Generation Start-up: Lorry rental platform aims to transform into logistics

One of the biggest challenges that Sebastian Stefan faced after setting up his logistics company, LoadMe, was resistance to the adoption of technology by potential users.

Mr Stefan first came up with the concept of a marketplace connecting freight carriers to companies looking to have their goods transported in 2014 and the business was fully operational by 2016.

However, LoadMe’s success depended also on the willingness of lorry and pickup drivers to use the platform – a feat he initially found difficult to achieve.

“Adoption is a problem in our industry,” the LoadMe chief executive told The National.

At the time the company began, many lorry and pickup drivers still used old Nokia phones with no internet or GPS. His first task was to attract them to the platform, which promised to connect them to companies that wanted freight transported across borders.

We positioned ourselves as a digital brokerage company for land transportation

Sebastian Stefan, LoadMe founder

Soon he and his team moved to integrate them to the platform. It helped that smartphone penetration picked up significantly around this time.

“Things evolved [as] users, drivers and logistic professionals started to have data plans. Soon, we attracted the largest companies in the region as customers,” says Mr Stefan.

Today, LoadMe’s online marketplace has about 18,000 lorries and 6,000 companies actively using the platform, resulting in thousands of transactions each month.

Digitising freight transport is a lucrative business and the platform is not the only start-up tapping into this industry in the Middle East.

Trukker, another UAE start-up, records thousands of daily transactions and has raised millions of dollars from top investors such as Silicon Valley-based Partners for Growth and the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group.

Companies looking to book a lorry or pickup can enter the type of vehicle required on LoadMe’s platform and the collection and drop-off points – a process similar to how an Uber or a Careem ride is booked. Once the goods are collected, load owners can track the vehicle and receive electronic proof of delivery once their merchandise is delivered.

Digitisation has benefitted the logistics industry, with such platforms helping to reduce the number of empty trips across borders, in turn increasing efficiency, experts say.

Gopal R, global leader of Frost & Sullivan’s supply chain and logistics practice, says a 10 per cent improvement in fleet use, aided by digitisation, can have a significant effect on revenue.

“This is why the concept picked up for lorries. Even reducing empty return mileage by as low as 5 per cent to 10 per cent delivers profitable results for the operators.”

The idea for LoadMe came to Mr Stefan, a Romanian who previously worked for General Motors in Europe, when he first moved to Dubai to take up a role in a logistics company. He was surprised to see there was no freight marketplace in the UAE despite the presence of a thriving logistics sector.

He teamed up with two of his friends – Sebastian Morar and Claudia Pacurar – to test the waters with a freight exchange marketplace. The company was initially incubated by DP World’s Turn8 accelerator.

Although the…

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