Digitising the Freight Industry: JUSTFREIGHTS, & the twin siblings behind it.
When I spoke to Vaidehi & Vedant Mankad of JUSTFREIGHTS, the first question I really wanted to know the answer to was – is it true that twins have an inherent empathetic connection? That if one twin is hurt, the other feels the pain? Or am I watching too many movies? While that is true for some identical twins, Vaidehi & Vedant aren’t identical. “Although, we look alike in the gender swap filter on Snapchat” Vaidehi adds.
Born and brought up in Mahuva, Bhavnagar, the Mankad siblings grew up observing international trade since childhood, courtesy of the fact that Mahuva happens to be one of the biggest exporters of white onion. They then moved to Ahmedabad for their further studies, where, while interning at various import and export companies, they saw the opportunities that Mahuva offered. They also observed how everyone wanted to get into import/export, and not many paid attention to the logistics of the business. MFREIGHTS was thus formed.
As easy as it may sound, Vaidehi & Vedant took a leap of faith when they decided to venture into entrepreneurship in 2015. While Vaidehi managed to complete her graduation externally from IGNOU, Vedant dropped out of college in his last year. They were pursuing their CS & CA courses respectively and decided to drop out of those as well. While Vedant got into the traditional freight-forwarding business, Vaidehi became a travel agent at Thomas Cook while also assisting Vedant part-time. They had no background of the family business, no funding, and started from scratch. Things were especially hard in the beginning as the siblings, both commerce students had no idea how to tackle the technical aspect of the business, which is an integral part of a logistics business. With MFREIGHTS, they wanted to build a marketplace where exporters/importers could book their shipping containers. Vaidehi states how everything was done on the phone initially, with no records or tracks of transactions, making things chaotic. Incorporating this experience into their venture, they modelled MFREIGHTS into JUSTFREIGHTS, an all-in-one customer engagement, marketing automation, and operation management platform.
Up until 2017, Vaidehi & Vedant basically ran the business all by themselves, with the loans they procured and the earnings they’d made out of the traditional freight-forwarding business when one of their cousins told them about GUSEC, where they got incubated henceforth. “From access to government grants to mentorship as well as peer support, GUSEC has been a huge help. One of the perks of getting incubated at GUSEC was the $20,000 worth of Google Cloud Credits, that helped us manage server costs, something that is otherwise very expensive when you’re a software business. Another one of those was access to CRM software like HubSpot, which has been of tremendous help in managing our customer relations” Vaidehi remarks. Vedant says, “I believe that we as a startup community can do so much better when founders work together. The synergy between startups can go a long way, and this is something GUSEC has been facilitating all along the way.”
When I ask Vaidehi how it’s been running a business with a brother, she says fondly, “Having a family member as a business partner is tremendous support – mentally, emotionally, as well as financially. He’s not just my brother, but also my co-founder and best friend.” She tells me that while Vedant, who’s more extroverted, handles the sales & marketing aspects, she’s more involved in the operational part of the business.
When asked what advice they would give to people who want to venture into entrepreneurship, Vaidehi says, “If you have a scalable idea, start working on it today. People told me this all the time but I never believed them, until I walked the walk myself.” Vedant says, “There is a saying in the startup ecosystem – learn how to fail every day. When someone says they don’t want to fund you, instead of giving up, find out why they said so.”
Coming back to the big question – is it true that twin siblings are telepathically connected? Vaidehi says, “Sort of. While in school, every time I got scolded, Vedant would get angry and every time he fell ill, I would want to accompany him back home. Not sure if this was telepathy, but we were extremely protective of each other. We still are.”
One of the questions I asked Vaidehi & Vedant when I interviewed them (separately, mind you) was that what kept them going despite the initial struggles of establishing their venture in the beginning. Telepathically connected or not, they both gave me the same answer – “When you can sit through 10-12 hours of CA/CS classes, you can sit through anything.”