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Indian startup FreightBro: leveling the playing field for freight forwarders

Indian startup FreightBro: leveling the playing field for freight forwarders (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The freight industry is comprised of many small- and mid-tier freight forwarders that are perennially trying to increase efficiency within their operations and eventually grow to compete against far larger freight forwarding competitors. 

To address inefficiencies within the system, it is critical to look at the predominantly paper-based processes that are still mainstream across the industry. FreightBro, an India-based startup, is a digital enabler that helps digitalize and automate several manual operations specifically tailored to suit small- and mid-tier freight forwarders. 

“We started out with one simple module for instant quotation. Over a period of time, we realized it was not enough to just provide instant quotes to freight forwarders, but vital to create a complete digital experience for them and their end-customers as well,” said Mohammed Zakkiria, co-founder of FreightBro. “We do not intend to be another disruptor in the space, but rather enable the small- and mid-size forwarders to compete against the larger companies.”

Before the startup’s inception, the founders worked within the shipping sector, witnessing problems arising due to a general lack of digitalization – namely, transparency and visibility. “The lack of technology in the space meant that there was a huge issue for freight forwarders with creating a good experience for their customers,” said Zakkiria. “We want to prop up the current freight-forwarding experience to that of the banking industry. Freight forwarders have the field expertise, but miss the technology layer and we present that to them.”

Through its platform, FreightBro bridges shipping lanes with various services like insurance and trade financing, which Zakkiria pointed out to be of immense help to small and mid-tier forwarders who largely struggle with sewing several necessities at the job together. 

“We created a digital partner ecosystem on our platform, which makes commerce easy in terms of getting relevant data or services. We have partnered with the National Association of Freight and Logistics (NAFL) in Dubai, which connected us with over 400 of its members that can access import rates of China and India for booking shipments,” said Zakkiria. 

This apart, the company recently joined hands with Germany’s only deep-water port of Wilhelmshaven, to digitalize shipping operations and to increase traffic between India and the port. 

Though there has been considerable snowballing of customers this year, FreightBro did encounter marginal resistance from potential customers during its early days, primarily due to skepticism with trusting a nascent startup. Zakkiria explained that once forwarders comprehended the edge that FreightBro provided over the existing solutions in the market, it was a lot easier to gain traction. 

“FreightBro has over 500 freight forwarders using the platform today. We now have rate automation, quote management, shipment management and visibility possibilities within our platform. But we have a long way to go in terms of automating documentation, creating an interface with various existing systems – be it the forwarders, back-end EDI or customs,” said Zakkiria. “We are now focussing on India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East for expansion. We plan to enter the European and North American market in a few quarters.