BlackBuck raises $150 million to digitize freight and logistics across India

India’s trucking system has a big inefficiency problem that continues to drag the economy. BlackBuck, one of the handful of logistics startups that is trying to overhaul this system, just raised $150 million in a Series D round to further pursue its mission.

The new round was led by Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and Accel at a valuation just shy of $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. Wellington, Sequoia Capital, B Capital, Light Street and existing investors Sands Capital and World Bank’s investment arm International Finance Corporation also participated in the round.

The four-year-old B2B startup, which connects businesses with truck owners and freight operators, has raised about $230 million in equity financing and another $100 million in debt financing to date, CEO Rajesh Yabaji told TechCrunch in an interview.

Yabaji said the startup will use the fresh capital to expand and improve its technology stack that enables truck drivers to find more work, and grow its fleet of driver partners. As of today, BlackBuck has 300,000 trucks on its platform and about 10,000 clients, including big names such as soft drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola, consumer goods giant Unilever and automotive conglomerate Tata .

BlackBuck has developed a simplified app for truck drivers in India, who are typically not very literate, to help them accept work and easily navigate to their destination using Google Maps. On the client side, businesses can fire up a similar app to place orders. Recently it also tied up with insurance company Acko to cover all the trucks on its network.

As things work at the moment, truck drivers in India often struggle to find any work on their way back from a drop. Yabaji says BlackBuck enables them to find 25% to 30% more work opportunities. The startup takes between 15% to 20% of that, which is how it makes money.

India’s logistics market, valued at $160 billion, has attracted major VC funds in recent years. Delhivery, a supply chain startup, has raised north of $670 million from SoftBank and Tiger Global among others. Rivigo, a startup that rotates drivers to improve efficiency, has raised north of $215 million from SAIF Partners and Warburg Pincus.

It’s a capital-heavy business. BlackBuck, which employs about 2,000 people, generated $135.5 million in revenue at a loss of $17 million in fiscal year 2018, according to regulatory filings. Yabaji says the startup aims to aggressively grow its business, so profitability is not something it is hoping to go after in the immediate future.

“Given the market we are in today, in terms of private capital being available, we do not have to do IPO for a really long time. It is all about optimizing for the objective,” he said.

BlackBuck said it will also give about 200 of its employees an option to liquidate up to 25% of their vested shareholding in the company at the current price.

Struggling grocery startup Honestbee fires its CEO

The changes continue to roll at Honestbee . Fresh from pausing operations in four countries and announcing plans to lay off 10% of its staff, the Singapore-based online grocery startup has let CEO Joel Sng go, two sources with knowledge of his exit told TechCrunch.

Sng, who co-founded Honestbee back in 2015 and previously served as an advisor with its investor Formation 8, cleared his desk and vacated his office yesterday, according to sources.

Honestbee declined to comment.

Update: In an announcement shared with media today — May 2, one day after this story was published — Honestbee confirmed Sng has left. It claimed that he has resigned. In a company-wide email that was sent last night (and shared with TechCrunch), Sng denied his impending departure.

“Guys, just want to let everyone know of the fake news article on tech crunch,” [sic] he wrote. “I am not an abandon ship person and I will never leave the company to be rudderless.”

Brian Koo, founder of Honestbee investor Formation Group, has stepped in as interim CEO following Sng’s exit, according to Honestbee’s statement.

Our original report continues below

Isaac Tay, another co-founder, left the company last year while the last remaining co-founder is Jonathan Low, who leads Honestbee’s engineering team.

Sng’s apparent exit comes after we reported that Honestbee had told staff that it is in the process of securing funding that it claims will provide an additional year of runway for the business. Sources who spoke to TechCrunch said it has not been announced how much that funding is, or which investor is providing it.

Honestbee had held acquisition talks with Grab, Go-Jek and others in recent weeks.

Honestbee co-founder Joel Sng [Image via LinkedIn]

It isn’t immediately clear who will take over from Sng. Sources previously told TechCrunch that Sng’s right-hand man is Roger Koh, whose LinkedIn lists his current job as a principal with Formation 8. Formation 8 led Honestbee’s $15 million Series A round in 2015. The fund has since shut down and its stake appears to have transferred to Formation Group, according to the firm’s website.

Filings show that Honestbee has raised at least $46 million since that Series A. Its high burn rate suggests it may have raised even more, but nothing has been announced or filed, while former staff have told TechCrunch that only Sng and Koh have access to financial details.

The company is going through some turbulent times. We reported last week that a cash crash — not helped by a burn rate of $6.5 million per month — had left suppliers unpaid, payroll for April uncertain and morale low among Honestbee’s estimated 1,000 staff.

The company announced a series of cost-cutting measures that will see it temporarily cease business in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines while it conducts a review. It has also stopped offering food delivery, an additional service it launched in recent years, in Thailand and Hong Kong.