Making your way around Colombo is becoming increasingly easy. Ask anyone who has intrepidly stuck out a hand in traffic to have at least two tuk-tuks veer to a halt. There’re even more digital options like Uber and PickMe for when your trip is slightly less impulsive. But what if you need to transport something that isn’t an inanimate object, human or otherwise? We’re here to tell you that now, there’s an app for that and it’s called Hire1.
Hire1 is a locally built mobile application which among other services, functions as an instant courier. We sat down with Director and CEO of the company, Yeshanth Gunewardena to learn more. “The concept for it” has been around since 2014 he says, and they have been active in various capacities since then.
A Recap of Hire1’s Journey
By the mid part of 2015, the concept was fleshed out with a prototype and once seed funding was raised operations kicked off. Showing practically the vision you have for your idea was challenging he recalls.
They did a global study of the logistics industry to concoct a model which would work in the local context. Eventually, MAS, Jeevan Gnanam of the St. Anthony’s Group and the McLarens Group saw potential in the venture.
Yeshanth and his crew have since made it their mission to simplify access to the heavily fragmented transport industry in the country. Particularly in the business to business segment, ad-hoc delivery systems are nearing an expiration. For a country like ours which stocks over 300,000 lorries, 3 million bikes and a host of other potential means of delivery, a little organization he feels is in order.
Initially, Hire1 had a taxi service. It was a matter of convenience when Yeshanth’s best friend uttered the words “hire-eka” in conversation. Directly translated into English the words covered both the taxi and delivery service. Late last year, when other global brands entered the Sri Lankan market, the taxi space got crowded. The investment needed to launch a taxi operation, however, was also steep, so Hire1 made a strategic decision to focus on logistics.
What does Hire1 do, and why is it different?
You’ve made it to office by the skin of your teeth. You’ve left behind a project you worked on at home. As you watch your boss walking in, you realize there’s no way you can go back home to get it. Situations of this sort are ideally when you could call on Hire1.
A glance at their website suggests that once you’ve signed-up as a customer, you need to set-up a pick-up and drop-off location for your delivery. After specifying the dimensions of the delivery, an appropriate vehicle is assigned and like taxi apps that flag your location, Hire1 does the same. Each step of the way is tracked we’re told, “You get SMS notifications.”
Communication goes both ways he explains, the riders or drivers can also ring you if they’re struggling to navigate to your location. What makes Hire1 an expedient option has much to do with how their deliveries work. “Nothing goes into holding” we’re told. Charging a flat rate for delivery within a 6-kilometer radius around Colombo, all deliveries go from pickup straight to the delivery point. “So there is no room for error.”
Little fazes this team we soon find out. Excluding riders, Hire1 is kept afloat by a staff of 12. There’s Operations, Marketing, Sales and Tech teams behind the sorcery of transporting everything from documents to “Dosa and curry.”
Pushing Hire1 further from your average delivery service is the range of products they have. Fleet Intelligence is among these novel offerings which the CEO says is administered via a web-based solution they call HiWays. Served with a bundle of compatible sensors, HiWays gives a client eyes on their fleet’s fuel consumption, location, and even the driver’s behavior patterns.
Also on their buffet are business and merchant solutions like vehicle tracking and same day delivery to a potential client’s customers. How they manage this is because the small yet highly efficient team at Hire1 as Yeshanth puts it, is technologically driven. Grasping deeply the fact that tech is the foundation against which their services can be improved makes for much of the company’s ethos.
Of potholes past and the road ahead
“As a culture,” he shares, “we never want to be complacent.” The reasoning here is simple he points out, “You can’t be a crappy start-up in logistics.” This isn’t to say Hire1 doesn’t have an agenda behind their hyper-efficiency. “Waiting 3-5 days for a delivery” isn’t acceptable anymore he says, we’re asked to stop thinking of same-day or “one day deliver as a luxury.”
When it comes to feeding the urgency they’re generating, there’s a “chicken and egg” situation. The circularity of needing a bigger fleet to generate profit and vice-versa is problematic. With “a few 1000 downloads” of their app since February this year, however, the team is well on their way to a bigger fleet.
Fuelled by their zeal for expedience, “we have around 7-10 bikes and 1 van” handling the couriering but a few trucks are to enter this fleet soon. This growth we learn isn’t confined only to Hire1 and the parties involved, “like the Uber model, as we grow, we want to help others grow.”
For this reason “we’re very start-up friendly” Yeshanth says, “we’re interested in co-developing” concepts or helping out in areas speckled with logistics. They’ve also got plans to take their brand of logistics and by extension, the country’s reputation to an international client base in the foreseeable future.
For now however, all Hire1’s energy is reserved to “get Colombo right.”