Growing up in Bangalore and feeling it evolve into India’s Silicon Valley
How to get technology into the hands of smaller logistics providers
The importance of staying closer to one’s customers
The core significance of logistics for businesses
Building a bootstrapped company
Growing a business with paying customers and why it matters
The leverage gained from raising from a good set of investors
I See Myself As a Problem Solver
I Was a Kid in the Candy Shop
Most of What We Build is Purposely Built
A Community of People Talking Business
It Was Very Complicated and That Is What Interested Me the Most
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Michael Waitze 0:02
Okay. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to India GameChanger. Today we are joined by Murugan Manoj Kumar, the founder and CEO of RoaDo. Think I got all that right. I think I’m just gonna go with my knowledge. Is that okay? Sure. Absolutely. Beautiful. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. How are you doing today?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 0:25
I’m doing good. Michael. Thank you. And thanks a lot for having me on the show.
Michael Waitze 0:29
It’s my pleasure. I’m curious if it’s normal for you on a Saturday afternoon to be podcasting.
Murugan Manoj Kumar 0:37
As an as an entrepreneur, I think yes. Saturdays are working then for me, most often than not, I end up working on a Sunday. Also, you know, that’s how it drives.
Michael Waitze 0:47
We were joking before we started recording, right? I was like, I don’t know, because I you asked me what time it was where I reside. And I was like, oh, it’s only five o’clock, right? So it’s not that different than it is in India. And I said to you, kind of half jokingly, but not really like, I kind of don’t know what day it is. And I rarely know what time it is. And you made that face like really? And now you’re saying it’s kind of the same way, right? Like, do you care if it’s Saturday or Wednesday? It doesn’t really matter, does it?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 1:12
Absolutely. Not? Only thing, the only time when it matters is you know, on a Sunday, you can’t take up your customer and ask him for a sales call.
Michael Waitze 1:21
Yet, but that’s the only difference. Right? I find it really funny today. Some of my corporate friends still will say to me, like on a Thursday or Friday, have a great weekend. I don’t know what to say in response. And not even ironically, I just not really sure what to say anyway. Right? Before we get into kind of the more central part of this conversation to get some of your background for some context.
Murugan Manoj Kumar 1:41
Absolutely. If I have to introduce myself in non textbook way, I would say I’m an engineer by qualification, but more. So I see myself as a problem solver, right? Like, that’s how I would like to identify myself. But otherwise, I’m a normal, you know, guy brought up in middle class family from Bangalore, right born and brought up in Bangalore, south of India, did my schooling, GRE and then went on to pursue my under graduation in mechanical engineering from one of these premier institutes in the country nit surathkal, right, and then got my 10 year old working in an MNC manufacturing company and then started up roadshow in 2017. So that’s a brief of, you know, my past like how we ended up at, you know,
Michael Waitze 2:32
can you talk to me a little bit about what it’s like to grow up in and around Bangalore? Do you know what I mean? Because from the outside, it feels like it’s this really dynamic Tech Center. It has to seep into your everyday life when you’re a kid. No.
Murugan Manoj Kumar 2:46
Absolutely. I think it’s a good question. I’ve not been asked this before, but it’s pretty evident like growing up. We I’ve seen Bangalore, which was like a, you know, silent, pretty good. City used to be called a garden city. Right for a very long time before it. It got its identification as Silicon City of India, right. So I’ve kind of seen during my childhood, how all this it boom, kind of really changed the scene here. The city just expanded beyond what we considered as Bangalore. Right back in the day, you know, 10 minutes from your house used to be outskirts of the city. And now you know, you can be on the road for an hour and still be inside Bangalore.
