In January 2020, transportation automation company LogiNext raised $39 million as a part of its Series B funding, led by marquee investors Tiger Global Management and Steadview Capital. With this, the startup took the total tally of its investments to $50 million, which includes the $10 million it raised as a part of its Series A round, led by Paytm and Alibaba. The end-to-end logistics management SaaS platform, LogiNext, enables automated order management, predictive capacity planning, real-time route optimisation, dispatch automation, transparent customer experience, and post-delivery processing and analytics of B2B transportation or B2C delivery business.
An experience differentiator
Mentored by a team of founding engineers of Google and Google Maps during their time at Carnegie Mellon University, co-founders, Dhruvil Sanghvi and Manisha Raisinghani witnessed first-hand the journey of AI and ML from being just buzzwords and research topics at university during the early 2010s to being used in applications and technologies two-three years later.
“During this journey, we saw how new-age business models and organisations were disrupting traditional businesses. While this was true across sectors, we saw that none of the incumbents were really going out of business in the logistics sector. In fact, every supermarket chain, transportation company or a retail business were seeing huge demand surge due to the macro trend of same day and next day deliveries and aggressive supply chain fulfillment being the need of the hour. The problem was that these organisations were not able to scale to match the demand and sustain the pressure on the bottomline due to shortage of resources. These evolving trends brought a transformation in the customer expectations, where they not only expected every business to offer delivery services, but also deliver in a matter of hours.”
Tapping this opportunity, LogiNext quickly became a household name across retail and transportation business, globally.. “It’s something that is often cited on the vision boards of startups. Last year, we became the only startup in the space to become profitable in such a short time,” says Dhruvil. He explains one of the significant factors that has been instrumental in LogiNext’s growth story is how they built the platform as an experience differentiator and not as a features differentiator.
Explaining what this means, Manisha, the CTO, says, “We use smart algorithms without making the technology complex. While old-school technology needs hand-held implementation, ours does not. Our tools are much simpler but give the desired customer experience. We have designed the platform in such a way that for every single customer it feels like home.”
A marketing plan that doesn’t need even a dollar spend
Today, LogiNext serves more than 150 enterprises across 10 countries. Currently, headquartered in New York, with an R&D centre in Mumbai, LogiNext’s platform is backed by AI algorithms to process location data in real-time and manage the transportation operations in real-time without human intervention. LogiNext counts McDonald's, Decathlon, and Singapore Post as some of its marquee enterprise customers. The startup's user base is spread across 20 countries, and its team is spread across eight cities including New York, Dubai, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta. It plans to expand to London and Sydney with this current round of funding. “In addition to the technological horsepower, LogiNext’s growth story has been catapulted by its ability to establish and leverage partnerships with channel partners across geographies. Even as a pure play global software shop, the startup works brilliantly remotely without having to hire big teams locally or frequently visit customers. “Our operational cost is very low. At the same, our marketing costs too. In fact, we haven’t spent a single dollar on marketing, The key is to be invited to the ‘party’ and not pay to be invited.” says Dhruvil with pride.
Giving a larger context of the logistics industry and how their marketing model fuels their growth, the CEO says, “Faster, cheaper and better transportation is the need of the hour. Globally, there is reliance on a lot of disconnected softwares and technologies in this space, which creates a need for a single, unified, integrated platform, which just does not replace legacy systems, processes and people but actually seamlessly co-exists with them. Before we started LogiNext, we were employed by Deloitte and IBM and we were advising Fortune 500 companies for their eCommerce fulfillment and implementing artificial intelligence to automate LTL (Less than a Truckload) operations. We knew exactly what these enterprises could never achieve with the slow moving consulting firms and old school technology providers. We just had to build what we knew was needed and find a way to sell it.”
