Amid chaos, this startup helps pharmacies deliver

The startup is shipping more than 10,000 tonnes of goods a month
Last Updated 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST

As the pharma sector in the country struggles amid the shortage of raw material, transport, and workforce, Tusker Transport, a logistics startup, is helping Pharmacies in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities continue operations without interruptions.

Tusker Transport is an omnichannel platform that aggregates demand and orchestrates distribution to delivery destinations by crowdsourcing a pool of thousands of local light commercial vehicles. The startup is shipping more than 10,000 tonnes of goods a month, Amit Akkihal, CEO, Tusker Transport informs DH.

When compared to March, the startup saw a 60% increase in their pharma consignments in May. “Reportedly, more than 50% of informal transporters have ceased operations across our service regions. Tusker’s reliability and dynamic capacity are valued at times like this. The steep increase in order turnover within the last six weeks indicates that the disruptions created by the 2nd wave drew more shippers to us,” says Akkihal.

The Bengaluru-based startup currently offers service in Northern Karnataka, Southern Maharashtra, and Goa and plans to start operations this year in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, additional areas in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

“Both the pharma industry and the society are relying on us. It’s a big responsibility. We are ensuring that there is no disruption in services and for that reason, we are working closely with district planning committees.”

Tusker is also offering free transport of oxygen cylinders and anything else that is of high priority. Akkihal says they are doing this as a CSR initiative.

He also observes that the shipment sizes are getting bigger. “There is a long-term uncertainty about supply; pharma distributors are pushing more inventory to retailers, just in case there is a disruption in supply; it’s just a risk management strategy.”

“This is not the case with only Covid medicines, it’s across the board,” he mentions.

Tusker has served 14,000 pharma distributors and retailers till now. The number of distributors alone is around 3,100, out of which, about 1,600 have been onboarded in the last 12 months. About 2,700 of the total distributors are from Karnataka.

Most industries have gone into hibernation but pharma has been busier than ever, he says. “Within our entire service area, we are going to every single region and we guarantee next-day delivery. We are ensuring that there’s never an excuse that some health commodity could not reach.”

The two major challenges, says Akkihal, have been ensuring the safety of their own personnel and working with regulatory authorities so other people know that they are an essential service.

“Because we are crowdsourced, it’s not clear sometimes that the local transporters are working with us. For instance, in situations when they are moving with an empty vehicle to pick up the commodity, we worked to make it easy for them to communicate to authorities that they are essential staff. This has been a challenge.”

Before starting Tusker Transport, Akkihal, who has been in the logistics sector for more than a decade, worked on an inventory management system and did a lot of research on village-based retailers with co-founder Sharath Chandangoudar.

‘We noticed that one of the biggest challenges for them was the cost of landed delivery. This is how the idea of Tusker came about. We allow drivers to make more money, as they get more work than they could have discovered on their own and because of better utilised vehicles, the consumers end up paying less,” he says. The startup started operations in 2017.

Tusker leverages technology to orchestrate demand and supply while managing to drive cost reduction with scale and consolidation.

(Published 16 May 2021, 16:20 IST)

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