India's Kale Logistics raises $30M in global expansion push

Kale Logistics Solutions, an Indian startup offering a vertical SaaS platform to assist logistics needs, has raised $30 million in a fresh funding round, as the 14-year-old startup eyes expansion in the U.S. and Europe.

Bengaluru-based private equity fund Creaegis Advisors led the Series B round, which follows the startup raising $5 million in a Series A round in 2020. The startup's key investors include tech-focused VC firm Inflexor Ventures, as well as founding angels Narendra Kale and Vipul Jain.

Handling logistics and shipping cargo usually requires coordination among several parties, much like an international journey for an individual. Yet, a major part of this process often entails extensive paperwork. Kale Logistics aims to eradicate paper-based processes in these activities through a suite of cloud-based software tools that facilitate digital data transfer among all stakeholders in cargo and logistics.

"We have come up with the standard solutions, with standard interfaces to airlines, customs and so on, which is what is being promoted as a platform at airports and ports level," said Rajesh Panicker, co-founder and COO at Mumbai-based Kale Logistics, in an interview. Panicker, Amar More and Vineet Malhotra co-founded the startup in 2009.

Nearly 80% of the data exchanged among logistics stakeholders is standardized and is frequently reused throughout the cargo's journey from source to destination, he said. To streamline this, Kale Logistics introduced their marquee solution, the Cargo Community Platform. This platform allows all participants, such as freight forwarders, ground handling agents and customs brokers, to share their collected data without the need to manually reproduce it for distinct purposes.

In recent years, regions like India, Europe and the U.S. have implemented stringent regulations for cross-border trade. Kale Logistics views these changes as a chance to expand its operations, especially as those involved in cross-border transactions increasingly seek digital solutions for monitoring their cargo's movement, he said.

"There is a lot of impetus, even from external forces, to get all this automated. Fortunately, we are at the right place at the right time," Panicker noted.

Kale Logistics is present at over 100 airports and ports worldwide, serving clients in 36 countries. Its customer base includes cargo companies, airports and seaports.

The startup began its journey in India, establishing a presence at approximately eight to 10 airports and ports. It has inked deals with prominent airport infrastructure firms such as Adani Group, GMR and Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL). After its initial success in India, Kale Logistics says it broadened its horizons to the Middle East and Africa. Most recently, it has ventured into the U.S. and European markets.

Panicker told TechCrunch that Kale has expanded to 10 different airports and ports in the U.S. and 36-38 airports in Europe. The startup plans to deploy the new funding to increase its presence and hire more staff. Additionally, it's looking to invest in research and development and enhance the product with more features.

"This is our second fundraising with an external investor, and we are happy to partner with Creaegis because of the alignment of vision for the business, their record and understanding of the SaaS and tech products space globally. We are confident they will add value to the company as we shift gears towards a faster growth trajectory," said Vipul Jain, chairman, Kale Logistics, in a prepared statement.

The logistics tech startup market is expanding rapidly, with many new players joining the race. Airlines including Emirates also have specific solutions for their business customers, while some startups offer solutions particularly for truck slot management and tracking shipments. Nevertheless, Panicker told TechCrunch that the startup does not see significant competition in the market at the moment.

"The global logistics industry is undergoing a rapid digital disruption with a need for intelligent automation and end-to-end visibility through all nodes. This transformation is led by smart and centralized technology platforms. Kale, with its category-defining Cargo Community Platform and suite of SaaS solutions, is leading this disruption by digitizing and automating end-to-end cargo operations in airports and seaports. We are excited to support the company in their next phase of global growth and planned expansion in North America and Europe," said Prakash Parthasarathy, managing partner and CEO of Creaegis.

Kale Logistics currently has offices in the UAE, Kenya, Netherlands and the U.S. — apart from India.

Logistics management has piqued investor interest in India. As per data shared by analyst firm Tracxn, equity investments in Indian logistics tech startups saw a nearly 200% surge, hitting $180.8 million in Q2 2023, up from $60.5 million in Q3 2022. Already, the third quarter has witnessed investments amounting to $42.4 million. In contrast, on the global front, funding in the logistics tech domain dipped by 14%, settling at $1.2 billion in Q2 2023 from $1.4 billion in Q3 2022, with $412.8 million invested so far in the current third quarter.