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Ensuring The Right Price And Service For Consumers Is A Consistent Challenge: Avinash Raghav, Co-founder Shift Freight

In an interview with BW Businessworld Avinash Raghav, Co-founder Shift Freight talks about digital marketing, technology, customer-centric approach and more.

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1. Brief us about your business model like how did the idea come to start and how does it work (step by step procedure)?

The journey started when I and one of my friends in the Middle East were looking for a shifting vendor and encountered a lot of problems in the process. We realised that the segment has been languishing across the world. In India too, there are a number of aggregators in the logistics industry, but majority target just the movers segment, that too in B2B context. There are no players who are targeting the movers and packers segment, taking into consideration the needs of the end user. The idea then cropped up that we must start a service in the segment which is completely customer centric. Even if there's competition, the competition should be about quality of services rather than pricing.

It took us around six to eight months of business research to zero in on the segment where we could launch our services. When we started evaluating the Indian market, we found a big gap as well as a great opportunity to enter. We launched in February 2020 after development of all the applications and getting the all our technology-related fundamentals in place. We started in movers, toeing and movers & packers segment, but got a positive and overwhelming response in the latter. We further streamlined our services and technology during the lockdown induced by Covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, we are India’s fastest growing aggregator of movers and packers in the country. We offer a cost effective and completely secured service. We have verified shift partners and we aspire to let the end consumer avail our services in the most affordable and convenient manner. Once customers reach out through website or mobile application, they get a call back in as little as 10 minutes. Once the requirements are ascertained, a quotation is shared with the customer and the vendors simultaneously in the next 30 minutes. The mover & packer with the lowest bid is assigned the task. The company thrives on a customer-centric approach wherein one dedicated "Customer Success Manager" is assigned to the customer who makes sure that the movement of goods is done smoothly without any stress.

2. What are the unique key points of your company?

We are an integrated service delivery entity, which thrives on clear communication and high-end technology. We have dedicated movement managers to ensure a safe last mile delivery and they represent consumers, not the shift partners.

Our modus operandi includes a bidding system so that the consumers get the services in the best possible price. At least 20-25 vendors bid for each task and it resultantly benefits the consumer. Our technology system is such that consumers get the option to track each and every movement, from the scheduled time until the last mile delivery.

3. How are you different from the existing competitors?

The first and foremost factor that makes us different from our competitors is that we are driven completely by a customer-centric approach. No other services provider has the technology that we can boast of, and neither do they have any mechanism to provide a dedicated movement manager who ensures timely resolution of all discrepancies that might occur during a task.

At the same time, we value all our shift partners who comply with our guidelines. We are talking about an industry that is mostly scattered and unorganized, and this is where we are making a difference felt. We give our shift partners uniform, training as well as discipline. When our shift partners perform well in adherence to our codes of conduct, we also help them in procuring more vehicles through soft loans. We help them grow at every stage.

4. What is the funding status and monetization model?

We are not funded right now but to commence our operations we have recieved an angel investment of USD 1 million from Abdullah.

With regard to monetization, we do not charge any commission from our shift partners. As mentioned earlier, we engage with them through a bidding process. What we do is provide premium and quality services to the end consumers so that they benefit the most. Therefore, depending upon the overall cost of a consignment, we charge them a fee. Our services start at Rs 1,000 and then there’s no limit. We put a minimum bidding price in place and then place a commission on the same through a defined algorithm, which is our secret recipe. This makes us cheaper from other players in the segment.

5. What challenges are you facing in running your business?

The first challenge came in the form of Covid-19 as the lockdown was put in place almost immediately after our launch. However, we turned this challenge into an opportunity and used this period to streamline all our services and technology. All our team members worked relentlessly for 18-20 hours each day to restructure all processes in compliance with the needs of the movers and packers segment.

The other challenge that we face is with regard to getting the right pricing from our shift partners. Whenever we gave a call, sometimes vendors did not respond or did not have proper information. We realised that we could not function without integrating technology. We overcame this challenge by introducing the bidding system. In fact, ensuring the right price and service for consumers is a consistent challenge that we need to overcome on a day-to-day basis.

6. How do you look at expansion?

Currently we have launched our services in the northern and southern zones of the country. In the north we are covering Delhi and NCR while in the south we are functional in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. As far as expansion is concerned, we have a very clear roadmap in place. From January 1, 2021, we are beginning our operations in the western zone, covering Mumbai and Pune. And by June next year, we plan to cover at least 30 cities spread across eastern, western, northern, southern and central belts of India. We also have a plan in place to foray into the US market by the fall season in 2021.

7. What are your marketing plans?

We are relying heavily on technology and digital marketing for marketing purposes because it is easy and possible to reach even the last person in line through this route.

Besides, we are paying adequate attention to our branding. For instance, all our shift partners or vendors wear uniforms with our logo and branding on it. All the trucks that are used also have our branding. We are very conscious about this aspect and are indulging ourselves in result-oriented marketing. In near future, you might hear about us through leading FM channels and media agencies.

8. What is the market size and opportunity?

In the movers and packers consumer segment, the daily number in urban and semi-urban India is almost 30,000-35,000 movements each day. The total market size in India is almost USD 3.5 billion, and hence there's a massive opportunity.

We would like to add that the opportunity are overwhelming for us primarily because we have minimal constraints in place with regard to technology and pursuing a customer-centric approach. All our employees are working from home so they are not apprehensive of providing their services for extended hours and at odd times, which is a prerequisite in the segment.