Isn’t there an Uber of just about everything? Entrepreneurs seem to use it generously to give a sexy spin to just about any business from household services to education. On-demand just doesn’t have the same spin, does it? But what if there is a business that actually is a logical extension of the Uber model? If commuters can be in a state of perpetual motion with a few taps on the screen, why not goods?

Say hello to the pimply cousin of on-demand cars, the Uber for trucks.

Lumbering trucks transport goods across the country and usually are the lifeline of any economy. The lakhs of mini-trucks chugging away within a city function as the last mile agent. And as with any unorganised business, small truck owners form a local cartel. They dictate price and squeeze small and medium enterprises (SME) like those that sell electronics, furniture, paints and timber. But even with this tilt in the balance of power, it is not like these truck drivers get any richer. There is no predictable way of anticipating demand. So after idling away in the local adda for more than half the working day, truck drivers overcharge the customers anticipating an empty return trip.

A lose-lose proposition all the way.

The opportunity

Last mile logistics in India is estimated to be worth $15 billion, and 74 on-demand last mile trucking startups got $10.6 million in funding, said Tracxn.

So naturally, it became a space that had to be disrupted and begged the attention of startups to try and ‘Uberise’ it, and try they did. The app gives a business owner an ETA on when a truck will be at his doorstep and at a price that is decided by an algorithm. The driver gets a promise that there will be more rides.

Given the scale of the problem (last mile logistics in India is estimated to be worth $15 billion, according to industry estimates) in 2014 and 2015 as many as 74 on-demand last mile trucking startups got $10.6 million in funding, according to Tracxn. Companies such as Porter, the Karrier, TruckSumo, Turant Delivery, Cargoji, LetsTransport, Shippr all set out to solve the problem for both drivers and SMEs using technology, and there it was the Uber for trucks.  

The business

When it all started, most of these companies chased SMEs because that is where the inefficiency was at its peak.

Large companies had contracts with slightly more organised logistic providers and fixed requirement. Here, too, there were inefficiencies as trucks idled half the time, but for companies, predictability scored over better utilisation and cheaper rates.

“For us, SMEs were the real business problem to solve.

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.