An Egyptian startup whips trucking and logistics industry into shape

Fast track: Egyptian startup Trella is digitizing local trucking and logistics, improving efficiency in a fragmented marketplace. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 March 2020

An Egyptian startup whips trucking and logistics industry into shape

  • Trella is working with 50-60 shipper partners which have 15,000 to 20,000 trucks across Egypt
  • Company was launched by a group of young entrepreneurs who saw an opening in the market

CAIRO: Despite Egypt’s efforts to develop on all fronts, its infrastructure remains the biggest challenge, especially when it comes to transportation and logistics.

A group of young entrepreneurs who were at the forefront of Uber emerging in Egypt saw an opening there, and Cairo-based Trella was born.

“We discovered that you can really change an industry that is extremely fragmented and inefficient,” said co-founder and COO Ali El-Atrash, 26.

The industry in question is the trucking business in Egypt, which faced a host of challenges. El-Atrash said that “95 percent of everything we wear, drink or eat” is transported on the back of trucks.

“It’s a massive multibillion-dollar industry, but it is extremely fragmented — 93 percent of the 1.3 million trucks we have in Egypt are independently operated, and thus highly inefficient.”

That fragmentation-born inefficiency caused many problems for both shippers and carriers.

If a company wanted to move a shipment, it received high quotes, and the service was unreliable at best.

“We want to reduce the cost of moving goods throughout the entire region. In effect, we’ll be improving the overall macro-economic efficiency, touching the lives of the average citizen,” El-Atrash said.

Trella saw that it could eliminate that inefficiency by bringing together shippers and carriers into one marketplace.

“As of now, we are working with around 50-60 shipper partners and have around 15,000 to 20,000 trucks onboarded all over Egypt,” he said.

The company moves just about everything within the country, as well as to Libya and Sudan, with major players such as Coca-Cola, Orascom and Nestle using the trucking marketplace.

“We landed these major shippers through offering them competitive shipping rates, higher fulfilment reliability and a far superior quality experience,” El-Atrash said.

Independent truckers using their own vehicles would probably have two or three shipments on a good week, but with Trella, they could have 12 or 13.

They get to select their routes, shipping times and even the kind of goods to move.

Last December, Trella acquired local competitor Trukto, consolidating its position as one of the most powerful trucking and logistics marketplaces in Egypt.

Explaining the reasons for this deal, El-Atrash said: “We’re looking for a very long game into the trucking and logistics business, and the only way to grow in such a fragmented market is to make use of the pre-existing synergies with other companies in the region.

We have ambitions to scale beyond Egypt and expand our footprint in neighboring countries.

“Trukto was the first player to enter the market, and they were quite visionary. They had a lot of hyper-localized institutional knowledge and a solid base of insights into how the market runs and operates.

“They were also more into short-hauls and local distribution, which complemented our value chain big time.”

Regarding the challenges that confronted Trella, El-Atrash said: “We’re trying to solve one of the most complex logistics problems ever, in one of the most convoluted regions in the world, and to really solve this problem you need to get the right people on board.”

This is why the company puts a huge emphasis on its hiring process, seeking only the best and brightest.

“This is a super cash-flow-intensive business, and it took some time for us to scale to a level where financial institutions could take us more seriously as we’ve become a lot more debt-worthy than ever before,” El-Atrash said, referring to another challenge Trella faced when it started operations in early 2019.

Tech adoption in such a traditional industry as trucking also proved complicated.

“We’re making that happen by listening to carriers quite often. We have an extraordinary on-ground presence, where for every facility we’re moving loads through, we have an on-ground operator,” El-Atrash said.

Using that presence, the company collects “insights and qualitative data” on how it could make its product more seamless for its carrier partners.

With impressive talent on board, grand ambitions and the support of high-profile investors such as Algebra Ventures and Y Combinator, Trella has lofty goals for the future.

“We have ambitions to scale beyond Egypt and expand our footprint in neighboring countries, where we can really make use of the network, further improving the overall efficiency in our marketplace,” El-Atrash said.

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. 


G20 trade ministers highlight importance of transparency in current environment

Saudi Arabia has introduced several security and economic measures in its fight against coronavirus. (SPA)
Updated 5 min 53 sec ago

G20 trade ministers highlight importance of transparency in current environment

  • Extraordinary video conference explores ways to tackle coronavirus disruptions

RIYADH: Trade and investment ministers ministers from the Group of 20 major economies convened an extraordinary video conference on Monday to come to grips with the blow to global trade from the coronavirus pandemic and weigh how to overcome supply chain disruptions.

They voiced concern about the daunting challenges facing workers and businesses, particularly the most vulnerable ones.
“We will ensure our collective response is supportive of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and recognize the importance of strengthening international investment,” said a ministerial statement.
It added: “We are profoundly saddened by the devastating human tragedy caused by the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic is a global challenge and requires a coordinated global response.”
The statement added that G20 leaders, following their extraordinary meeting conducted on March 26, committed “to presenting a united front against this common threat.”
“Now more than ever is the time for the international community to step up cooperation and coordination to protect human life and lay the foundations for a strong economic recovery and a sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth after this crisis,” the ministerial statement added.
The ministers also said they had started monitoring and assessing the impact of the pandemic on trade as per the task entrusted to us by G20 leaders.
“We are actively working to ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies and equipment, critical agricultural products, and other essential goods and services across borders, for supporting the health of our citizens. Consistent with national requirements, we will take immediate necessary measures to facilitate trade in those essential goods,” the statement added.
“We will support the availability and accessibility of essential medical supplies and pharmaceuticals at affordable prices, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed, and as quickly as possible, including by encouraging additional production through incentives and targeted investment, according to national circumstances. We will guard against profiteering and unjustified price increases,” the ministers said.
“We are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable developing and least developed countries, and notably in Africa and small island states.
“We agree that emergency measures designed to tackle COVID-19, if deemed necessary, must be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary, and that they do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains, and are consistent with WTO rules.
“We will implement those measures upholding the principle of international solidarity, considering the evolving needs of other countries for emergency supplies and humanitarian assistance.
“We emphasize the importance of transparency in the current environment and our commitment to notify the WTO of any trade related measures taken, all of which will enable global supply chains to continue to function in this crisis, while expediting the recovery that will follow.
“As we fight the pandemic both individually and collectively and seek to mitigate its impacts on international trade and investment, we will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non- discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the statement added.
“We will ensure smooth and continued operation of the logistics networks that serve as the backbone of global supply chains. We will explore ways for logistics networks via air, sea and land freight to remain open, as well as ways to facilitate essential movement of health personnel and businesspeople across borders, without undermining the efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We will continue monitoring and assessing the impact of the pandemic on trade. We call on the international organizations to provide an in-depth analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on world trade, investment and global value chains,” the ministers said.
We will continue working with them to establish coordinated approaches and collect and share good practices to facilitate flows of essential goods and services.
We will convene again as necessary, and we task the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group to address these issues closely and to identify additional proposed actions that could help alleviate the wide-range impact of COVID-19, as well as longer-term actions that should be taken to support the multilateral trading system and expedite economic recovery.
The next Italian G20 2021 Presidency is committed to continue paying the highest attention to the international trade climate in the discussion of long-term actions.