By day, Nishant Hiralal is a Senior Manager at Prime Focus Technologies. By evening, he consumes Marvel comics by the dozen — they have barely to be released in the U.S., than he makes sure he has his copies. Still, he hungers for more. “Transportation costs are exorbitant and there is considerable delay in getting the product.”
BECKFriends.com has come to his rescue; he gets his comics within a week, and better still, at affordable rates. Launched in July 2016 by Deep Malhotra, Shikha Pandey and Mayukh Basu, the delivery network connects travellers and shippers globally. BECKFriends.com offers flexible delivery options in a cost-effective manner to individuals who want to send packages. Travellers who carry the package in turn earn for lending space in their luggage.
The founders are friends brought together by a shared passion: building new ventures. Mr. Malhotra, who till 2009, was with Fox Interactive Media, met Ms. Pandey, who was with Bharti Airtel. In 2011, they started Gemini New Media Ventures, a co-working space, in Chembur. Mr. Basu soon joined the team. Over various meetings, the three realised that while the number of travellers has increased considerably over the years, logistics remains a challenge for individuals and small merchants who have a shipping requirement. “The most common shipping requirements are books, clothes, food supplements, homemade food,” says Mr. Malhotra. BECKFriends.com aimed to fill that gap. “The name is synonymous with ‘Beck and Call’, which our company believes in, and for a friendly network of travellers and shippers,” says Mr. Malhotra.
To build a network of travellers and shippers, they tied up with travel agents who acted as endorsers to their customers, and ran online campaigns targeting frequent flyers. To build the shipper base on the website, they tied up with small merchants to cater to their ongoing shipping requirements.
Another challenge was to keep their website functional yet simple. “We try to keep the number of clicks to a minimum, while gathering all the relevant information to make the process work well,” says Mr. Malhotra, who spearheads organisational strategy and funding-related aspects.
How the system works
A person who wants to send a parcel anywhere in the world can connect with other users of BECKFriends.com through their website where details like location, details of delivery and pickup and picture of the parcel need to be filled. The platform’s algorithm then gives an estimated pricing based on factors such as the time requested for delivery, the package size and the distance. “Factors such as whether the shipper will pick up the package or the traveller has to deliver it to the shipper’s doorstep also impacts the fare,” says Ms. Pandey, who is in charge of operations, business strategy and marketing.
Other users can then respond to the request, which delivers a notification to the sender and gives her an option to see the Facebook profile of the user interested in making the delivery. Once the interested party is approved by the sender, numbers are exchanged through SMS; this ensures privacy.
“For the sender, this is a hassle-free alternative to the expensive courier options. Also they can look at sending large items like speakers, guitars or homemade food that cost a fortune to be couriered. For the traveller, it is an easy way to make some quick cash while travelling,” says Mr. Malhotra.
The traveller and the shipper go through a multi-step verification. They also verify their profile by linking it to their social media profiles like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. On connecting the traveller to the sender a detailed mailer about ‘Dos & Don’ts’ is shared with both parties. “The community reviews of travellers and shippers also adds to the trust rating of the traveller or shipper,” says Ms. Pandey.
The total earnings of the traveller for carrying a package is governed by the contents (price, size, weight), urgency, distance and the route. On an average, a traveller earns up to ₹5,000.
The shipper can choose to insure their product for up to ₹25,000. But in case a traveller feels the product is too fragile to be carried, he can decline the offer.
BECKFriends.com services are intra-city, inter-city and international. “Our pricing is usually 30% less than what courier companies charge,” says Mr. Basu, Technology Head. “We charge a commission on the transaction fare, which is based on factors like urgency, nature of goods and the route. It usually ranges between 10% and 15% of the fare,” says Mr. Malhotra.
BECKFriends.com, which is bootstrapped (the founders pumped in ₹65 lakh from their savings) has 21,675 registered users with over 50,000 deliveries till date. They notched up revenues of ₹35 lakh in the previous financial year and have crossed ₹50 lakh this year.
The founders are planning to increase their user base to 150,000 in the next six months, with offices in Bengaluru and Singapore each. “We wish to break the barriers of logistics and travel through human connect and let people earn while they travel,” says Mr. Malhotra.
Founders: Deep Malhotra, Mayukh Basu, Shikha Pandey