Michael Waitze 3:29
And is there is there a real tech vibe there? Like, is it almost like it is in Silicon Valley? We’re in the cafes in Bangalore, everyone’s talking about startups or technology or some new thing that’s happening?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 3:40
Oh, yeah. No doubt about that. Absolutely. And I can be doubly sure of it. Because during my tenure, working with an MNC, as a freshman graduate, fresher graduate, I was in cities like Chandigarh and later on in Goa, right. So the kind of vibe I’ve seen there, especially as far as startup ecosystem is considered and then bang it back in Bangalore, almost every day or every single weekend as some co founder meetups startup meetup and all of this happening. And if you’re in a cafe, any anywhere in Bangalore, more often than not, you’ll be seeing somebody pitching to an investor or a mentor or having a chat with a potential co founder. So it’s very much there. And there are few centers, you know, like hubs within Bangalore, where you will find a lot more cafes with freelancers, and, you know, co founders and stuff hustling all around
Michael Waitze 4:34
in a way does it inspire you think people like you and other entrepreneurs to just like, I wouldn’t want to say work harder, because it’s like, you’re not working harder otherwise, but like to inspire you to do bigger things. Do you know what I mean?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 4:46
Yeah, as in Yes. I think I don’t have to look very far away. Luckily, and fortunately, you know, I just look beside me, right? I have co founders, I have my team and stuff. These guys inspire me day. India. Yeah. So so it’s just like that, right? And there are so many other people I’ve seen. And I’ve been in awe as in how can they do something like this, right. And this is just like any other day for them. But for me, I was in on many, many times, right? And all these co founders, or all these startup meetups that I used to attend in 2017, when we started, right, I, we were meeting quite a lot of people from diverse backgrounds, people had come down to Bangalore only to start up in such situation. So very common, right? And looking at those guys, it was only about charging us up with more energy.
Michael Waitze 5:39
That’s what I think I want to come to Bangalore and see what it’s really like that I really do. To be fair, I’d love to have a recording studio there. So I could just like constantly be part of that conversation anyway. Can you talk to me about how you got into the logistics business? And I’m curious, like what the entry was, but also, once you enter, like, what is the status of it in India?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 6:01
See, for, for me, I think I’ve been very closely at least introduced to or I’ve been around logistics as a function for a very, very long time. Because my family is in manufacturing, or used to be in manufacturing business. So Logistics was very natural for me to be introduced to, right. And maybe that’s where I picked it up. In terms of being curious to understand what really happens, right? Transportation is where things start up, and one led to the other. You know, one of my projects in college, when I was doing engineering was automated truck loading system. You know, that’s how fascinated I am with these big machines. And that’s how Logistics was introduced to me, you know, it was very complicated. And that’s what interested me the most. And then when I got into the industry, right, especially working in a manufacturing company, yeah, I was a kid in the candy shop learning quite a lot. And Logistics was something that caught my eyes, right, because in a time, especially 2016 2017, the time when e commerce was, like, you know, it was a poster child for innovations around here like Flipkart or Amazon and all these things. And I was getting, you know, my orders e commerce ordered delivered in Goa in a tier two town in Goa. And I had absolute visibility and all of that, right, that experience was brilliant. And expected the same thing with Ola or all the other companies that I had access to being in Bangalore. Right, when I was seeing my counterparts in industries, asking very rudimentary questions of where’s my truck? I was like, Wait, aren’t we a multi billion dollar company? Right? I thought there’s a lot of tech and there indeed, was a lot of tech internally. But Logistics was one thing that seemed, you know, people did not have answers to in a in a way that you would expect them to write, because a lot of my friends who went to us they were working, or they were doing MS and so on. They were talking about optimization, they were talking about, you know, ML and AI, and VR, I saw my colleagues asking very rudimentary questions. And that’s, you know, that curiosity were which got me into thinking about how can we possibly solve for it?
Michael Waitze 8:11
In India? Are there big logistics players, like DHL like Federal Express in the United States? Or is it really fragmented? Or is it some kind of combination of both between sort of like the tier one cities and the tier two tier three cities? Do you know what I mean? And like, Who is this tech being built for? That you’re working with?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 8:30
Right? So a good question. And five, yes, there are a lot of, of course, India is like, a focus area for a lot of people. So these are the details of the world, there are quite a lot of them in India as well. But the service area, or you know, if you know, 100% of the market is considered most of these either cater to about five 10% or 15%. Of the market car, right? The rest of them are traditional businesses that existed for a long time. Right? I look at logistic service today in two layers. One is your physical layer of your network, your your connections, your operations ability. And the second layer is a digital layer, right? And that’s one layer that most of these other people do not have. So that’s what Trudeau is also trying to do, how do we democratize technology? Or how do we put technology in these guys hand in such a way that you know, we can create a level playing ground that way? DHL kind of attack with all transporters is just about equipping them? That’s the kind of thing that we’re doing.
