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STARTUP 13: How this Hyd startup transformed itself amid pandemic

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By Mohammed Shafeeq

Hyderabad, Dec 12 (IANS) Before Covid-19 struck last year, this startup was one of the top companies in the employee transportation space. But when the pandemic brought everything to a halt, its revenue fell to zero.

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However, WhistleDrive acted swiftly to transform itself into a full-stack urban logistics company to sail through.

In March last year, when the world was shutting down, the hopes of every business, including WhistleDrive, the end-to-end employee transportation services company, came down crashing.

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Around a month after the initial nationwide lockdown, Rakesh Munnanooru, the founder and CEO of WhistleDrive, made a big switch by launching a whole new vertical of logistics in the middle of the global pandemic.

Munnanooru had started WhistleDrive in 2016 with a vision to build technology-driven solutions that enable smart mobility in India. Initially focused on providing driver-on-services, they quickly realised the need for efficient and tech-backed solutions for corporate employee transportation and built a comprehensive technology platform that digitises the end-to-end transport operations with features like automated route planning, real-time vehicle tracking, and advanced safety features like SOS alerts and network alerts.

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Using the latest technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, WhistleDrive built a robust technology platform with intelligent fleet operations powered by technology.

In just three years of its launch, WhistleDrive was recognised among ‘The Next Global Tech 50’ at the World Innovators Meet, 2019.

By integrating the right technology in employee transportation, the startup claims to have helped the corporates reduce their employee transportation costs by up to 23 per cent, besides improving the efficiency of the overall operations to 95 per cent.

But with Covid-19 and nationwide lockdowns, all their operations were put to a halt and revenue fell to ‘zero’.

A few days went by in anticipation of things getting back to normal, but it remained the same as lots of other organisations faced. With an outlook on happenings across the world and based on their interactions with industry leaders, the team realised the pulse and decided to work on things that can help WhistleDrive get through the pandemic. That’s when they decided to get started with the logistics services (the movement of goods), transforming themselves into a full-stack urban logistics company.

“We had the idea of venturing into intra-city logistics for a very long time, may be some time in 2022 or near, but Covid-19 left us with no choice but to work on it now, and challenged us to push our limits,” Munnanooru said.

Though the core of employee transportation and enterprise logistics is similar, it takes a whole new conviction and a highly-strategised execution to make things work at the ground level.

It’s been about 18 months since WhistleDrive started providing logistics services and it is already working with leading brands of the country like Myntra, Flipkart, Amazon, Delhivery and Meesho, serving more than 15 cities in the country.

Munnanooru believes that there is still the need for a lot of innovation in the intracity logistics space, especially last-mile deliveries, and hence they are working towards new solutions.

WhistleDrive has raised Rs 72 crore in Series B round from Colosseum Group and claims to be operationally profitable since inception.

“We see a huge need for tech-driven logistics, not just in India, but across the world. We are building ‘WhistleOS’, an operating system that powers urban logistics,” Munnanooru added.



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