cent in 2020, with major disruption experienced in the first six months when movement restrictions to stem the spread of the pandemic were at their peak, according to a UN Conference on Trade and Development report.
Shipsy’s platform enables data-driven decision making, enhancing visibility and operational efficiency for the logistics and supply chain industry.
The start-up’s 220+ customer base spans across industries such as parcel and express courier services, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, on-demand delivery providers and healthcare providers.
“The world’s most loved pizza chain, a global Fortune 100 retailer, a leading 10-minute grocery delivery provider, one of Asia’s largest express logistics providers, one of the world’s biggest tyre manufacturers, among many others, run their supply chain operations on Shipsy,” Mr Kumar says.
Shipsy, which started with 10 employees, now has a 350-member-plus strong team based in India, Dubai and Indonesia.
“The Middle East is a crucial part of our business. We have seen a twofold increase in our clients and revenue in this region,” Mr Kumar says.
“Having said that, we are witnessing an increased adoption of our platform in South-East Asia, the US and Europe.”
The start-up plans to strengthen its global footprint and set up offices in Europe and the Americas next.
Shipsy has secured $31 million in series A and B funding so far from investors such as Info Edge, Sequoia Capital’s accelerator platform Surge, A91 Partners and Z3 Partners.
The start-up will use the funds to drive innovation, with a greater focus on enhancing logistics sustainability and its artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain capabilities.
“We have been backing Shipsy from a very early stage and have been delighted to see them growing rapidly over the past couple of years,” says Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder and executive vice chairman of Info Edge.
“They have demonstrated a significant impact on the supply chain and logistics industry. We believe in their mission and foresee them becoming one of the largest global logistics SaaS [soft as a service] ventures built in India.”
Each month, the company tracks more than 650,000 containers, procures freight worth $150 million and works on more than 60 million parcels.
Shipsy has integrations with more than 55 major shipping lines, more than 50 third-party logistics companies, 300 freight forwarders and a network of 20,000-plus global shippers.
The start-up allows businesses to optimise routes and improve capacity utilisation to improve the cost efficiency of logistics operations, Mr Kumar says.
“Our platform also enables better decision-making via predictive and prescriptive analytics. It empowers logistics businesses to drive sustainable operations by reducing miles travelled and making transportation greener,” he says.
Shipsy recorded a 2.5 times year-on-year growth rate in 2022. The company’s recurring revenue grew by more than 100 per cent while its customer base expanded by 75 per cent last year.
Responding to a question about how the start-up was affected by Covid-19 restrictions, Mr Kumar says their solutions supported businesses in arranging contactless deliveries, cutting delivery costs and prioritising the delivery of essential items.
“Our technology empowered logistics companies to expand serviceability through partnerships to ensure that vaccines reached remote locations,” he says.
“It provided customers with real-time updates on delivery progress, including accurate estimated arrival times, live-tracking links and body temperatures of delivery executives.”
When asked about the threats posed by a potential global recession, he says Shipsy is “cautiously optimistic”, keeping discretionary spending under control and focusing on enterprise accounts.
“Our platform enables businesses to tackle the operational challenges induced by unprecedented economic disruptions. It empowers businesses to optimise logistics operations and improve resource productivity, thereby reducing overall costs,” Mr Kumar says.
Citing challenges faced by Shipsy, he says there is need for rapid innovation to stay relevant in a “constantly evolving” supply chain and logistics ecosystem.
“It must translate into exceptional business outcomes for our customers in the form of lesser supply chain costs and delightful customer experiences,” he says.
“It is not just about enabling customers to deliver on aggressive service-level agreements that is important, but empowering them to sustain such a fulfilment model in the long run is also critical.”
Mr Kumar says customers and their unique business challenges act as the muse of constant innovation at Shipsy.
A fast-paced market after Covid-19 and rapidly evolving customer needs inspire the start-up’s employees to channel their efforts into expanding their technological skills, he says.
Shipsy’s platform strategy — a market-entry approach that revolves around the task of allowing platform participants to benefit from the presence of others — as well as its easy and fast deliveries and policy of treating clients as partners are its main competitive advantages, says Mr Kumar.
Q&A with Harsh Kumar, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Shipsy
What already successful start-up do you wish you had started?
Although it is not a start-up any more, I would have loved to also start a venture similar to WhatsApp. A messaging app with a simple interface that solves a greater purpose by helping people from all walks of life to stay connected and have easy access to different communication formats.
What is your next big dream that you seek to make a reality?
It would be to create a level playing field for all logistics players.
What new skills have you learnt in the process of launching your start-up?
It would be people management. Running an organisation entails efficiently managing people with different skill sets and mindsets. The pandemic took this challenge to another level by pushing organisations to embrace teleworking in a short span. Collaborating with teams during those sensitive times, understanding their everyday pandemic-induced challenges and engaging with them over the business road map was a very different experience.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
Embracing a product-led growth strategy from the very beginning, as one tends to sometime deviate from the actual road map over time.
Who is your role model?
Ratan Tata is an inspiring leader and humanitarian. Not only has he built successful brands across business units, but he also serves the community by generously contributing towards pressing causes.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself solving problems for logistics, making the ecosystem more efficient and democratised for stakeholders of all sizes for them to be sustainable. In addition, I would also love to be more involved in humanitarian causes and give back to the community.
Given the rapid pace at which technology is spreading its wings, the idea of connecting with aspiring start-up entrepreneurs a decade from now also excites me.