Jai Kanwar & Clemente Theotokis: Zeus Labs Is a Logtech Start-Up Established Three Years Ago And Bringing An Entirely New Approach To Managing Road Freight

August 26, 2022

Zeus Labs is a logtech start-up established three years ago and bringing an entirely new approach to managing road freight. Our vision is to use technology and new ways of working to contribute to truly sustainable freight.

The first product is a SaaS freight marketplace that provides hauliers with freight that matches their fleet and shippers with a near ‘zero touch’ way to manage their road supply chains.

Everything is managed in one place, with deliveries tracked through a mobile app, ensuring a streamlined, efficient, and reliable freight service.

Tell us about yourself?

Jai: I was born in Miami but grew up in London, where I met my fellow co-founder Clemente Theotokis. I took inspiration to become an entrepreneur from my father and grandfather, who founded and built Apollo Tyres into a global brand.

In 2018, while studying Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Clemente and I first launched Zeus Labs.

Clem: I am half Italian and half Greek, and was born in Buenos Aires but grew up in London. I speak English and Italian fluently, as well as Spanish, French and Greek and I am an 18-time national fencing champion. I studied Mathematics and Statistics at King’s College London.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Growing as a company is great, but there is always room for improvement and innovation, not only as a business but also as an individual.

There are many aspects to a business than just its functional components, or departments. Company culture and team morale is of immense importance.

So in summary, I think the best piece of advice would be to listen to the opinions of your colleagues more, never hesitate to speak your mind and tackle problems in a collaborative way.

What problem does your business solve?

When we were conducting validation studies with hauliers and shippers, we found an incredibly manual process behind every delivery.

Most times every freight shipment is going through up to 5 intermediaries and requiring up to 10 emails, calls, and text messages.

Of course, this meant it was easily breakable, and in 2020 we were proved right when the pandemic hit. In addition, we saw price inflation, low reliability, and a huge percentage of goods vehicles running empty.

Every day over 30% of HGVs are running empty, that’s a whopping 150,000 every day. Our goal with the first marketplace and digital product is to solve these issues.

The platform drives efficiency in the haulage ecosystem as its digital processes drastically reduce administrative time for shippers and hauliers.

This not only reduces reconciliation administration massively, our calculations from clients are by as much as 71%, but also reduces intermediaries, increases reliability, and gives hauliers a much better deal.

On top of this we wanted to develop a solution that could lay the groundwork for introducing sustainable freight – by capturing hard data for journey length, vehicles, capacity, and much more.

Currently this is 30 percent empty running, and we want our hauliers to see only 5% empty legs by 2025. Hauliers who use our platform also benefit from a much faster payment system of 2 to 5 days, instead of the normal 30 – 90 days.

This helps give the hauliers much more financial stability, consistency, and freedom – which is particularly important at a challenging time for the industry.

Because 70% of registered haulage firms in the UK are owner-operator fleets, these are 10 and under trucks, usually family businesses, financial fluidity is a real benefit.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

We both saw a gap in the market as this was an industry that struggled with modernising its processes by harnessing the power of tech.

We thought there was a chance to really make some improvements if done in the right way. And just under two and a half years later, we are witnessing success rates that we couldn’t have imagined at the beginning.

As young founders, we saw the massive potential that a tech-driven approach could create. Sustainability is of huge importance, and helping transition the industry to sustainable freight is our core founding vision.

We do this by driving new efficiencies (reducing empty miles by better management and freight matching tools), eliminating paper completely, offsetting carbon from our deliveries and our long-term plan is to create a complete ecosystem to help small haulage firms fund clean HGVs through us.

What is your magic sauce?

We aim to make the lives of shippers and hauliers easier with a near zero-touch approach to freight management. Our platform is intuitive and secure, providing a completely stress-free user experience.

Every driver gets access to the Zeus driver app which tracks where every load is, provides route optimization, live delivery ETAs and document reconciliation at every stage. We do this as it provides complete transparency for drivers, shippers, and everyone in-between.

We also have a generous loyalty program that includes 50 per cent discounts on premium truck tyres – which amounts to a potential saving of more than several thousand pounds a year to small fleets.

But the proof is in the pudding – every manufacturer that trialled Zeus in 2021 has awarded us business – a 100 percent retention rate.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We will have helped drive the industry closer to a greener, more sustainable future by reducing empty miles, which is key if we are to realise net zero carbon goals.

We are also on an exciting growth trajectory, having achieved a 326 per cent growth rate in total volume last year and being on track to achieve 400 per cent growth this year.

We are already handling freight for 40 enterprise-level clients including the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, the world’s largest sports retailer Decathlon, and P&G among others. We hope to be well established across the European continent within this timeframe as well.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge has been introducing new technology to an industry that was very committed to its old ways. We were eager to change mindsets via this digital platform and our mission has since been vindicated. We now handle over 660,000 tonnes of cargo annually, worth around £6 billion.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

Visit our website and use the dedicated section to explore our platform and determine how the business would suit you.

We aim for partnerships with shipping companies who are looking for the next generation of logistics to boost their services, and self-owned and small to mid-range haulage companies.

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