You launched TruKKer three years ago in 2016, but before that you had a very successful career with AECOM where you became director aged just 32. How did this experience prepare you for the world of entrepreneurship?
I spent 12 years in international consulting with AECOM and Arup, and jumped into TruKKer at the peak of my consulting career. Life is very different in a start-up but my experience with large organisations certainly contributes to my ability to think big, think global and have organisational skills of managing large teams. I have been appreciated for my commercial acumen and decision making skills.
Very early in my career I attracted the responsibility to deliver complex mega projects and be accountable for their commercial performance. This has shaped my decision-making skills. As a start-up founder, you need to make decisions every day. Not every decision is right, but not taking a decision is the only worse thing a leader can do.
Another learning from my consulting experience was the art of delegation and empowering a team. TruKKer has an ace team and we are ruthless to ensure we work only with the most motivated and driven team members.
What challenges and benefits did being a young leader bring you? Was it easy to command respect from those who had been in business for longer than you? Were you able to bring fresh, innovative ideas to the table?
I did get challenged about authority and autonomy from peers during my career in consulting, but you cannot take responsibility without being empowered. My superiors loved my style as they could rely on someone focused on getting the job done and with sight on the result.
Innovation and ideas are intrinsic in consulting and I was lucky to work with a lot of very smart individuals during my experience with Arup and AECOM across the UK, Middle East and US.
During your years with AECOM and Arup did you have any mentors who helped guide you through the first years of your business career? What memorable advice did you receive, and do you still stick to those words of wisdom?
I can name a couple of mentors who influenced my formative years. Willie Crowe at Arup UK recognised my leadership skills while I was still a graduate engineer and encouraged me to take responsibility. In later years I worked closely with Ian Williamson in AECOM who mentored me on my commercial skills and highlighted the importance of creating a team of high performers. I have thrived with my learning from them.
You are now the leader of your own business, TruKKer. How did the company come about? What gave you the push to launch a start-up?
The idea came about by chance when a close friend was facing an issue with moving his cargo. I wondered about an ‘Uber of trucks’ kind of service and was Googling about it the next day. Two days later, I connected with childhood buddy and tech champion, Pradeep. We formed TruKKer 60 days later.
Did you have to bring a different attitude or mindset to TruKKer than you did to pervious companies? Was there anything that corporate life did not prepare you for with TruKKer?
TruKKer is a completely different animal compared to a Fortune 500 consulting firm. In a start-up, you need to be prepared to identify the fundamental value denial, innovate a solution, deliver it rapidly, and continuously learn and evolve your product. All without sufficient resources or financial means.
However, the learning is not comparable. We learn everyday at TruKKer. Corporate prepares you to think big and have vision bigger than the size of your start up. TruKKer started with Pradeep and me 30 months back. Today, we are 65 people across three countries and a target to be in five countries by end of 2019.
With a few years of Trukker under your belt, how have things changed for the company and the way you run it?
We have evolved into an aggressive SME from a bootstrapped start-up, thanks to the leading VCs and institutional investors who believed in us early on. We now have multiple high-caliber team members, all believing in the vision of adding value to the road freight ecosystem via technology based innovation.
I now get more time to look at the bigger picture and geographic scaling of the business, but always have my hands into details of operations, by nature.
With the introduction of TruKKer into the logistics sector of the Middle East, what changes or benefits has it brought to the industry?
TruKKer plays an important role being a reliable partner for trucking services with access to the largest available fleet, advanced technology with multiple truck types, and network spread across the MENA region.
TruKKer’s customer interface brings in utmost transparency between drivers, shippers and consignee, which eases the operational processes like tracking the shipment, expected time of arrival, and so on. TruKKer has achieved 96 per cent track and trace compliance for all its fleet and offers advanced MIS (management information systems) to its clients including integration with ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.
Our predictive algorithms maximise truck utilisation by forward-booking jobs while the truck is still engaged in a transaction. TruKKer has increased utilisation of its active trucks by 20 per cent.
As one of our business goals, we are also focused on driver welfare and are launching multiple initiatives like electronic payments, driver rest areas, health insurance and access to multiple ancillary services through the TruKKer partnership programmes.
How is TruKKer taking advantage of rapid tech developments?
TruKKer’s initiatives and business strategies are built around creating fundamental value to the ecosystem by use of advanced technology and investing in tech implementation at all levels. We are fast evolving as a freight exchange, giving real time accessibility to the shippers of idle fleet available in the market, as well as pricing.
Our capability of generating data and predictive algorithm systems allows us to know how many trucks are idle in a given location or would be available in the next 24 to 48 hours, helping improve asset utilisations and increasing efficiency.
Our customer dashboard addresses a lot of existing pain points in the industry like document management, multiparty coordination, and real time tracking.
We have achieved 100 per cent digitisation of the freight booking, tracking, reporting and fulfillment processes, with real time access provided to the cargo owner from our system.
What plans do you have for the years ahead – both for TruKKer and yourself?
TruKKer will be operating all over the GCC, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and North Africa by 2020. It will offer the convenience of a freight exchange to the region’s businesses powered by real time supply and demand dynamics for trucks. Transporters will enjoy higher utilisation of assets and consistent earnings. My plans are aligned with that of TruKKer.
And finally, what would you say to the young business leaders coming through today? What advice would you give them as they look to make their mark?
Believe in your idea and risk your own time and money first. Don’t get emotional about your product and always look for early market feedback. You might have a great product that no one wants or is willing to pay for. If you have a product that someone is willing to pay for, and if you can prove this by risking your own money, smart investors will eventually follow to support.
There is no alternative to hard work regardless of how smart you are. Taking risks is intrinsic to creating a business. Don’t hesitate to take risks.