'The transport business in India has traditionally been vulnerable to a lot of geographical, societal, political and economical factors, and hence been quite disorganised as well as scattered.'
As the pandemic induced a rigorous country-wide lockdown, many people were compelled to shift their bases from rented accommodations in cities to their hometowns across different parts of the country. This led to a significant surge of demand in the Movers & Packers segment, the smart city dwellers relied on technology to find the best match for their needs. However, now with the second wave of the pandemic dealing yet another blow to businesses and jobs, the city dwellers who braved the first wave are looking for service providers who can help them relocate with utmost care.
This is where tech-based mover & packer aggregator come. In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online Avinash Raghav, Co-founder & MD, Shift Freight talks about how in the wake of the pandemic they have taken their business forward, challenges and what is there for them in the future. Excerpts:
Brief us about the freight transport business in India and about Shift Freight?The transport business in India has traditionally been vulnerable to a lot of geographical, societal, political and economical factors, and hence been quite disorganised as well as scattered. However, the transport business in India has always thrived, evolved and grown manifold in sync with the need of any hour, even during the pandemic. Gradually, the transport space in the country is adapting technology to make its operations more organised.
The foray of Shift Freight into the shifting and relocation space came amid the outbreak of the pandemic. Due to the lockdown, we had to pause, which we did to make ourselves well prepared on the technology side. Hence, we managed to sail against the tide and emerged as one of India’s fastest-growing aggregators of movers and packers in the country, recording a month-on-month growth of 60 percent since its launch. Within a short span, we are operational in Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, and Kolkata, providing both inter-city and intra-city relocation services. We are currently serving both corporate as well as end consumers through our state-of-the-Art customer relationship management.
What difference are you creating for the consumers as an aggregator, rather than a standalone mover and packer?Aggregator-based startups have disrupted every space over the past few years. Be it Ola for cabs or Oyo for hotel rooms, aggregators provide the ease of access and convenience that consumers actually desire. As an aggregator in the movers and packers domain, we have an expansive network of Shift Partners and are facilitating numerous services like Intra-city Relocation of household goods, Inter-city Relocation of household goods, Vehicle Relocation as well as Office Relocation. Within a span of a little one year, we have created a PAN India network of Shift Partners. Through our network of Shift partners, we are delivering approximately 2000 Orders monthly.
Shifting a home or an office is one of the most uphill tasks that one takes upon self. Therefore, we aim at solving the problems for consumers, by providing them dedicated move coordinators, who assist them right from the word go till the last-mile delivery. The coordinators are dedicated points of contact for the consumers through each stage of shifting, in addition to a dedicated hotline for round-the-clock support. Besides, at Shift Freight, we have a set of guidelines to get the KYC done for our partners and their manpower. We ensure that no crime or cheating happens where people and goods are involved since we do not want to put consumers and theirs goods at any risk. Also, we ensure High-Quality Packaging Materials, reliable Insurance of goods, Standard Pricing, Security & safety of goods.
How did the company fare during the first wave of a pandemic? How is the business during the 2nd wave?At the outbreak of the pandemic, we were not prepared at all and were very new. Honestly, the first wave didn’t affect us much since we were very new and started operations only a month back. In fact, first-wave helped us to streamline our process and fix our business model.
We were, however, prepared when the second wave arrived. There is a very marginal decline in our business. Through our customer-centric initiatives, we were able to retain & win our customers’ confidence. However, due to lockdown, our deliveries are getting affected.
What kind of customer-centric initiative did you undertake during the pandemic? How did it impact the business?In the wake of the pandemic, we ensured proper training for our packaging teams and delivery partners to follow all Covid protocols and social distancing norms. They are also provided with proper dresses, shoes, PPE kits free of cost, in addition to mask, shield, gloves, Shoe Cover, and sanitizers. For the vehicles and Goods as well we ensure free sanitization.
These initiatives give our customers a lot of confidence to relocate during pandemic times. It is primarily why our sales have remained intact even during the pandemic.
What changes did you notice in consumer behaviours since the beginning of the pandemic and what kind of customer queries did you mostly receive during pandemic?During Pandemic and lockdown, customers have had concerns over whether the persons coming for packing and shifting would follow proper social distancing or not, whether they would use protection kits or not, whether the vehicle would be sanitized or not, etc.
There has been a phenomenal shift in consumer behaviour. They are more concerned and particular than ever about hygiene, social distancing, Masks, etc.
What are your future plans?
Currently, Shift Freight is delivering approx 2000 Orders across India on a monthly basis. We expect our numbers to touch approx 200 Orders per day or 6000 Orders per month by the end of June 2022. Furthermore, our long-term target is to reach 2000 Orders per day in the next 5 years which is only and only 5% of the total market cap of Packers & Movers services in India.
Apart from these numbers, we are planning to start a Training & Development wing to train more than 300 unemployed laborers every month and give them secured employment through our network of Shift Partners. We have already helped our delivery partners with soft loans, cashback, packaging supplies, PPE Kit supplies. We will continue to scale up these benefits.