Owing to horrible congestion and narrow roads, big trucks are banned from many major cities in India. So Cambridge Judge Business School alumnus Mithun Srivatsa (Cambridge MBA 2011) saw a promising market opening.
“Businesses and people struggle to find an affordable and sustainable way of moving stuff,” he says. “We thought that mini-trucks could help provide the answer.”
A native of the Indian city of Bangalore, Mithun co-founded logistics company Blowhorn in 2014 and has since expanded to Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. Mithun is CEO of Blowhorn, which now has 120 employees and around 1,000 trucks hit the road every day.
Customers range from large ecommerce companies to small grocery stores, for example an owner of a small fruit shop, or a family of four moving house. And journeys can be just a few blocks within a city or many hundreds of miles to another Indian state.
Mithun dropped by Cambridge Judge Business School last autumn, and spoke to a group of current MBA students and others interested in entrepreneurship who meet periodically. Like many of them, Mithun says he has long-harboured the idea to start his own company.
Mithun spotted an opportunity in logistics when doing a consulting job for few months for Walmart Labs, as colleagues frequently sought his help about shifting goods from house to house. So he decided to do market research on the sector, and came up with the idea of moving goods with small trucks that could manoeuvre the crowded streets of Indian cities. Blowhorn customers can book jobs through their mobile devices, and the driver turns up on their doorstep.
“It’s like an Uber for moving goods,” Mithun says. “We have developed an app where people can put information, book the truck and track the whole journey of their goods.” He thinks what attracts customers to his business is the flexibility – people don’t need to own or rent a truck, and Blowhorn drivers can also help with loading goods.
Mithun says intimate knowledge of the business is essential for turning it into a success: “I spent the first three months in a mini-truck as I wanted to get a first-hand experience of how it actually works, talking to customers and improving our service to match their expectations.”
The CEO says Blowhorn co-founder Nikhil Shivaprasad, who is the CTO, complements him because he wears a technology hat. “He also asks difficult questions that take you out of your comfort zone,” Mithun says. “I think a lot of startups fail because co-founders start to disagree but don’t talk openly about it. It’s like a marriage – you need to communicate, or otherwise it won’t work.” The company raised $4m in Series A to enable further scale-up, and hopes to soon expand to another 20 cities in India with more than 10 million people. Their investors include reputed players like IDG Ventures, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Draper Associates.
Mithun says it’s important to wait for the right idea, and the correct timing, if you want to start your own business. But the most important thing is dedication.
“Blowhorn is my passion and this really helps if you’re running business in a developing country, as this will keep you going as you’ll get a lot of struggles along the way. Not everyone can be a billionaire entrepreneur, but even small changes can make a big shift in the society, because every person can make a difference.”
Mithun recently attended the British Council Future Leaders Connect Programme in Cambridge and the House of Lords, after being chosen as one of 50 future leaders from 11 countries to present ideas and discuss the biggest global policy issues such as education, food security and climate change.
Logistics, he says, is one of those major policy issues for emerging markets. “I believe that solving logistics in India is solving for the world, and this is what we aiming to do at Blowhorn.”