Logistics is one of those markets in India which has traditionally remained offline and in a way, untouched by technology (mostly limited to process enablering technology). Texas based uShip which is a transportation marketplace, primarily serving the freight, household goods and vehicle shipping market in the US has launched its services in India.
The easiest way to explain uShip is that it is like eBay for shipping – customers post items (literally anything – cars, furniture, fighter jets) they need moved, and professional transporters (anyone from an independent driver to larger packers and movers) bid for the job. The transporters are able to fill empty space in their vehicles, and the customer saves from the competition.
If you think a concept like this will not work in India, well they just had 1 successful transaction (TVS Apache was transported from Mumbai to Ahmadabad).
The company is testing its India launch and here is a QnA with Adam Greenpan, uShip’s global marketing manager (he is overseeing India operations).
Pi: Have you tied up with Indian operators/transporters for the launch?
We have started reaching out to transporters and have a few companies bidding. We’re getting both shipments and transporters through SEM efforts at this point. The breadth of items you can move through uShip is a challenge here, as we must have transporters that can move anything that is posted.
Pi: The transportation industry has mostly been offline (in India) – so any plans for offline integration (SMS) etc?
Now this is a great question. At this point, we have basically put our website and service out there as is and said “let’s see what happens.” We’ll get some early adopters and learn a lot that way, but we recognize that the transportation industry in India is not going to just move online overnight. Even in the US, transportation is an “old” industry, so bringing traditionally offline business onto the Web is a challenge we face constantly.
So yes, SMS is something we have considered. We have some text alerts available on the US site, but not to the point that a transporter could use the site exclusively through SMS. Adapting our current product to run on SMS is of course a possibility, but also a significant investment that we probably can’t immediately commit to.
In the near term, we may focus more on elements of the transportation industry that are more likely to be online, like agents and brokers, who in turn have access to networks of transporters. We’re also working on products that would allow an agent to manage their transporter network through the site, which would provide an opportunity for the independent transporters to be introduced to uShip through their existing relationships.
And finally, we’re in the process of revamping our mobile apps and interface. Again, we’ll likely be working with very early adopters, but because so much Internet use comes via mobile, we see this as a key feature.
Pi: Future plans for India?
At this point, the goal is really to learn as much as we can about our users from having the site live in India. The feedback we get from our customers will drive our future plans. It is a huge market, and we believe there is a lot of opportunity.
We also just launched across most of South America, so there is a lot of competition for attention from the various markets – we hope to bring on team members who can dedicate their focus to India so that we can make sure we best serve all of our customers.
What are your thoughts on uShip model of building logistics marketplace? Will this work in India or needs a lot of customization (for the local market)?