Prowince - A One-Stop Solution For All Your Freight Movement Needs

India is one of the major players in global trade with Mumbai being the port with the highest trade share. So it is favourable to be operating from the country's trade capital.

Prowince's Co-founder Nikhil Gawade
Prowince's Co-founder Rohit Bhandari

Started in December, 2016, Mumbai-based Prowince is a simple website/mobile application to book, track and manage Ocean/Air Freight & Customs Clearance services for import/export shipments. The startup was founded by Rohit Bhandari and Nikhil Gawade.

In an interaction with Sujata Sangwan of BW Disrupt, Nikhil Gawade, Co-founder, Prowince share his venture’s journey.

What was the idea behind the inception of Prowince?

Remember the time in 1990s when we had to book air/rail or bus tickets either with the help of Travel agents or by standing in long queues. This experience is completely transformed thanks to technology.

The international Freight industry is unfortunately still living in the pre-technology era. Booking international air or ocean freight or getting your goods cleared through customs is still done through travel agents (Travel agents in the international freight industry are called FREIGHT FORWARDERS).

Tracking the shipment location and customs clearance progress is a complete pain and again has to be done by coordinating and communicating with the shipper (importer or exporters) Freight Forwarder.

(Anything weighing over 150 kilos can’t be sent like a parcel through the postal service or courier agencies. It qualifies as freight, and can require several separately owned vehicles to deliver it across land, sea, or air from its source like a factory to a destination like a retail store.)

Rohit has a family business in imports and exports. One day when we (Nikhil & Rohit) were discussing about these issues we wondered why is there no MakeMyTrip like online booking and tracking experience for International Air and Ocean Freight. That's when we decided to build Prowince.

How does Prowince works?

a. A shipper (importer/exporter) has to sign up on the website/mobile app which will take him to our dashboard. The shipper can request for new import/export shipment by entering details like locations, transit mode, packaging & nature of product etc.

b. Once submitted, our team of experienced logistic managers will work out the best rates, route optimizations and send the quotes with all possible options to the shipper.

c. Shipper will book the rates and routes that best work with him based on parameters like costs, transit time etc.

d. Once booked, the shipper has to just keep track everything through his dashboard. His work is complete.

e. Prowince team will manage everything like:

1. Getting the products to sea/airport via truck
2. Clearing customs from the exporting country’s custom authorities
3. Loading the products to plane/ship and send necessary documents to the shipper(like Bill of Lading via our online dashboard and also hard copies)
4. Clearing customs from the importing country’s custom authorities
5. Getting the products delivered to buyers’ factory location by Truck
We will manage the shipment Door to Door. The shipper will be notified in real time about the process on the dashboard and via email/SMS.

f. Once the shipment is complete, the shipper can view his invoice with complete breakup of costs and pay through multiple modes of payments i.e. payment gateway, net banking etc.

Unique Key Points

The unique points about our services are:

a. We are India's first full-service Internet-based Freight Forwarder
b. We are also providing add-on services like INSURANCE and TRUCKING (from customer's factory to the sea or airport) helping the customer to manage DOOR TO DOOR Shipments just by a click of a few buttons.
c. We have a shipping network across of 56 countries giving us a very wide global reach.
d. Our aim is to provide an international freight booking experience like MakeMyTrip and a tracking experience like Amazon.

Competitors and Differentiation

Our biggest competitors are the traditional offline Freight Forwarders in India. Compared to them our entire product is based on technology.

There are 2 Indian startups called Shipping Exchange and VamaShip. But their business model works on an aggregator based model (which means they have a network of traditional freight forwarders to help in booking and managing their shipments in the backend).

We on the other hand, are a licensed freight forwarder which gives us more control over the customer experience.

There are a few USA based startups in this industry like Flexport, Freightos, Haven etc. but they don't have any presence in India.

Apart from above mentioned companies, there are DHL, FEDEX in the freight industry. But these are primarily courier companies. They don't have the logistics infrastructure for international freight. Even these big guns have to go through the same shipping lines (e.g. Maersk etc. like we do) to get their shipments transported. However, the big problem is that these companies also operate their freight business as traditional freight forwarders that means they don't have strong IT for their freight forwarding business wing).

Funding and Monetization

We are completely bootstrapped startup. We are in talks with a few VCs who are interested in investing.

We charge a commission per shipment that we process based on the kind of services availed by the customer. The average ticket size per import/export shipment is around Rs. 1-2 lakh.

Our commission percentages vary based on parameters like product weight, to & from country, nature of product (if hazardous or not) etc.

Challenges Faced

The biggest challenge we are facing is to on-board customers who find it a bit uncomfortable to change with technology.

Customers who already are comfortable with technology in their daily lives are very excited to try our product.

People Responses and Traction Details

Our website has been active just for a week and we have received a very positive response on the product. Just in 7 days, around 50 importers and exporters have signed up. We have already received orders to service 7 end to end shipments and are in process to obtain 15-20 shipments in the coming month. We have also obtained 3 complete accounts from shippers to handle all their monthly shipments.

Our mobile app is currently under review by Apple and Google and should be available in the next 2 weeks.

Future Plans

We wish to keep improving our technology and services. Some of the plans include:

a. Currently, we are targeting importers and exporters in Indian cities primarily Mumbai. But we intend to expand our sales reach to other cities and across other countries
b. Instant quotes on request submissions.
c. Complete inventory management software solution for our shippers. The aim is to keep track of the customer’s inventory, most used trade routes and suppliers details and allow customer just to click a button once the inventory is low and all other things will be taken care of by us.
d. Launch our product in global and regional languages.

Marketing Plans

Since we are a B2B our marketing plans include:

a. Primarily, build a relationship with importers and exporter by having frequent one on ones with current & prospective customers.
c. Presenting our product at Trade Exhibitions
d. Publications i.e. magazines & newspapers
e. Social media, explainer videos and television

Biggest Learnings so far..

The biggest learning was when we were deciding whether to go ahead with an aggregator based model or providing the service by ourself.

We met with a lot of importers/exporters and freight forwarders. The overwhelming response was that the shipper will feel more comfortable if the responsibility of the shipment lies with 1 entity rather than working with different freight forwarders on different orders.

Therefore we decided to go ahead with the non-aggregator based model and provide all services by ourselves. This decision worked wonders for us when we were developing our software since the customer dashboard backend became more comprehensive and easier to implement since our logistics managers had end-to-end control.

Some of our potential customers who are not very comfortable with technology. For them we are making video tutorials about “How to request quotes”, “How to book shipments”, “How to track shipments” etc. We are in the process of making these videos and they will be released in two weeks’ time.

Market Size and Opportunity

Freight Forwarding globally comprises 12% of the world's GDP with the total value being over $3 trillion. In India, the market size sits at a whopping $38 billion. India is one of the major players in global trade with Mumbai being the port with the highest trade share. So it is favourable to be operating from the country's trade capital.

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Prowince Freight Movement Needs India Startups

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