How many of you have had to go through the pain of finding a truck/van to move stuff? And the regret afterward when someone in friends/family told you how badly you were ripped off? Alright, let’s not open that box. What if there was a more convenient way to do it all? Good news, there is. Freightix.com is a Lahore-based startup offering a one-stop-shop for all your bulk transportation needs. Whether you want to get a new furniture set in your house or send cargo to other cities, they claim to do it all.
The startup was founded in 2016 by Umair Atta, a software engineer by profession who found the bulk transportation industry ripe for technological innovation. Soon after, Freightix got incubated at Plan9 with just an idea and a very basic product, but since then has expanded both its operations and tech.
So how does it work? Open their app/website, select your city, fill in pickup and dropoff, choose the type of vehicle (dimension details are given) and timings, check off the items you want to transport and mention if labour is required or not, enter your name and number and confirm your booking. If it’s an intracity query, they quote a live price estimate on the portal but for intercity, rates are given on call. Why is that? “The intercity freight market is very volatile with the price changing every day so it’s still very difficult to accommodate that on our online platforms, but this is one of the things we are currently working on,” says CEO Umair Atta.
As of now, they have a network of around 3,400 fleet, from pickup trucks to heavy containers, and operate out of the national and provincial capitals, as well as Hyderabad, Abbottabad, Multan, and Faisalabad for intracity and outbound intercity.
Freightix has already digitized the demand side as consumers can fill in their requirements and book a truck but on the supply side, the company manages everything manually. However, according to the CEO, they are working on an overhaul and the new platform will directly connect consumers and truckers, removing Freightix’s intermediary role.
The logistics and transport sector is estimated at around 11 percent of the national gross domestic product, with World Bank statistics suggesting that road freight accounts for 96pc of that total. While no exact figures exist identifying the magnitude of the overall opportunity, it’s safe to say that it well exceeds tens of billions of dollars. But a huge chunk of that is held by multinationals or big companies moving their cargo to and from cities and ports, and that’s a market Atta is still not eyeing on. He instead wants to tap into the consumer market — people moving houses and offices for example — as well as the small- and medium enterprises.
Why not go where the most juice is? “We started out with these two segments because there was not much information available to them regarding reliable freight services and there was a clear asymmetry. The bigger clients, on the other hand, generally have better bargaining power over shippers and have much more demands, which is tough to manage as a startup. But by the end of this year, we do plan to enter that side as well,” Atta explains.
Freightix earns money by charging a certain commission to its suppliers, who basically work for them on an on-demand basis. In August 2017, the startup scored Rs3 million through Inara Impact Ventures, a local firm. Atta claims his company is already profitable but he is looking for external funding to further improve tech. In fact, he says they are currently in talks with foreign venture capital for a seven-figure (in dollars) investment.
Currently, this market exists in different clusters across cities, such as full-sized cargo containers hub located around West Wharf in Karachi or intracity operators near furniture markets. And much of it is controlled by big players, who have been in this business for generations and exercise considerable price power over customers who are often clueless about rates. In that respect, Freightix can serve as a good price comparison tool and bring in some transparency.
Within the tech arena, this is mostly an untapped sector except for a few companies mapping the scene. Fleet.com.pk, for instance, is another very young startup that offers freight marketplace and aggregation, providing an instant price quotation for intercity bulk transport. But unlike Freightix, it’s only limited intercity and that for outbound shipments from Karachi.
Atta has lofty plans and the market loftier potential. Let’s just wait and see how far our startup on the go can travel.
This article originally appeared in Dawn.