Trukker’s Road Less Taken: How a Techie Revolutionised Trucking Freight

Trukker’s Road Less Taken: How a Techie Revolutionised Trucking Freight 

UAE-based logistic company Trukker, launched in 2016, is one of the region’s most successful scaleups, with a total of $173 million in funding and a presence in 11 countries. Co-founder Pradeep Mallavarapu explains how it achieved such a stellar trajectory. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t easy.

When we talk about mobility, we tend to think of electric cars, drones, etc. You went to logistics and trucking. Why? 

It wasn’t planned. My co-founder and childhood friend [Gaurav Biswas] was working in the UAE and, whenever he was coming back to our hometown, we would catch up with a common friend who had a fertiliser factory. Once, over dinner in 2015, this friend complained about truckers and deliveries. That’s when Gaurav and I started discussing creating an Uber for trucks. Neither of us was from this industry – I am a techie and he’s a consultant – but the more we learned about it, the more we realised that it has many problems and has been neglected in terms of technology. Nobody wanted to get their hands dirty; everybody felt it was below their dignity. We didn’t feel that way – we always thought that drivers were the most unrewarded people in this entire industry. So, we decided to get serious, understand the challenges, and develop a concept. 

What were these challenges and how do you solve them?

To make a trip happen, a shipper, a consignee, a broker, a trucker, and multiple other entities are involved, and they didn’t have a single place to communicate. Also, this industry is very scattered. The likes of Aramex and DHL represent maximum 10% of the market; the other 90% is run by disorganised players, so shippers have to deal with 10, 15 different people. Lastly, one of the biggest problems is the lack of transparency. Between a truck driver and a shipper, there’s always a broker who will use truck availability and the lack of standard rates to their benefit. And brokers don’t provide a customer interface, service-level agreements (SLA), or insurance. 

So, as a truck aggregator working with a pool of nearly 100,000 drivers and around 1,500 B2B customers across various geographies, Trukker offers a digital freight network where this entire ecosystem is on a single, easy-to-use platform. But we’re not a matchmaking platform; our customers deal with Trukker and everything else happens internally. We are fully transparent and give out instant quotes along with insurance for up to $1 million per truck. And we make sure that the trucks you need are deployed – theoretically, as an aggregator, my capacity is infinite and we also own around 200 trucks. Customers can track the truck in real time and, if it’s delayed or there’s an incident, they get a notification and we make sure that they’re not going to suffer. Our technology allows us to optimise the routes and the loads, reducing empty miles for the drivers. These drivers can pick and choose the deals they want, and they are paid good, transparent rates on time.

How was this new offering received initially?

We faced a lot of resistance at first. People in this business have been doing things in a certain way for very long time, and changing mindset takes time. Nobody believed us, understood our concept, or took us seriously.

We had started out of India and we were bootstrapping, giving our own phones to the drivers for free. But we quickly realised that, unless you have a big war chest, B2B businesses in logistics or transportation require credit to penetrate the market. And, at that time in India, two big players had already raised a considerable amount of funding, so it would be very difficult for us to come in. We decided to stop our losses and move to Dubai where Gaurav was already settled, with a different perspective altogether. 

We launched as a home-moving company – it’s more of a cash-and-carry sort of business that doesn’t require a big expense or credit. This allowed us to build confidence with the driver and vendor communities, and to venture into B2B a few months later.

We went through five rounds of funding in total, always from VCs and not from angel investors, even in 2017 when VC funding wasn’t so hot. But at that time, we were doubling in size every six months, and VCs are always interested in a company that grows at such a hefty pace. We even raised $100 million in 2022, which was more or less a funding winter. And we were the first company in the logistics space to raise any debt in this market. 

However, even today, it’s not easy. We’re not the only players in the market. A company like Unilever works with seven or eight transporters and I cannot force them to come only to my platform. 

You also managed to expand broadly. How did you do it?

We followed our cargo. After Dubai, we opened our Saudi operation because most of our freight was going there. Same thing with Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, and everywhere else. 

We are not focused on becoming the biggest player in each country; we are focused on becoming the biggest in the lanes that we can optimise because each market is different. In the UAE, 80% to 85% of our suppliers are individual drivers, but in Saudi Arabia or Turkey, the law doesn’t permit individual drivers, so we always work with transport companies. In Egypt, it’s half/half. We learn all of these things when we start exploring. 

What’s next for Trukker?

We have recently launched a freight forwarding platform called Omnilog, dealing with sea freight, air freight, etc., because we realise that trucking is only a small portion of the entire logistics sector. We also have a Fintech arm with our own payment solution, card issuance, and international remittances. And we can do a lot with ancillaries like micro-financing for tyres, second-hand selling, insurance, etc. There’s immense growth opportunity.

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