New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) Mumbai-based entrepreneur Vikas Parashar wanted to rush a consignment of consumer goods to Ludhiana, necessitated by heavy demand. But he also feared cancellation of the order if it failed to materialise on time.
His trusted transporter could not be of much help as all his 14 heavy and light vehicles were already booked indefinitely by a big industrial house. Parashar avoided other operators because of past experiences.
Finally, he approached IRTEX - the Indian Road Transportation Exchange - which processed Parashar's request promptly, located a medium-sized truck and had his goods moving within a few hours. IRTEX, the brainchild of three Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay batchmates, is said to be the country's single biggest platform to sort out all shipment problems, involving manufacturers and fleet operators, in a highly efficient and cost-effective way.
It has facilitated 10,000 transactions in over a year, involving industrial and fast-moving consumer goods.
Set up in June 2009 by IITans Ankur Tripathi, Nitin Gupta and Saurabh Gupta, it could be operationalised only in December 2010. The trio worked tirelessly to root out inefficiency in the sector and optimise movement of goods.
"IRTEX is moving the road transport industry online by using technology that automates the sourcing of trucks, shipment execution and processing of payment between carriers and shippers," Tripathi, managing director of IRTEX, told IANS from Mumbai.
"A growing road transport industry, made up of national, regional and local truck operators, suffers from low occupancy. We saw an opportunity to induct technology to improve the occupancy levels, from current 60 percent to 80 percent," he said.
By helping truck operators manage their daily operations, IRTEX helps improve fleet utilization. The cascading effect spells increased revenues and naturally, profits. Services include tracking with the help of manual and GPS systems and authentication of vehicles by vetting of documents, before any transaction.
The fragmented road transport industry comprises a few national transport companies with up to 1,000 trucks such as GATI, Transport Corporation of India, Safe Express and Patel Roadways. Several regional operators run between 50 and 500 trucks and thousands of local fleet operators between one and 20 trucks.
IRTEX connects small operators, comprising 90 percent of transporters, owning five vehicles or less, according to the 'Road Transport Reorganisation Committee'. The small number prevents satisfactory and efficient service to end users. Prices of petrol and diesel are rising and making the mode of transport more costly.
IRTEX also offers a cellphone-based service and operates a multi-lingual call centre.
"It's a multi-technology product since we have to cater to different kinds of people like local brokers and truck drivers who are not well versed with technology," Tripathi explained to IANS.
Nitin Gupta, IRTEX's chief technical officer, said it may take as many as 12 hours to arrange transport through an agent for a consignment lying at the airport and required by a service provider. He may approach the IRTEX website, filling a form about the nature of cargo, route, destination and time for the shipment to be moved.
These requirements would be matched with the list of transport houses or their agents registered with the site, helping the user choose the best option.
IRTEX has started operations in Delhi and plans to expand to three more locations in the eastern and southern parts of the country this year.
(Shudip Talukdar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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