Around this time of the year, back in 2014, Deepak Garg was following trucks on Indian highways.
It wasn’t a newfound hobby or any strange affliction. After earning coveted degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, and following it up with an eight-year stint with McKinsey & Company, Garg was on the road chasing his entrepreneurial ambitions. Three years on, the bearded, soft-spoken 35-year-old is shifting gears to dive right into the biggest disruption in India’s transportation sector, the goods and services tax (GST).
“Initially, the idea was to build a marketplace for freight,” Garg said, sitting in his light-filled office in Gurugram. On paper, the plan for a transportation aggregator that would bring thousands of trucks to a single point of purchase made sense. Over 90% of the operators in India’s $96 billion freight transportation industry (pdf) own fleets of six or less vehicles.
On top of that, thanks to the country’s woeful highway infrastructure where only 3% of the roads are four-lane or more, an average Indian truck runs only between 60,000 and 100,000 miles every year. That’s a sixth of the annual average of a truck in the US. Clearly, there was a problem to solve.
But once Garg spent time on the highway, he quickly realised the primary complication in the Indian trucking industry: driver shortage. “As a country, we need a million truck drivers every year,” he explained. “We don’t have those many.” The situation is so severe that some estimates say (pdf) the scarcity could hit 50% by 2020.