A training session for drivers underway in Vashi
Every Sunday afternoon, a group of drivers numbering anything between 10 and 30 are invited to a small enclosure in the truck depot at Vashi for what is imaginatively called a ‘high tea’. Over tea and conversation about the nitty-gritties of their business, seven-odd instructors from startup Goodsdeck Logistics ask them to pull out their smartphones. What follows is one-on-one instruction on how to use navigation tools like Google Maps and download the RTO app to understand road signs better.
Pratik Shetty, a Goodsdeck co-founder, says the initiative was born when they understood the difficulties drivers face while navigating city roads for deliveries. He added, “They have good knowledge of highways, but inside the city even one wrong turn can land them in trouble and they are pulled over by the police.”
During the workshops over six months at Vashi, Mr. Shetty and his team found that while 80 per cent of the drivers owned Android smartphones, none knew how to use navigation tools and were getting directions over the phone.
Goodsdeck’s workshops, which are small steps aimed at getting drivers to think of themselves as professional transporters and not just links in the supply chain, tie in to the expected transformation in the logistics and transport industry once the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill is enacted. The GST is expected to ease transportation of goods and services across the country by doing away with octroi, entry and local body taxes. It will also mean less trucks are sitting idle and the possibility that more customers will seek modern professional solutions for transport needs.
Advait Panchal, a software engineer and Goodsdeck co-founder, says simple apps like Maps and other utility apps can add value to the driver community, but they aren’t aware of it. “Helping and building the driver community is very important since it’s part of the backbone of the Indian logistics industry. Once the GST Bill is passed, India’s freight transport market is expected to expand to about $308 billion by 2020.”
To learn the ropes, Mr Shetty and co-founder Hardik Dharamshi spent a year working for Amazon Logistics, and realised that despite the transport industry being poised for incredible growth, only about 10 per cent of it is organised. The rest, Mr. Shetty says, operates in an outdated system using middlemen and brokers.
He says, “For example, if a truck is to go from Punjab to Mumbai, traditional logistics would involve a booking agent and then a broker to deliver the goods to the customer in the city while the truck is parked at the depot. The driver waits there for four to five days since he needs a load before he returns.” If the wait time is more than five days, drivers are often forced to accept a reduced price on goods for the return journey.
Says Vinod Bhavser, a truck owner who operates between Gujarat and Maharashtra: “This is the first time I have been taught how to use tools like these. Sometimes, I get confused when I go into the city but I try and use Google Maps now to figure out the best routes and those with more traffic.”
Founded by Mr. Shetty and Mr. Dharamshi with four software engineers including two IIT-Bombay graduates, Goodsdeck Logistics’ core business is aggregation of inter-city trucks and creating an app for placing and receiving real-time orders on the phone. The firm works directly with companies to provide transport services and truck owners can accept an order via the app, thus eliminating brokers and agents.
Mr. Shetty says nearly 700 trucks are on Goodsdeck. “I spent some time in Algeria on work. There, the fleet drivers have completely different lives. They use software and devices like iPads to track loads, for truck maintenance and to interface directly with customers. They also wear good uniforms. All of this makes them feel like they are employees of a big company,” he says.
Sometimes, I get confused in the city but I try and use Google Maps nowVinod BhavsarTruck owner
While 80% of
the drivers owned Android smartphones, none knew how to use navigation tools