Online platform looks to shake up Indian shipping

Shippers using Shipwaves' freight rate quoting platform, a screenshot of which is pictured, can compare freight rates and routing options from a number of ocean carriers.

Taking a cue from international technology-driven logistics providers like Freightos and Flexport, entrepreneurs in India are seeking to transform freight transportation in the country with an online platform dubbed Shipwaves.

As India’s share of the global container trade continues to grow — rising from 0.6 percent in 1991 to 2.2 percent in 2016, according to government data — online cargo booking and rate services are well positioned to capitalize. Indian ports are optimistically forecast to handle about 21 million 20-foot-equivalent units by fiscal year 2017 to 2018.

The product is designed to lower transportation costs while providing visibility to shipments, according to the start-up, which is headquartered in Mumbai and has support teams in other major port locations, including Mundra, Chennai, and Mangalore.

“Shipwaves, a closely held, angel-funded venture, was born out of personal frustration of dealing with the highly fragmented freight forwarding market and the resultant loss of revenues to the shippers,” co-founders Athahar Mohammed and Shahid Israr told JOC.com.

Shipwaves was founded in April 2015 and many local forwarding houses are already using the web-based solution to expand their own freight reach, Mohammed and Israr said.  

Based on current growth indicators, the third-party logistics market in India is expected to be worth more than $300 billion by 2020, creating more opportunity for logistics-centered technological start-ups in the country.

“A technology platform means an accelerated flow of leads for freight forwarders over time. The idea had to appeal to them as a growth engine for their business and as being complementary, not competitive to their existence,” said Athahar, who previously led product engineering teams at PayPal and Apple in the United States

Shipwaves has two customized products. One is a dashboard for shippers providing instant rates for thousands of port pairs worldwide and online booking of freight. The company also offers customized solutions for supply partners to track rates contracts, automate quoting, manage shipments, and gather business intelligence.

The company has reportedly already signed with more than 1,000 shippers, and the company is looking to scale up its operations by taking its footprint to other ports​ across the country and expand globally. ​

Though it remains to be seen whether Shipwaves could be a game changer in the current wave of digitization in India, there’s no denying that technological advances would go a long way to improving supply chain efficiency in the emerging Asian economy.

“We strongly believe what we have started will evolve into a virtual silk route, empowering global businesses to trade with each other seamlessly,” Mohammed said.

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