01 October 2017
Janardan Dalmia, CEO of Trukkin, a cloud-based B2B platform that provides logistics solutions to shippers and truckers in the Middle East, understands the value of hard work. As a former investment banker, he is no stranger to a daily 18-hour shift or what people in the banking profession calls “the magic roundabout" – take a taxi home, ask the driver to wait for you while you take a shower, then let him ferry you back to the office for another gruelling day.
“Investment banking is an extremely challenging job. It involves long hours, even when you start as a junior analyst, and as you climb the ladder it gets more demanding. But I am glad I did it because it taught me how to work hard and the skill set I’ve acquired was very valuable in the long-term,” he said.
After a decade toiling in the industry, Dalmia decided to leave the relative comfort and security of a well-paying job to set up his own company.
“My 10 years of experience as a banker prepared me to become an entrepreneur. The difference is, now I have to handle pretty much everything, 24/7,” he explained. “[However, the irony is] as an entrepreneur, I have more control over my time, but I have no time because even in my sleep, I think of what I have to do next. It’s a case of you eat what you kill, but it’s pretty exciting because you have to think of everything.”
His move from the corporate world to running a start-up was not planned, however. Dalmia moved to the UAE from the United States in 2009.
“I was working with Barclays and post the acquisition of Lehman Brothers, we were building the team out of North America. There was an opportunity for many bankers and that’s how I moved to the UAE. Initially, the plan was to be here for a short term and head back to the US, but we decided to stay,” he recounted.
“There are a lot of opportunities in the Middle East and that’s what got me excited when I thought about what I wanted to do long-term. Some opportunities came along and I decided this was the time to do it as with every passing year the cost of opportunity keeps increasing.
“I used my 10 years’ experience from investment banking and applied it to something entrepreneurial. Ideas started growing in my head and Trukkin was the outcome.”
Dalmia saw a very fragmented commercial transport system in the region.
“The business is done old school style where large, medium and small transporters along with hundreds and thousands of independent truck drivers operate. There are so many brokers and middle men in the supply chain and the truck drivers do not get their due solely because of so many layers in between.”
He saw a gap in the market and the need to introduce professionalism in the industry by increasing efficiency across the board for the shipper, transporter and independent truck drivers. So he created a platform that enables logistics services on demand, and connects clients with fleet operators and drivers to streamline operations through technology.
Meeting regional needs
With his business partner Ahmed Al Nafie, Dalmia started working on the concept for Trukkin at the beginning of 2016. A year later, the duo rolled out their venture.
“We wanted to make sure what we are doing was correct. We wanted to understand the needs of the region and bring out a local product for local people, so we spent a lot of time doing our research and talking to all stakeholders and understanding how the business works currently,” he said. “Once we had a good understanding of that, we started developing the architecture technologically, the business model and did a soft launch in May of this year.”
With the techno-logistics platform, clients can register online and request bids through the app or on the web portal. For Trukkin clients, the benefits include new suppliers, services on demand, and lower transport overheads backed by transparency. For fleet owners and individual drivers, the platform offers a new channel for business development.
No easy ride
His entrepreneurial journey was by no means a joyride, but Dalmai prefers to have a positive perspective on the “challenges along the way”.
“I’ve had to face challenges from setting up the business to hiring the right people who believe in the company’s vision [and have] the same passion as the founders,” he said.
Facing these challenges has been a learning process for him and he has adapted and brought change to his workstyle.
“Learning with time helps in becoming more efficient and that’s not just limited to launching a business but every year as it grows,” he pointed out. “Many people you meet in the GCC are buzzing with ideas, but they lack the spirit to take the plunge. Most of them are in their comfor zone and the thought of leaving that can be frightful as so many ‘ifs’ come along the way.
“Your family and friends must be supportive and you need to surround yourself with people who are optimistic. Then, you should be mentally prepared for the difficulty of the next two to three. [You must be] ready to live with that and to do it willingly.”
The Trukkin founder said he looks up to many people who started small and have scaled up their businesses over the years.
“I firmly believe persistence is the key for me and for everybody else. I am just getting started and in the long run, it is hard work and not giving up, which are the defining factors – attributes that make or break an entrepreneur,” he concluded.
© Accelerate SME 2017