Q and A: Janardan Dalmia, CEO of Trukkin Middle East
Dubai-based start-up Trukkin, founded by Dalmia and Ahmed Ibrahim Alnafie, aims to connect shippers and transporters for the movement of heavy cargo and was recently made entrepreneur of the week by Arabian Business.
At what point did you decide to leave the corporate world to pursue entrepreneurship?
It was at the end of 2015 when I decided to take a break from investment banking and try something new. The region was buzzing with entrepreneurial opportunities and my near decade’s experience in corporate finance gave me the confidence to take the plunge.
How did the idea for Trukkin come about and why did you decide to launch it?
I spent my time in investment banking, travelling the region meeting executives and business owners. Logistics regularly came up during our conversations; it seemed to be a common challenge, particularly relating to land transport.
I researched into the sector and found significant room for organising and institutionalising land transport. The market is highly fragmented yet significant in size, worth around $25 billion in the GCC region alone, which was really attractive, so I took the leap of faith and started Trukkin.
How difficult was it to attract funding for the company and did you bootstrap it at first?
We used our own capital to found the company then looked for external investors once we started to grow. Raising capital is never easy. As an entrepreneur, you’re looking not just for funds but also for the right partners to help take your business to the next level. That said, if you’re passionate about what you do, you’ve built a robust business model and you can demonstrate execution capabilities, you’ll find various avenues whence to raise capital.
Tell us a little bit about your funding journey and the difficulties of raising funds.
As I said, raising capital is never easy, but if you believe in yourself, show passion and commitment, and have a clear vision and a robust business model, you’ll find several channels through which you can raise capital.
Raising capital also brings significant responsibility and accountability for the company. It reiterates faith and gives a morale boost in terms of confidence in yourself and the business model. Raising capital requires the ability to wear multiple hats, running the business by yourself in the early stages while refining and pitching your business model to the right partners. It requires a 24/7 commitment.
What is your business model?
Trukkin is an aggregator that provides premium transportation services, focusing on surface transport in the GCC region. We act as an enabler, institutionalising and professionalising surface transport throughout the region. To the shipper, we are their transporter, while we operate a marketplace model for transporters.
What are some of your biggest challenges at the moment?
Every start-up faces both opportunities and challenges every day. As a young company, we have to operate at a much higher level than our more established competitors if we are to gain a slice of the market. Several of the more traditional operators have been in business for decades. However, this is a real opportunity to stretch ourselves to discover new capabilities. The challenges we face include finding the right talent then building an awesome culture and team to execute our vision.
The GCC markets are quite fragmented, which is one of the main challenges the logistics industry faces. How do you deal with that and do you expect it to change anytime soon?
This fragmentation has created an opportunity for us to consolidate and aggregate the existing transportation service providers into our platform while focusing on providing top-quality service to our customers. We believe that we are significantly upgrading the expected service levels in the logistics industry while enabling thousands of transporters to work seamlessly.
What else would you like to see being changed in the GCC’s logistics industry?
While the UAE has very much cemented its position as the regional hub for global businesses setting up a base to service the Middle East region, we are seeing a range of reforms in other GCC countries that is opening up these economies. Some of these reforms involve creating new or easing existing regulations in logistics and industrial free zones. Having clear and uniform regulations associated with land transport will certainly help the sector further. The change envisioned in the industry is the change that we are working on; we want to be that agent of change in the Middle East’s logistics industry.
What are your predictions for the region’s logistics industry?
The region’s logistics industry is bound to continue to grow – we already have a significant and well-developed road network and connectivity throughout the GCC and beyond. Logistics remains an area of focus for all governments in the region. For example, we are fully aligned with UAE Vision 2021 and Saudi Vision 2030 through the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP).
How is Trukkin performing at the moment and since launching?
We feel that in just the two years since we launched, which is a very short span of time, Trukkin has been able to create a trusted name for itself in the market. We were quick to expand to Saudi Arabia, which we consider our home market as well. Since our launch, we have completed over 15,000 long-haul, heavy cargo truck movements, which we believe is a significant accomplishment so far.
What are your future growth and expansion plans for the business?
Our focus remains to expand our presence throughout the GCC region and then beyond. We are in the process of scaling our business in our current markets and we are well positioned to expand rapidly. It is imperative for us to strike the right balance between sustainable growth and a culture that reflects our company’s values.
What do you see your company growing into?
We aspire to become one of the leading aggregators providing premium transportation services in the Middle East and beyond. We want to remain a truly local company helping to enable and solve local transportation problems. We want to inspire the youth here and build a company where our top local talent joins with others across the world to solve local logistical challenges, thus creating a true local logistics champion.
Have you seen any negative impact on funds available for start-ups and SMEs, following and as a result of the collapse of Abraaj in Dubai?
Any negative news like this inevitably has an impact on international investors’ confidence, but hopefully, apart from a couple of blips, we have enough success stories to mitigate this and create a positive outlook for start-ups and SMEs.
If you could go back, what would you have done differently in your career and also in the setting up of Trukkin?
Nothing. The past is the past and nothing can be changed so I don’t like to think about it. In hindsight, there’s always something you could have done in a better way, but that’s all theoretical. I care about the future – and I believe in venturing into that future with faith that the road will keep on unfolding as we grow.
What is your exit strategy?
We are too young a company to be thinking about an exit strategy at this point. But we are in a unique position where we’ll have several different exit strategies to choose from in the future, should we need them. As I said, at this point we are focused on growing our business and we’re not worrying about exit. We’re here for the long haul.