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Lightspeed Venture in talks for stake in Freight Commerce

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-09-2017 Sneh Susmit

Mumbai: US-based venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners is in talks to acquire a minority stake in Freight Commerce Solutions Pvt. Ltd, which operates Freight Tiger, according to two people aware of the development.

Founded in 2014 by Swapnil Shah, the Mumbai-based logistics firm operates a mobile application for truck-owners, brokers and logistics companies, helping them boost truck utilisation.

Early this month, commercial vehicle financier Shriram Transport Finance Co. Ltd invested Rs7 crore ($1.09 million) to acquire a 17% stake in Freight Tiger.

An alumnus of Harvard Business School, Shah worked at Detroit-based automotive technology firm Dana Holding Corp. and logistics firm Caterpillar Logistics Inc., before setting up Freight Tiger.

Lightspeed, which has been active in India since 2007, has investments in education-technology firm Byju’s, social networking app Sharechat, B2B marketplace Udaan, social commerce platform LimeRoad, tuition-on-demand platform Tutor Vista, online food tech venture FreshMenu, home rental startup FastFox, micro-lending startup RedCarpetTech Pvt. Ltd, budget hotels marketplace OYO Rooms, energy exchange Indian Energy Exchange Ltd (IEX), and online marketplace Craftsvilla.

Shah declined to comment while messages and calls made to Bejul Somaia, managing director of Lightspeed India Partners Advisers LLP, did not elicit any response.

In the recent past, the logistics technology sector in India has seen significant investment flow from global venture capital funds.

Logistics start-ups such as Delhi-based TruckMandi and Bengaluru-based B2B logistics start-up BlackBuck raised money from VC investors. TruckMandi, which connects logistics services providers with customers, raised $2 million in 2015 while BlackBuck raised $30 million in a Series C round this year and $25 million in a Series B round in 2015 from US-based venture capital firm Sands Capital, Tiger Global Management and Apoletto, the personal investment firm of Russian billionaire and founder of DST Global, Yuri Milner.

Last year, TrucksFirst Services Pvt. Ltd, which operates Rivigo, raised $75 million in a Series C round from US-based PE fund Warburg Pincus.

In May this year, Delhivery Pvt. Ltd raised Rs200 crore from China’s Fosun International.

About $930 million has been deployed by PE/VC investors in the Indian logistics sector since 2014, according to data from Grant Thornton.

Last year saw eight deals worth $436 million against eight deals for $132 million in 2015.

The size of the logistics sector in India is estimated to be $260 billion, according to advisory firm IMAP India. Unlike global trends, the logistics sector in India has been growing at a healthy rate of 14% over the last five years on strong demand drivers and the sector has evolved from mere transportation services to fully integrated service providers over the last two decades, said IMAP’s industry report—Logistics India 2017.

The sector is expected to transition from high cost to leaner cost models through rationalization of expenses, elimination of intermediaries and technology adaptation. This is possible with significant development and improvement envisaged in infrastructure, adaptation of technology and a changing regulatory environment, the report added.

According to Vishwas Udgirkar, partner, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP, the implementation of goods and services tax (GST) throws up a big opportunity in the logistics space and technology plays a very important role in improving services, which makes technology-oriented logistics firms attractive for investment.

“GST provides huge impetus to the logistics sector and it is booming. To improve services and bring in efficiency, technology plays a very crucial role in the whole logistics space. That’s why people are looking at it as a future potential sector and deals are happening,” he added.

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