While the pandemic brought the world to a standstill, a few sectors kept trucking along to keep the global economy afloat. Premier among these has been the logistics sector.
While we were all hunkered down inside our homes with most businesses and industries completely halted, the logistics sector was ensuring that our supermarket shelves were fully stocked and that our power plants were topped up to keep our cities powered and running.
“What the pandemic really proved globally was the importance of logistics as an industry. Even though passenger traffic was down to zero, the goods were still moving,” Janardan Dalmia, Founder and CEO of transportation-as-a-service startup Trukkin, told the Abu Dhabi SME Hub.
Trukkin, an MEP-based venture serving over 12 countries in the region, acts as the Uber of the logistics sector, offering an aggregator platform where companies can connect with truck drivers to have goods shipped and delivered.
Dalmia noted that the sector has historically been heavily fragmented. For example, individual truckers didn’t have easy access to the larger market, nor did they have easy access to corporate clients who would usually prefer to deal with larger freight companies as opposed to individual drivers.
What Trukkin offers, in turn, is an equal opportunity for truck drivers to acquire delivery jobs and maximize their time and load, while offering corporate clients in need of delivery a much wider range of options in terms of price, delivery time and more under a holistic professional service.
For example, a truck driver completing a delivery might spend the return journey empty-handed with no backload (i.e. goods transported on the return journey of a delivery truck), which results in inefficient asset utilisation. With a service like Trukkin, they can optimise their time and storage space to guarantee maximum returns.
As for companies, utilising a service like Trukkin means that they expect a certain level of quality assurance and service that they would not be guaranteed had they opted for a freelancer trucker or a smaller delivery company.
“Trukkin steps in and provides that full gamut of services to the corporate customers on one hand, and transporters on the other hand,” Dalmia said.
The origin of Trukkin
Originally an investment banker, Janardan Dalmia spent a large portion of his career travelling to different countries and markets in the MENA region. During one of his trips around 2015, a meeting with the CEO of a public company turned his attention to the glaring inefficiencies plaguing the logistics sector, after said CEO had shared his company’s own supply chain woes with Dalmia.
Identifying a business opportunity, and observing the Industry 4.0 wave of digitalisation that was sweeping the global logistics industry, Dalmia dove headfirst into creating a tech solution after rigorous research and time in the field.
“I was pretty confident that there [had] to be a change in this industry, and it was a great time to enter and do something,” Dalmia noted. “The opportunity was too big to be missed.”
And so by 2017, Trukkin had launched.
Breaking old habits
Having navigated the logistics industry for five years now, even enduring a global pandemic, Dalmia had gained some valuable insights.
“The [main] pain point, in general, has been technology adoption,” he noted. “The shifting of behaviour takes time. This industry has [operated in a traditional manner] for many decades, and it’s a complex industry in many ways. So to instil that change both internally and externally takes time.”
Dalmia also shed light on the highly unique geographical landscape of the Middle East, which is also impacting overall change in the sector.
“We [in the UAE] are working in parallel in some way or another with many countries,” he explained. “All of the GCC countries have their own governments, currencies, laws and regulations. And yet, they’re almost kind of bound together [in] their trade and commerce in many ways.”
Dalmia described how Arab countries have had to operate in a “United States of the Middle East” kind of way, trying to bring together unique and disparate countries with their own governing bodies and trade environments to coalesce in a productive manner that supports business and efficiency across the regional supply chain.
Trukkin’s growth spurt
Since its launch, Trukkin has seen significant growth, servicing over hundreds of corporate clients and having supported in the delivery of all manner of goods. During May 2019, the company raised $3.5 million. It followed this successful round with a significant $7 million Series A in June of 2021, after reporting notable growth during the height of the pandemic, going as far as expanding operations to Pakistan in August of 2020.
“Trukkin navigated [through the pandemic] with a human practical approach. We didn’t have any cost-cutting or reduction in employees,” Dalmia said.
Commenting on the 2020 expansion to Pakistan, he said, “It proved our execution capability. It proved our ability to scale to various geographies.
“It just shows that when the whole world was hunkering down, Trukkin was still ensuring that we continue [our] growth momentum and we ensure that we continue to scale and expand. And as soon as we went into Pakistan, a lot of other companies followed us.”
On securing investors and navigating entrepreneurial challenges
Speaking about his investment experience so far, Dalmia highlighted that he always looks for investors who have informed foresight with knowledge of their investee’s field and know how a business “can survive through tough times and grow, unlike investors who just jump in and jump out - who want to invest for a quick buck.”
“An investor with a long-term view is always supportive in terms of ensuring that what we do as a company, in the long run, should be sustainable and should be good for the [firm],” he said.
As for the qualities an entrepreneur must have to be able to withstand the immense pressure of running a business, he singles out grit and perseverance.
“In any business, there are significant highs and significant lows. You go through more lows than highs and it’s very easy to kind of hang the boot because you’re all alone, so you have to develop the ability to self-motivate yourself. No one else is going to come in and support you through that.”
“So you have to become mentally stronger. You will need to know that this is not a sprint, but a marathon. It takes a few years to establish a business. You will go through highs. You will go through lows. You will have to approach it in a disciplined manner and continue to do what you need to do.”
He also explained that building the right team is a challenge, yet very critical.
“Unfortunately, in entrepreneurship, there is not a clear path for anything. You have to create your [own] way. It’s almost like driving in the dark with 100-metre visibility with your headlights on. But, you believe that while you’re driving there is a road out there and somehow the path will unfold. And that’s pretty much the approach one needs to take and get on this journey.”
As for what comes next for Trukkin, the startup has three main goals. It intends to grow its reach in existing markets, expand into neighbouring geographies, and introduce more products and services that cater to client needs.