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Door-to-door cargo marketplace FreightCrate Technologies is the latest Indian start-up offering price transparency and booking automation to logistics.

The platform connects shippers with 25 “vetted” forwarders for quotes and centralised shipment management covering 50,000 global locations.

“Our vision is to utilise cutting-edge technology to create a freight management system that can automate and optimise international trade operations for global businesses,” said FreightCrate co-founder and chief executive Samir Lambay.

“We are trying to drive home the idea that supply chain and logistics is no longer just a cost driver but a value driver for businesses.”

The platform offers door-to-door services for air, sea and road freight, as well as customs clearance, payments and insurance. Customers are manufacturers and retailers.

Mr Lambay claimed FreightCrate was tackling booking inefficiencies such as lengthy quotation times, missing schedule information and an absence of all-inclusive pricing – the result of which is large discrepancies between quotes and invoices.

This lack of all-inclusive pricing, or so-called ‘hidden’ charges, was recently highlighted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which said indirect shipping costs,such as bureaucratic delays, port handling fees and infrastructure bottlenecks, accounted for 38-47% of total logistics spend.

The CII claimed industry digitisation could bring this figure down 8-10%.

Heeding that call is a string of start-ups tackling India’s highly fragmented and paper-based logistics sector with various tech-based approaches. Leading players include Cogoport, Shipwaves and FreightBro.

Shipwaves ditched its marketplace service for a digital forwarder model after finding shippers preferred to work with just one forwarder. This has not been Mr Lambay’s experience, however.

He said the average customer used more than seven forwarders and that marketplaces were “always beneficial as customers need to know they are getting the best price in the market”.

he added: “The digital forwarder and marketplace models will co-exist; there is a market for both.”

Mr Lambay said FreightCrate’s centralised shipment management dashboard answered a common criticism of freight marketplaces: sub-par customer service arising from the inability to effectively handle freight exceptions and supply chain disruptions.

For example, he said, disruptions were often the product of communication gaps or errors between forwarders and customers, which tech-enabled marketplaces “rarely faced” due to “seamless” online booking and document management.

“If there is a carrier issue or delays due to uncontrollable factors, tech-enabled tracking and exception alerts assist freight tech start-ups to automatically update their customers and take faster decisions,” he claimed.

Furthermore, Mr Lambay argued, customer service could be more efficient with centralised shipment management, as shippers can track shipments and speak with just one dedicated customer support representative, rather than checking with each individual forwarder.

“Since pricing and shipment management is tech-enabled, the customer service teams at digital freight start-ups are more productive as less time is spent on manual quotes and phone calls, and more time can be spent solving any issues that occur,” he said.

FreightCrate plans to expand across India and then globally within 18 months.

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