Today, LogiNext has built an incentive system for its channel partners which are hyper focused companies in their domain and geographies. The marketing thus is hyper-localised and resonates with the end customers. “So while we are focused on our core capability, which is to build the product, these channel partners go full throttle on marketing and selling our technology. They know their customers, their needs, their pain points and where we fit in.” Getting this marketing hack right, LogiNext has been able to build substantial presence in countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
Building for scale and how
Be it sensing the opportunity, developing a platform that delivers a superior customer experience or getting their marketing game on point would haven’t worked so much for LogiNext had it not been built for scale. As Manisha points out – “it is about building the scalable systems on time which is very important.” Explaining why, she says, “We spent a lot of time hustling in the beginning, but we always knew we needed to be ready for scale, so that is why we are never compelled to fix things overnight to be able to scale. That's a learning for startups. Because, there’s only so much that your engineers can do in a limited time. So being proactive and building for scale is very important. But, it is also important that you are not overdoing scale. You need to achieve the right balance otherwise you will overshoot the infrastructure cost.” And it takes ‘automation’ to scale, says Manisha. “At scale, you cannot rely on manual processes. So, you need to take automation seriously. So even if things go wrong and there aren’t people to take care, it can course correct.”
The other critical thing that the CTO believes B2B businesses should do is enable its developers to meet their customers and understand their pain points and needs. “In a B2C company, it’s easy for the engineers and developers to relate to what they are doing. Because, in many cases, they are users themselves. In a B2B SaaS company, it becomes challenging to understand the impact of what they are working on or the pain points down the line.” To address this challenge and empathise with the customers, LogiNext enables its developers and engineers to interact with their customers and clients. “This automatically leads to good development.”
JioGenNext: A stepping stone to success
For LogiNext, many of these learnings stemmed out of its early days at JioGenNext. LogiNext was part of the first cohort of Reliance’s flagship accelerator programme in 2014. In fact, the startup was built from scratch at the accelerator programme.
Recollecting their days at their programme and how the learnings have shaped the company, some of which are even being used today, Dhruvil shares, “Finance leaders guided us on how to create business plans and manage cash flows at scale. Back then, it looked very early to talk about cash flows and balance sheets. But, they went ahead and coached us on that. And, today, almost five years later, we still refer and use a lot of those guidelines.”
Manisha pitches in and adds that be it their board meetings or their knack to prioritise tasks, all learnings have stemmed from their days at the accelerator programme. “Prioritisation is often a challenge for product managers across companies. But at LogiNext, while being democratic, we have in place the frameworks to prioritise the roadmap. And, one guiding principle for prioritisation is understanding impact versus effort.”
Today, Reliance is one of LogiNext’s key customers. “And, we take immense pride in showing what we have been able to do for them to the world.” This, in turn, has helped to build huge credibility among potential clients. Today, LogiNext continues to be in touch with JioGenNext and says the biggest value is in their network.
Dhruvil says, “I still talk to the leaders at JioGenNext on a quarterly basis. While, mostly these are casual conversations, many of these casual conversations have helped me brainstorm scale, connect to a new prospective customer, an introduction to a government official or even an investor.”
Reflecting on their journey with JioGenNext, the CEO, says, “JioGenNext has been our brand channel. Be it during our time with the accelerator or the work we have done for Reliance, they have been able to give a fair and detailed overview of our journey and expertise whenever there was a query from an investor or prospective client. Because they have seen how we have evolved, their words have helped to build confidence among investors and clients. The last four years with JioGenNext have been great! I still see this as the beginning of a long journey.”Going deeper and farther
Having won investor and customer confidence with an industry-winning tech product, LogiNext plans to build more functionalities that can automate the businesses further. Manisha says, “We have sufficient data already, to be able to help customers and their users make decisions automatically about dispatch timings, ETAs, traffic conditions, customer communication, exception management, and many other tasks that enterprise users spend countless amounts of time everyday. For the next three years, we will be super focused on enhancing customer value. We have built a great platform, we have a great set of customers and we are now going deep into relationships with them.”
That apart, the startup plans to build on more customer stories globally, especially in the Europe and North American market. “I think in the next two to three years we are going to focus on building more global customer stories with a focus on Europe, North America and South East Asia markets.”
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