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By: Manish Shewaramani

Technology is Taking the Driver’s Seat in India’s Trucking Industry

Seems like Jeff Bezos is happy with his business in India. India’s expanding consumer space, increased digital connectedness, infrastructural changes and improvements in government regulations have attracted everyone from Walmart and Ikea to Amazon and Alibaba. However, the bizarre photograph above communicates more than it probably intends to; notice the brightly painted truck? That’s just the beginning.

Technology-is-taking-02

Trucks in India are famous not only for their paint job, but also for their quirky quotations. There’s at least one academic paper documenting this unique art form. Even Google couldn’t help itself from banking on this phenomena when it started its campaign for promoting voice search in India.

With 4.7 million kilometers of metalled roads, Indian road network is the second-largest in the world after the United States. At any given time, this network has more than 8 million goods vehicles traveling towards their destination. Road transportation accounts for about 6% of India’s GDP. Yet, trucking operations are marked with inefficiencies, corruption, accidents and poor service levels. Further, the entire business runs mostly on trust, as most companies have a pathetic record when it comes to providing shipment tracking facility to customers.

Indian Road Network is 2nd Largest in the world after the US
Road transportation accounts for about 6% of the India’s GDP
65% of India’s freight-transfers are via road

Part of the problem lies in the ownership of trucks in India. Owners with just 1-5 trucks together account for three-fourth of all trucks in India. One can not expect too much in terms of service quality when so many players are competing only on the price point. The cutthroat competition eventually affects underpaid (at times underskilled) drivers, who are put under long shifts and demanding delivery schedules. The driving conditions offer little help as Indian highways aren’t one of the safest in the world. As a result, even those who don’t have any employment rarely consider hauling a freight carrier as a job option.

Further, with operators like Uber entering the Indian market, driving a cab makes more sense. According to a Business Today report, cab drivers are earning thrice as much as their counterparts engaged in Trucking business. There was a time when India had an oversupply of truck drivers. However, post economic liberalization in the early 90’s, the shortage of truck drivers has compounded every year. According to an official estimate, every day some 2.3 million vehicles (27% of total transport vehicles) remain idle because no one is ready to drive them. If the shortage continues its uptrend, it will reach an unprecedented 50 per-cent by 2022. At present, all this translates into an estimated annual economic loss of around Rs 4,20,000.

However, things are undergoing a massive change with investors backing technology-driven startups.

Rivigo

Business Model Highlights
Driver Relay: Changing drivers every few hundred kilometers to allow them to return to their homes within 24 hrs

Technology Highlights

  • GPS-enabled freight management
  • IoT: real time data collection of fuel, RPM, engine oil temperature, brake oil pressure
  • Data analytics for predictive maintenance and mileage improvement
  • Anti-collision (under development)

BlackBuck

Business Model Highlights
Full Truck Load (FTL) Intercity Marketplace: it’s an Uber like platform connecting Truckers and customers. The platform streamlines transactions using intelligent auction engines and smartphones.

Technology Highlights

  • Intelligent Auction Engine
  • GPS-enabled freight management
  • Track and trace facility for customers
  • Mobile App supporting six regional languages

The Porter

Business Model Highlights
Uber-like Marketplace for Intra-city pickups and deliveries (operates light trucks)

Technology Highlights

  • GPS-enabled freight management
  • Track and trace facility for customers
  • Transparent Pricing
  • Offers APIs to SMEs

Truckola

Business Model Highlights
FTL Cargo Service for long distance inter-state routes with Web and Mobile Apps for higher efficiency and transparency

Technology Highlights

  • Data and Predictive Analytics: with better supply-demand visibility the company ensures lower freight costs and higher utilization of vehicles
  • GPS-enabled freight management
  • Track and trace facility for customers

4TiGo

Business Model & Technology Highlights

  • Technology – Cloud-based B2B marketplace for connecting consignors, consignees, fleet owners, transport companies and agencies
  • Operations – Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to provide secure parking, overnight stay, breakdown assistance, repair & maintenance via its 800 Networked Retail Outlets
  • Payments – Federal Bank to implement a B2B electronic payment platform

All these, (and nearly a dozen more) startups are using a mix of technologies to bring some sanity to the unorganized trucking businesses in India.

Top 5 Tech-Trends in India’s Trucking Industry

  • GPS based transportation management systems (vendor management, rate comparison, scheduling and tracking, analytics)
  • Analytics for demand and supply mapping (dynamic scheduling based on capacity, availability, distance and idle time)
  • Automation: Mobile and Web Apps (registration, ordering, LIVE tracking, deviation alerts, delivery time estimations, invoicing, payments)
  • Customer Analytics (CRM)
  • IoT (safety and maintenance)

It is evident that trucking and logistics space in India is attracting new entrants operating on truck aggregation and marketplace models. The technologies mentioned above are helping them create differentiation with better efficiency and management capabilities. At the other end of the spectrum, things are also likely to get better for truck drivers.

However, most of the startups in this space are driven by VC funding which needless to say, is not always easy to get. Insufficient funds, low scale and lower margins gradually make operations unsustainable. Startups like Truckmandi, Zippon and CargoJi are examples of businesses which have failed to survive the competition.

This means that traditional players with goodwill, larger market share and considerable cash piles have a better opportunity to leverage technology. Software Advice gives a comprehensive list of companies offering transportation management system software. Here’s another comparison chart for GPS Fleet Tracking Software providers. However, it’s a humongous task to shortlist a perfect commercial-of-the-shelf-solution (COTS). It could be much easier for trucking businesses to hire a software consulting and development partner to get solutions developed as per their needs.

While trucking businesses can harness technology to improve overall efficiencies, the logistics infrastructure at present is pushing them to their limits. There is a need to increase the share of Railways and Waterways to create a balanced modal network which can meet the demand in the future.

Credencys Solutions Inc is a leading software development services and solutions provider which has helped numerous businesses in their business growth. We can help you in building a custom fleet management solution. Know more about our services here.

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