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IIT-Madras Reinventing Intra-City Logistics

Faculty, students, and alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) have collaborated to create a mobile application to facilitate more convenient and efficient intra-city transportation of goods.

Image credit: Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Named OptRoute, the mobile app connects drivers and consumers without charging commissions or onboarding fees. The consumer’s payment is directly transferred to the driver, eliminating the need for intermediaries.

The initial version of the app has been developed and commercialised by a startup incubated at IIT-Madras. It was co-founded by Professor N.S. Narayanaswamy, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT-Madras, and Anuj Fulia, an IIT-Madras alumnus. Furthermore, the startup has developed methods for efficient packing and optimal utilisation of vehicle space, to be integrated into the application upon reaching a sufficient initial traction level.

The OptRoute application operates in two modes: Driver and Customer. In Customer mode, users can submit transport requests for various goods requiring a vehicle. In Driver mode, users can view available requests and choose to accept them.

As per a statement from IIT-Madras, key distinctions between OptRoute and existing services include:

  • Zero-commission per transaction and nominal subscription-based service model
  • Direct payment from the consumer to the driver
  • High scalability of the software system and operational aspects
  • A single app for both drivers and customers

OptRoute operates independently without relying on third-party services, enabling the startup to minimise operational costs and offer services with a zero percent commission. IIT-Madras alumni and students contributed significantly to the design and development of the application.

According to Narayanaswamy, OptRoute ultimately aims to solve connectivity issues between drivers and customers in the goods logistics and transport domain. Current challenges include the unavailability of return loads for transporters and the underutilisation of vehicle capacity. He characterised the existing market in this sector as being highly disorganised, which leads to inefficiencies.

The OptRoute app is operational on Android devices and available in the cities of Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Noida, Panchkula, Pune, Mohali, Surat, and Zirakpur. The startup has plans to expand its service to over 500 cities by the end of this year.

“[OptRoute] is also ripe for the deployment of technology-based solutions to reach the goals set by the National Logistics Policy, 2022,” Narayanaswamy said. The National Logistics Policy aims to enhance economic growth and business competitiveness through an integrated, seamless, efficient, reliable, green, sustainable, and cost-effective logistics network. It intends to harness technology and skilled manpower to reduce logistics costs and improve performance.

The policy aims to increase the nation’s Logistics Performance Index ranking to be among the top 25 countries by 2030. It also aims to create a data-driven decision-support mechanism for an efficient logistics ecosystem. To achieve these goals, the government initiated the Comprehensive Logistics Action Plan (CLAP). It covers eight action areas including:

  • Integrated digital logistics systems
  • The standardisation of physical assets and benchmarking of service quality standards
  • Developing human resources and capacity in the logistics sector
  • Promoting state engagement
  • The Services Improvement Framework
  • Sectoral Plans for Efficient Logistics (SPEL)
  • Facilitating the development of logistics parks

Since its launch, there have been notable advancements in the policy’s implementation through regional conferences, individual consultations, and inter-ministerial meetings.

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