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Logistics start-up Boxnbiz Technologies is using India’s abundance of small freight forwarders to carry out its forwarding and brokerage operations, placing a new twist on the digital marketplace model sweeping the industry.
Folloowing the wave of digital forwarders and freight marketplaces, the Bangalore-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) company provides shippers with instant online freight quotes and supply chain management, including real-time tracking and customs clearance for air and ocean freight.
“What we are doing differently is creating small, mini-brands across India,” said Boxnbiz chief executive and co-founder Biplob Barik.
He added: “We are partnering with small freight forwarders and providing them with a vertically integrated software platform where they can upload the rate metrics, manage and automate their operations and improve their customer service levels.
“Anyone who wants to partner with us goes through a standardisation and training programme and then they represent Boxnbiz in front of clients, rather than us representing their company.”
The software acts as a single, unifying operating system for both forwarders and shippers. For example, it ties in with a shipper’s application programming interface , such as SAP or Oracle, allowing freight bookings to be automated and data synchronised directly from manufacturers through to forwarders and customs brokers, a process Mr Barik dubbed as “information predictability”.
“Normally if an importer wants a shipment from China to India, he has to place an order in China first and then, after four to five weeks, he looks for freight forwarders and airlines to get the quotations. Then he books the cargo and multiple agents and parties coordinate with each other.
“In our system, the importer places an order and this purchase order (PO) is connected with the supplier, so essentially all agents in the supply chain get information at the same time. The moment they receive a PO, our agent contacts them and the shipment is picked up,” explained Mr Barik.
He said a large number of India’s SME freight forwarders were not currently “adapted with technology platforms”, due to either a lack of financial capability or expertise.
As a result, India’s log-tech sector appears to be flourishing. Compatriot start-ups Cogoport and FreightBro, for example, are also focused on modernising India’s freight industry through digitalisation, creating greater transparency and efficiency through paperless transactions.
Boxnbiz charges forwarders a monthly subscription to use its service, but Mr Barik claimed this investment would be returned ten-fold via the volumes generated by partnering with his company.
“The moment we partner with a forwarder, we onboard them with the software. It works like other software they’re buying but instead of only using it, they’re also getting business from our end and increasing their sales – it becomes an asset to them,” he said.