Michael Waitze 9:33
Yeah. So if you’re going into a second tier city, and you’re taking a local or hyperlocal, provider of logistics services, and they use roto, what are they getting and what’s changing for them? Right? And how do you like and how do you make sure before because, you know, obviously your family’s in the manufacturing business that you had to deliver the things you were manufacturing by definition, this is logistics, but how do you keep knowing like what these logistics providers need if you’re not in their business every single day? All
Murugan Manoj Kumar 10:01
right. So I think I’m not sure what’s a good answer for it. But I’ll tell you what we do for this, right? Staying very relevant and staying very close to the kinds of customers or users that you’re solving for, I believe is important. As a process in at rhodo, we tend to have this formal calls with our customers to try and understand to get feedback. But apart from that, me personally, as a founder, you know, I have something called a customer advisory board, where it’s informal relationships that I maintain with people who are our customers and target customers, right, where I tend to discuss more than just throw, right, where I get to learn more about their business. And these conversations are human in nature, right? Where beyond business beyond just enabling them, it gets a lot of information being shared, which helps us also understand what’s the challenge that we need to be solving for, etc.
Michael Waitze 10:58
And what what are there? In other words, when you stand back and look at it and think, Okay, we need to use a specific type of technology to fix this problem, and to also scale this problem. So it doesn’t just work for this person. But for everybody, what are these problems that you’re trying to solve?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 11:13
Right? So let me put it this way, right? What are the problems we’re trying to solve for rather, what are we looking to achieve through this? Right? Yeah. Because most of what we build is purpose driven. Right? In the sense, you know, there’s a very famous saying that I think Henry Ford had once said, right, have you asked your customer? What do you want? They would have told I want faster horses?
Michael Waitze 11:36
It’s so funny. You are probably the fifth or sixth person that said this to me in the last few days. And it’s not because and I haven’t heard it in years. So something No, no, something’s happening, like people are thinking about this for some reason. And like, as you started saying, you saw me smiling, right? Because I’m like, Oh, my gosh, I’ve heard this just this week, so many times. But prior to that, almost never. I’m just trying to figure out why. But you’re right, obviously, right. If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would just say faster horses, which is, and they didn’t really want that at all. But yeah, go ahead. I’m not suggesting that you go and ask the customer because they won’t even know like what they want, in this particular case, maybe. But when you look at it, after your conversations, you’re thinking, Oh, if we put tech here, that’s going to be better. What is that?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 12:23
Absolutely. So over here, if you look at the general problem that we’re talking about in manufacturing, I have to give you an example. Right when we were that manufacturing, supply chains, and I was having a chat with one of these guys on a forum, who sits out of a different country, Australia, right. And they were procuring material, right? Internationally, there was a tender and stuff. And there was one of these Indian companies, and there was a company based out of another country, right China or another country. And clearly, India, the product that was being sold, like the actual, you know, value that was quoted was much lesser than the other other company, you know, something that in a normal situation, people would definitely choose the Indian good. But he was like, I think we are going with the other guy. And I was perplexed, I was really intrigued to understand why was this decision being made? Right? And he said, See, beyond your product cost, there are two things that are very important for me, right? A, the Indian company was unable to give him an answer on when is it going to reach him? Right? And B, the cost of Logistics was much, much higher than what was quoted by the other person because he was supposed to bear the cost of logistics, right? So one thing that really, you know, made me understand at that point in time, was Logistics was a very important element in businesses. Yeah, right. And empowering these guys is going to be important. And that’s what Rudy is solving for these guys. You know, there are so many small processes in everyday logistics operations, that needs to be digitized, you know, just because of digitization. There’s a lot of efficiencies that can be driven at scale, and at a smaller scale. But more importantly, the connectedness that we can bring by digitizing our key stakeholders and logistics has a bigger picture in terms of realizing value, not just for himself, but the entire ecosystem around him. Yeah, so So what we are today doing is largely digitizing these stakeholders and logistics, which helps them get off digital footprint, and also solve for key processes that they’re internally having. Right, which are more manual in nature.
