Pune-based start-up EZMove, an aggregator for movers and packers, is trying to bring some coherence to the business by getting relocation service providers online.
IIT-Kanpur graduate Anand Agarwal, 37, and AIT-Pune alumni Vishwajeet Singh, 29, started the company in late 2012.
When customers plan to move within a city or from one city to another, they can find a reliable mover at the click of a button. EZMove has 60-70 packers on board in about 150 cities. It plans to sign on 200-250 more in the next two years.
The inspiration for this venture was the unsatisfactory experience of the entrepreneurs themselves. In 2012, when Agarwal was moving from Lucknow to Pune, he went online to find a mover but was disappointed with what was on offer.
"Like most Indians, I was looking for a good bargain," he said. But the sour experience - horrible packing, lack of insurance and a 20-day delay - made him realise the gap in this segment.
Sharing notes with friends who had also relocated from one city to another, Agarwal, like a true entrepreneur, realised that here was a golden opportunity.
The business of relocation service providers is fragmented, without any set standards.
"You can launch your business with a cellphone, a vehicle, two workers and basic packing stuff," said a Pune-based vendor.
There is also low credibility. "There are many casual service providers. They might give you a good price but you can't depend on their services," said Khursheed Alam, managing director of Kolkata-based CPMC Relocation and Logistics.
"There are many fly-by-night service providers as well. Recently, we heard of a senior executive of a reputed private bank who had hired a local mover to transport his car. The car vanished without a trace, and the customer had to lodge a police complaint," said Alam.
CPMC - in the business for 50 years - joined EZMove last year.
Agarwal claims the market size is about Rs 10,000 crore. In Pune alone, there are a little more than 3,000 vendors. Both Singh and Agarwal were aware of the problems plaguing the segment but wanted to find out if the vendors realised this. "The first step was to find validations for our idea," said Agarwal. "The market is so unorganised. People we deal with are not professionals."
Vendors benefit from being able to plan their business better. "When the business is good, we get customers regularly. But when it is lean, the leads generated by EZMove help us plan better," said Alam.
For the customers, it is a win-all deal. "There are two big advantages of such an online platform: it is easy to access for tech-savvy youth and it eliminates unreliable and ethical movers," said Abhay Shah, director, Leo Packers and Movers, a Bengaluru-based firm on the platform for a year now.
Setting up the platform and getting the technology backbone was much easier than getting packers on board. The challenge was to convince them to use the technology. It was also a formidable task to choose quality service providers. "The road was tough till we signed on the first four or five vendors. Then, word of mouth and references helped us," said Agarwal.
Alam remembered how he overcame scepticism to join EZMove. "I was aware of such platforms abroad. I wasn't sure if they can pull it off in India."
But once on board, the benefits were evident. "Our reach across different sectors and areas have increased. Awareness among potential customers on various aspects of packing and moving has increased. It helps them choose the right packer. Their needs and not price is the reason for their choice. It has helped us to realign ourselves with the expectation of contemporary tech-savvy customers," said Abhay Shah, director, Leo Movers and Packers of Bengaluru.
Miles to go
For Agarwal, the biggest concern is credible services. The company has to ensure each vendor is audited. "We conduct random audits just to check if the vendor is maintaining the quality of services. We plan to have training workshops soon," said Agarwal.
More to come
EZMove also plans to provide online insurance.
Now, each packer and vendor handles insurance and logistics on their own. "We are in talks with banks so that customers can choose the best insurance plan and pay online," Agarwal said.
Agarwal is also tapping into the corporate and defence sectors.
"We already have a few customers from the army. It would be a good sector. We are also pitching our ideas to corporates. We can help with the relocation of employees and provide a transparent process," he said.
EXPERT TAKE: K Ganesh
The entire macro space of "organising the unorganised" sector presents good opportunities for entrepreneurs to start a business. This is a nascent space and the team has done well to choose an area where there is little organised or branded competition and the need is strong. Among positives, a branded organised player will stand a distinct advantage over mom-and-pop shops. It's open territory.
But since this is a logistics and infrastructure-based business, scaling is difficult. Repeat buying is low in this category and margins will be under pressure due to local players. They will need targeted and focused marketing, unlike, say, grocery or standard ecommerce.
I suggest they have a strong B2B strategy, like tie-up with large companies and multi-nationals which often move people or recruit from different regions and need to provide for relocation.
Tie-up or partnering with international players in the space to act as their Indian partner is also a good idea. Have a strong rating system and incentive system for vendors, to ensure quality and consistency. Use technology to differentiate - track the full movement using RFID/GPS. Look for creative partner-ships with players like builders or real estate brokers who will be able to provide hot leads right when the service is needed.