J.J. Singh, a longtime transportation and logistics executive, decided to launch a digital freight management solutions company a few years ago after he realized that many small and medium-size shippers, brokers and carriers were not ready for “the Amazon world,” a pressure cooker environment that requires an immediate answer to the question: “‘Where is your load?’”
“We knew from the start these folks were at a cost disadvantage and an effectiveness disadvantage,” said Singh, whose previous experience includes stints at C.H. Robinson and Flying J. The reason for starting the new venture, he said “was to respond to the new business environment, help digitize folks and provide them with services so they are at least on par with larger companies that have a lot more resources.”
Founded in 2015, EKA Solutions offers a cloud-based logistics platform designed to facilitate collaboration and data exchange among small and medium-size shippers, trucking companies and brokers.
The Sacramento, California-based company is developing a range of products aimed at helping customers connect and thrive. Among the offerings: a broker, carrier and shipper transportation management system (TMS), a private marketplace platform, 4PL solutions, and solutions for service providers such as insurance companies.
“We are building an ecosystem for freight management,” said Singh, EKA’s chief executive officer.
Several features distinguish the company’s products and services from others in the supply chain technology management sector, the company’s executives said.
EKA’s platform is end-to-end, “from order to cash,” Singh said. A centralized system of record, the platform enables real-time load management, shipment tracking, trade partner negotiations, payment and more.
Customizing offerings for different freight participants, EKA starts with a supply chain engine, then crafts different “lenses” on top of that engine, said Mark Walker, EKA’s president and chief digital officer, explaining there is a tailored TMS for carriers, for shippers and for brokers.
“The nuances of each of those lenses allows each party to run their business,” Walker said, “and it is highly configurable as well, so one company could have a completely different look and feel in a lot of their use of the system.”
A broker TMS launched last fall, and a carrier TMS will be ready on July 1. A shipper TMS is ready to deploy.
The company’s supply chain platform features an intuitive interface and reports can be generated throughout the day in an easy-to-read dashboard style. Because of the “intelligent design,” the cost to deploy is a fraction of what other systems might charge, according to Singh, and the company offers its lowest pricing for the smallest customers, upending the common practice of giving large customers discounts.
“Our whole model is price as you need it,” he said.
Connected to the platform are web portals for any vendors, allowing customers to extend capacity and loads, and enabling “digital freighting in a marketplace environment,” Walker said.
But unlike the large freight-matching services, typically wide open to all carriers and brokers, EKA’s offering is built around “trusted relationships,” the executives said. Customers can extend information to outsiders, but it is not suggested, Walker explained. “We are not trying to open freight up so they can get the lowest price or generate the highest profit.”
EKA is not a brokerage, but digital brokerage is a subset of what they offer broker customers. “We give them a whole gamut of lanes based on relationships, rather than a singular one-touch or touchless lane for doing their business,” explained Singh.
Looking ahead, the startup aims to broaden its ecosystem to include service providers such as insurance companies for brokers and carriers. That will debut in the second half of 2020.
Mirroring the experience of other technology companies, EKA Solutions experienced a tough time for sales in March and April, as the pandemic upended the economy, according to Singh. But the platform “shines” as a work-from-home solution, he emphasized. “All you need is high-speed internet and we take care of the rest. It’s just like running an airbnb platform.”
As the team continues to build out its product suite, “we are very close to delivering to the marketplace our vision of an end-to-end supply chain platform,” Singh said, “where the shipper can run their business end-to-end, the broker can run their business end-to-end and the carrier can run their business end-to-end. And they can all collaborate very effectively.”