Michael Waitze 14:38
Yeah. And again, at some level, I guess, if it’s very fragmented, a lot of that does have to be one off but then it can likely be rolled out to some of your other clients, I would presume. Did you grow if your family was in manufacturing? Did you grow up in a house where like, Mom and Dad were talking about the business so that it was just kind of like by osmosis, you were listening to these conversations about how to run businesses, you know what I mean? Oh, yeah,
Murugan Manoj Kumar 15:01
in fact, I was in a joint family, you know, add up to it, it was not just my dad, but my granddad or uncle. You know, I come from a community of, you know, people talking business. Yeah. Right. And interestingly, since you brought it up, you know, one thing, one snippet that I remind for, I remember from about three years back, we were bootstrapped company, right for for a very long time, we will try to do as a bootstrap company. So during one of these conversations with those startup meetings that I was talking about, right, so unfine, gentleman, you know, asked me, like, what’s the revenue, you’re making excetera. And like, we are making, you know, X Y, Zed, and we are growing at like, 30% month on month. And he was like, he was just shocked. And he was like, and we were, we broke even operationally even four months of our launch, you know, being bootstrapped. And he was like, How can you do that being Bootstrap? So for me, it was, I didn’t feel so you know, surprised, because I come from a family and a community with they’ve been doing this for ages, right? Being bootstrapped and being profitable and growing. So that’s the kind of, you know, place I come from.
Michael Waitze 16:12
Do you think it’s businesses like yours that over time, have a higher probability of succeeding because of the way you’re building a business to scale based on getting more paying customers and solving the problems for customers, as opposed to just growing for growth sake? And then raising money off that growth? Do you know what I mean? Like, don’t you think you have a higher chance of success if your first customer is a paying customer? And then every customer asking that you’re not willing to give them a free or freemium service, because you already have a paying client? And you’re like, well, that dude’s paying. So you have to pay? Do you understand what I mean?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 16:45
Yeah, and I think it’s an interesting time you ask this question, especially in terms of the investment climate? That’s right. Yeah, absolutely. So I come from the school of thought wherein, you know, I’ve even in the domain that you see that we’ve chosen is b2b, right? So I believe in solving for these real problems that exist. And if a problem is real, I think, you know, people should value it by giving their time, money or effort of doing something behind it. So I definitely believe that, you know, paying customers and growing with paying customers is a very healthy way of building a sustainable business out there.
Michael Waitze 17:24
Yeah, I think so too. And look, I think that in reverse, if you’re building a business, just to raise the next round, you’re just in the wrong business. Now. Is that fair?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 17:35
Yes. Yes. I. So that’s one thing that, you know, the reason why we continue to be bootstrapped for quite a long time, because as a founder, I also invest in private markets, right, like on stock exchange and stuff. So I see myself in the shoes of an investor when they’re looking at Rhodos tech. Right? I, you know, would I invest in rudo? Should I be in the shoes of the investor? Right, right, do I see the value that I’m trying to project? So I completely am in the same state of mind. Right? It needs to make sense because you’re bringing somebody else to add value to your business. So it needs to be a two way thing. It’s a business at the end of the day,
Michael Waitze 18:11
it is a business at the end of the day. Have you raised money?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 18:15
Yes, yes, we we have raised from good set of investors
Michael Waitze 18:18
for good sediment. So this is the other thing I want to know, what is the importance? Because you said it, right? Yeah. And we’ve been talking a lot about like the right way to build a company where venture money is interesting, where it adds value. What do you think the significance is of having great investors? Because money is a commodity, right?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 18:37
