MatchLog | Matchmaking for containers

May 7, 2024

Shipping containers are one of the most important cogs in the wheel of global trade. We wrote about how shipping affects global trade and inflation recently, explaining the importance of shipping routes. Bhuvan has also explored the history of shipping containers themselves. Once those containers are loaded onto a truck and hit the road, they become figures in GST accounts and traffic annoyances for most people. Adding to carbon emissions.

That’s why shipping containers are part of the climate conversations.

Nearly half of all shipping containers on the road are empty because they are driving to or from the nearest port after having dropped their cargo. These ‘dry runs’ add to emissions, without being productive. That’s exactly what the startup MatchLog is trying to fix. In a nutshell, MatchLog reduces dry runs in the container transport segment of the logistics industry.

In this episode, we meet Dhruv Taneja, the CEO and one of MatchLog’s three co-founders.

After examining the basics of the logistics industry, we discuss the main reason dry runs exist: lack of data and visibility across shipping lines. Dhruv’s family firm only had this data because it was one of the largest container management companies in India, handling close to 10% of India’s volume of empty containers. Once he realised the scale of the problem, Dhruv partnered with his co-founders to apply a technology lens to this data and create a ‘matchmaking’ service – matching empty containers with firms that were going to book one within a day or so.

While this sounds easy enough, this process not only requires one to deal with large shipping lines but also truck fleet operators on the ground. 95% of these fleet owners are small operators with five or fewer vehicles. They have very basic education and a high capital barrier — it costs 35-40 lakhs to buy a truck. So MatchLog provided operators something they didn’t get elsewhere — timely payments. Meanwhile, it worked with fleet managers, who gave MatchLog basic information like where vehicles are going, mobile numbers of the drivers and deal numbers – all of which combined to make a data goldmine.

With this, MatchLog built a rules-based engine which looks at the type of vehicle, size, type of container as well as the import/export dates. The fleet managers share this information on a simple Google form, seeing an opportunity to make some money on their otherwise dry run.

The company offers 3 services:

  • Transport Management Solutions or TMS, a one-stop platform functioning as a digital end-to-end model for a transaction. It allows users to explore inter-modal and multi-modal options, do quick price comparisons, manage documentation and bookings, track shipments in real time, invoice for both partners when trips are completed, and report trip milestones, all under one work order.
  • Stinder or Street Turn Finder, a container-user platform that converts visibility into actionable matches.
  • MatchLog Integrated Street Turn Yard (MiSTY), a strategically located network point in the hinterland which acts as an interface for modal operators to bring in containers that are digitally surveyed, aligned and triangulated to export bookings available on MatchLog’s TMS platform.

MatchLog receives a 1-3% brokerage from supplying containers to shipping lines. The revenue from its matching service is a flat fee between ₹2000 to ₹5000 per match. At the time of recording, in 2023, MatchLog was on course to achieve a topline of 50 crores.

The company has raised 3 million dollars in December 2021, including from Rainmatter. It also turned down a buyout offer from a global shipping company during COVID. Its team has grown to about 60 people. It just announced a pre-Series A fund-raise for global expansion.

Finally, I was curious about why it took so long for the industry to recognise the financial and environmental cost of dry runs. Dhruv thinks it was due to a lack of awareness and intent.

We hope to raise such awareness and inspire more founders to have climate conversations.

Consulting Producer, Zerodha

Post a comment