ShipLnyc is a startup that seeks to be the “Ex­pe­dia of lo­gis­tics.”

ShipLync, de­scribed by a co-founder as the ‘Ex­pe­dia of lo­gis­tics,’ pro­vides a real-time sys­tem for the most ef­fi­cient and least ex­pen­sive ship­ping pro­cesses

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSI­NESS - BUSI­NESS RX

A lo­gis­tics start-up seeks help adding new cus­tomers. — Dan Bey­ers

The en­trepreneurs: Somil De­sai earned his un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in in­for­ma­tion sys­tems and com­pleted a dual MS/MBA pro­gram in mar­ket­ing man­age­ment. He went on to start his ca­reer in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and an­a­lyt­ics. His ca­reer shifted paths when he was in­tro­duced to the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional trade in­dus­try.

Somil’s wife, Sau­reen Naik De­sai, earned dual de­grees in busi­ness fi­nance and mar­ket­ing man­age­ment. She comes from a fam­ily cor­po­ra­tion that in­cluded about 25 com­pa­nies un­der one par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion, en­com­pass­ing plas­tics en­gi­neer­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, recycling and ex­port­ing to over­seas cus­tomers. She has more than 12 years of ex­per­tise in in­ter­na­tional trade and lo­gis­tics,

Somil and Sau­reen re­al­ized that a ma­jor weak spot for many or­ga­ni­za­tions is lo­gis­tics man­age­ment. The process of man­ag­ing ship­ments through do­mes­tic ground transportation, air freight and ocean freight con­tain­ers can in­volve nu­mer­ous calls and emails with bro­kers and car­ri­ers, re­dun­dant pa­per­work and a con­stant need for track­ing to make sure goods were on time and on route.

“That is a cost that can ul­ti­mately be con­trolled if done the cor­rect way and an­a­lyzed prop­erly,” Somil says.

By 2014, Somil and his team built a plat­form to man­age the ship­ping process. The cou­ple then de­cided to fol­low their dream to start a tech com­pany, and in 2016 they spun out the tech­nol­ogy into a new com­mer­cial­ized plat­form, ShipLync.

The pitch, Somil De­sai, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive: “ShipLync con­nects cus­tomers who need to move freight quickly at the most com­pet­i­tive rates with ser­vice providers — transportation car­ri­ers or bro­kers like UPS, CH Robin­son, XPO Lo­gis­tics, etc. We’re like the Ex­pe­dia of lo­gis­tics. We also have a Yelp-like review sec­tion where cus­tomers can rate ser­vice providers.

“ShipLync gives ser­vice providers ac­cess to more deals, and com­pa­nies that need to ship things get quick quotes and bet­ter rates be­cause providers are bid­ding against each other for busi­ness. Ser­vice providers use our re­al­time plat­form to up­load all the nec­es­sary pa­per­work, send re­al­time track­ing up­dates and man­age in­voices. This stream­lines the need for nu­mer­ous back-and­forth phone calls and emails. Any­one man­ag­ing ship­ments do­mes­ti­cally or in­ter­na­tion­ally can use our plat­form to send out a re­quest for quotes. Once the ship­ping re­quest goes out, it’s quick and easy for providers in our net­work to re­ceive the re­quest and of­fer onthe-spot quotes from their desk­top or mo­bile de­vices so they never miss op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­ness. We charge ser­vice providers a small per­cent­age of the busi­ness they book on our plat­form.

“Right now, we’re earn­ing about $1,000 a day in rev­enue, and we are work­ing to dou­ble that by June. We want to ex­pand our of­fice, hire the right tal­ent and grow from there.

“As we grow, a lot of our chal­lenges are with get­ting ship­pers on board with our tech­nol­ogy. We have had good suc­cess rolling out to tech-savvy ser­vice provider start-ups — Uber, Trans­fix.io and Cargo Chief are all us­ing our plat­form. But much of the lo­gis­tics world is still very an­ti­quated. We also have to ed­u­cate the ship­pers to make them see the value we bring and how we can max­i­mize their cost sav­ings and the ser­vice providers in our sys­tem have been vet­ted. How can we get more users onto our plat­form?”

The ad­vice, Elana Fine, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ding­man Cen­ter for En­trepreneur­ship at the Univer­sity of Mary­land: “Don’t worry yet about the tech hold­outs — you’re still so early in the busi­ness that you need to fo­cus on your ear­li­est adopters. At this stage, it will be very chal­leng­ing to try to sell to ship­pers who cur­rently rely only on paper and pen. In­stead, fo­cus on your cur­rent users and try to learn as much as you can about the daily trans­ac­tions tak­ing place on your plat­form now. Who are those cus­tomers and what can you learn from them? That can be a great in­di­ca­tor of where to find sim­i­lar cus­tomers.

“The ship­pers cur­rently us­ing ShipLync could be your best mar­ket­ing to get new cus­tomers. They could be very in­flu­en­tial to other po­ten­tial cus­tomers. Call on them to rec­om­mend you to oth­ers in their in­dus­try. Try to grow vi­rally that way. You could even con­sider of­fer­ing them some in­cen­tives for re­fer­rals.”

The re­ac­tion, Somil De­sai: “You are ab­so­lutely right — there is a big mar­ket out there of peo­ple ready for our tech­nol­ogy. Our cur­rent cus­tomers have given us great testimonials, and we’ve cre­ated mar­ket­ing doc­u­ments based on them. We’ll con­tinue to ex­pand those ef­forts.” Look­ing for some ad­vice on a new busi­ness, or need help fix­ing an ex­ist­ing one? Con­tact us at cap­biznews@wash­post.com.

MOR­RIS MAC­MATZEN/GETTY IMAGES

A ship­ping con­tainer is lifted in Ham­burg. Man­ag­ing ship­ments through do­mes­tic ground transportation, air freight and ocean freight con­tain­ers can be com­pli­cated and time-con­sum­ing. ShipLync, a new com­mer­cial­ized plat­form, helps to stream­line the process.

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