Absolutely. Absolutely. So I’ll tell you two things where investors beyond money, really add value. And I think I have to thank my advisors also on the same because it takes a lot to find the right sort of people who have the same mindset as you, right? Even when we were finding our first set of angel investors, like me and my mentor, Mr. Koerner power, very clear that you know, we don’t need money, or just people with money, you know, that’s not going to help Brodo in the long run. So what we what we I truly believe that investors beyond money bring is a there, you know, that they’ve been there and done that, right. Most of our investors are angels, or the or the VC who is funded at rhodo used to run a business. And so they’ve been there and done that, and to empathize with the founder and the company and its path to grow. They need to understand what are the difficulties that goes behind it, and if they have navigated through that in their own journey, you know, they’re more likely to give you relevant advice, rather than you know, you’re saying, so that’s one very important thing that I believe, you know, learning of their experience helps us, you know, evade a few obvious pitfalls. The second thing is good investors also come with network. I would be very happy to say that there are a lot of good companies and customers that we’ve been introduced by our investors and you know, and, and domain knowledge is also very important, right? For us, we are building b2b, especially in logistics. So if you see a lot of investors would have some part or some kind of interference with logistics or manufacturing, as an industry helps quite a lot. So these are two three things that I believe investor beyond money makes a lot of difference to a company,
Michael Waitze 20:27
when you think about an investor’s network. What are the benefits to you of that as well, again, besides raising the next round, right, what is the likelihood that somebody inside a great investor network isn’t going to lead you to more clients?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 20:42
Yes, being able to get, you know, access to more clients, especially in b2b, it really, really helps. I’ll give you an example race, because especially at the stage at which we raised fun, and we are raising fund, of course, the vision that we have for Otto is much bigger than where we stand today. And we are growing by the day. So that means contextually we learn things that are necessary for us, right, let’s say, I’m going to go into a large transporter today, who is equal into a DHL in terms of business, right, but my product is evolved only a hole into a small transporter, he’s not going to entertain us, right? That’s a normal cycle of sales. But through the network of an investor, when they introduce you to a person, you know, he might know that yeah, this is the stage, but you know, your communication, the the large transport is communication with us, but large industries, time with us can help us tremendously in understanding their pain points, and being able to navigate towards, you know, aligning our solutions towards them, right. So we’ll be in the same direction, but getting that perspective, is going to need some time from them. And that’s where the network of investors really, really
Michael Waitze 21:57
and have a data gathering, you know, the more clients you have, the more data you gather? And what is the significance of gathering all this data and kind of what other product enhancements? Does it allow you to give your clients and your partners, the more data you have? Is there an optimization part of this as well?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 22:15
Absolutely, there is quite, in fact, you’ve caught on to one of the challenge areas that you were asking for yourself, right? In fact, logistics is so humongous, right? There’s so many people even employed in India and stuff. There’s so much data that’s offline shared with people but not digitized. Right? Right. So it’s an it’s an incredibly large industry, which is deficit of good quality data. Right? So today, if you ask any, you know, Tron in any industry or any manufacturer out there, etc, who’s the best transporter for you? Right? Or, or what’s who’s the best ANCOVA helping you transport your goods? It could be an intuitive answer, rather than a data driven decision to do this. Right. And this is one of the things that rudo is currently already solving for, the reason that we’ve been able to solve for is because of the kinds of work that we have done in, you know, gathering data, analyzing it and helping the right stakeholders take decisions based on it.
Michael Waitze 23:17
So can you make a non generic but like, an unbiased analysis between, let’s say, like three local logistics providers based on, you know, what it costs, their timeliness, the effect of the clinic cleanliness of their vehicle, and all these things? Can you gather all that data and then make an analysis and just say, hey, look, if you want to take it from point A to point AF, this is the best provider, but if it’s point A to point C, these people are better instead?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 23:45
Absolutely, that’s the direction where we’re heading towards. In fact, I’ll tell you one thing, right, go ahead. Sometimes transporter ABC, the three transporters, right, all three might be good. But there’s a lot of contextual information that gets missed out in in the crowd, right as you go ahead conduct. One is, you mentioned point A to point F transporter, a might be good in that route. Point A to Point B, another transporter might be better, right. And as an industry, you might be chemical component, man, chemical, you know, goods manufacturing company, and another one might be FMCG. Two different transports would be good at it. Right? Understanding this great is data. Yeah, has to be broken. And he’s already helping people do that’s super interesting.
