By Srinath Srinivasan
In the age of aggregators, very few logistics companies look at intrastate services, especially focussing on cities. However, Bengaluru-based Blowhorn decided to differentiate itself by offering micro fulfillment services. “In Bengaluru itself, we have several small warehouses, not more than 1000 sq.ft, spread across various localities. For consignments that needs some storage or transit, we keep them in these warehouses. None of these consignments stay for more than 24 hours,” says Santosh Desai, CTO, Blowhorn.
Most logistics tech startups operate in a way similar to what cab aggregators do— connect transport vehicle owners with customers looking for transporting their goods. Blowhorn, however, wanted to go beyond that. “We want to provide end-to-end services which includes fulfillment services and analytics,”says Desai .While it aggregates transport partners and drivers, it does not charge them. “If a driver says he wants to earn Rs 1,000 a day, then our platform will connect him with trips that is relevant, based on the vehicle he drives. Our agreement is with the enterprise or whoever requires the logistics service and we charge them accordingly,” explains Desai.
The platform not only uses technology to connect drivers and manage trips but also to manage this inventory. It also does not want to compete with large warehousing corporations. “If you ask me whether I want to have a big 10,000 sq.ft. warehouse or a 100 1000 sq.ft. warehouses, I would take the latter,” he says.
The startup has raised $10 million so far from marquee investors that include Chiratae Ventures, Dell Foundation, Mistry Ventures, Draper Associates and several others. It is currently raising Series B1 round of funding.
The Covid-19 lockdown affected the logistics sector and Blowhorn too was hit by it.“Our business faced a drastic dip. Driver partners were affected. But it gradually improved. In this time period, we partnered with some FMCG brands which benifitted driver partners as well brought continuous business,” he says.
However, there are some challenges that the industry continues to face irrespective of the lockdown. “We couldn’t fully experiment and implement drone or autonomous delivery during the lockdown,” says Desai. “We have to improve technology in many fronts. We tried drone deliveries but the landing surfaces needed to be marked precisely. In a country like India it is difficult right now.”
Another problem is frauds and mishaps. Right now random checks are done at pick-up points, but with technology it could be done every single time, almost everywhere. “We track user behaviour. So we know when there is some discrepancy in consignment or shipping patterns. We can flag it and check,” explains Desai. “In future, we can try to improve technology to check what’s inside every consignment at fulfilment centres, perhaps with a handheld device/system.”