Michael Waitze 24:29
What is the road system like in India? I’m really curious about this. Not just the local roads, but like, you know, the connected roads between city A and tier one, tier two city, a, and its suburbs and exomes. What are those highways? Like, what are those roads? Like? It does not impact what you do as well?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 24:48
Sure, in fact, you know, I’ve been very proud and saying this that, you know, a lot of people outside of logistics don’t really observe but I tend to observe and I really loved The Indian roads. And in the past 810 years that I’ve been closely, obviously observing, and I’ve been doing my own road trips and stuff, it’s incredibly improved, we have something called as national highways. And I think we have the second largest network of national highways in the world, the quality, the length and breadth that it covers, and, you know, the capacity of vehicle that it can carry today as increased by far, you know, in the past, you know, a decade or so. So it’s really helped logistics for for starters, you know, a vehicle that you that was allowed maximum capacity to carry, let’s say, 10 terms can carry up to 12, or 13 terms like 20 30% increment. So what that means is better asset utilization, better return on capital invested for both the industry as well as the transporter who owns the truck? Yeah, so these are all positive impact in logistics in reducing the cost of logistics in India.
Michael Waitze 25:57
And I’m wondering, if you look at your own company’s growth, you look at the development and the digitalization of logistics, shipping, the connectivity between the drivers, the autumn, you know, the automobiles, the goods, and also the cities in which they operate, is are there other services you can offer them based on all the data that you gather and all the things you understand, particularly from a financial services standpoint, whether it’s leasing trucks or funding them? Or, you know what I mean, like other things, you could even insurance for either good sold or vehicle damage, stuff like that?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 26:35
Absolutely. All these are, you know, things that definitely can be part of the offering that Trudeau has, right for. This is a cash strapped industry, right? A lot of cash transactions happen over here. And cash flow is like one of the biggest challenges that most of our service providers in logistics would code. Right, right. And solving for that there are a few services, let’s say about freight Bill discounting, or, you know, insurance on freight, or working capital loans. And all of these are, you know, byproducts of what data driven decision making and profiling of your key stakeholders can do. And that’s what data that role will also be very instrumental in enabling these stakeholders, I believe in coming times. And that’s where enabling these stakeholders become much more powerful for Indian economy itself, especially as far as logistics is concerned.
Michael Waitze 27:29
Got it? And what does growth look like to you? But what’s going to drive growth? Really? Is it purely just going out and selling this product now? Or is it development as well? Like, what is what is driving it?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 27:39
I think there’s an increasing understanding, especially after the COVID, lock, lock downs, and so on. And there are a lot of external factors in in terms of government itself, digitizing quite a lot of processes, right, there’s introduction of something called as GST, and then Evi bill, and E invoicing and all of these, which becomes a government compliance mandate, you know, all these are doing one important element that’s called an external trigger for our key stakeholders to digitize their own business. You know, this is acting as a very important initiator or trigger for people to want a digital solution, one, digitize a platform, and that’s how we are, you know, able to foresee quite a lot of growth for us and growth drivers are these stimuli that exist in the market?
Michael Waitze 28:29
Yeah, and for people that use rhodo, do they get like a dashboard, I don’t have a better word for it. So like, if they’re running multiple logistics vehicles, they can see where they are, all at the same time, and they can measure their own efficiency internally, and then do a better job themselves of just managing their own assets, as opposed to each individual route being optimized as well. Does that make sense?
Murugan Manoj Kumar 28:49
Yes, yes. In fact, we’ve to just put things in things in perspective, right? We we’ve enabled more than a million logistics shipments, right trips on our platform so far, the value that we add beyond just being able to get better visibility, improve efficiencies, and so on, is there are something called some penalties and some challenges that these days have. So today, on a weekly basis, we help people save more than 1000 crores in potential penalty. And and such things really help automate and, you know, bring that kind of value to their business in a real money drops. Beyond this, of course, you know, the kinds of solutions that we have launched help people get more business, you know, from the ecosystem that we have developed within the network that we’ve been able to help them introduce them to.
Michael Waitze 29:40
Got it. Okay. is a great way to end. Murugan Manoj Kumar, the founder and CEO at RoaDo. Thank you so much for doing that today.
Murugan Manoj Kumar 29:48
Thanks a lot, Michael. It was fun talking to you.