Written by Marina Hadjipateras
We rely on Amazon, if nothing else, for relatively seamless click-and-buy delivery, especially when we need our items fast. But, what about all those customers who spend most of their work lives at sea? Captain Dhruv Sawhney saw a massive need for improvement in the procurement of supplies for maritime shipping businesses. In fact, he’d painstakingly experienced that need over his fifteen years as a seafarer. So, he set out to build a solution. Three years later, that idea is a thriving business, and now dubbed, “the Amazon of the shipping world.”
Meet our latest investment, ShipsKart, a Singapore-based e-commerce solution for maritime and offshore businesses. The breakthrough B2B platform digitizes, simplifies and solves one of the shipping industry’s most time-consuming analogue processes — the procurement of essential vessel supplies. The platform offers a single and streamlined online marketplace for managing the order process from start to finish.
Clicked at Sea, Delivered at Shore
Co-founded in 2017 by Dhruv, alongside Chief Operating Officer Vivek Sahi and Chief Financial Officer Sunny Bagla, ShipsKart enables maritime operators to purchase everything required for ships to maintain uninterrupted operations, including vessel supplies and provisions for crew members. ShipsKart also aggregates and surfaces data-driven insights on pricing patterns and features a digital budgeting tool for captains and vessel operators. To date, the company has processed more than 2,000 successful orders across the world. And, with offices in India, The Netherlands and Bangladesh, as well as a network of 500+ partners across 40 countries, ShipsKart is now providing services to ports around the globe.
Captains of Industry
Delhi-born and raised Captain Dhruv Sawhney has a natural gift for leadership and remarkable perseverance, both of which have been clear from his early days as a cricketer to his maritime studies, licenses and career. Now a Master Mariner, and the first in his family to sail, Dhruv began his career as a second and third officer on main fleet trading ships, (e.g. oil tankers and bulk carriers,) with companies including Gearbulk, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement and Maersk. The real turning point for Dhruv, however, came when he was asked to join Bourbon Offshore MMI, a leading marine service company for offshore oil and gas. It was at Bourbon that Dhruv honed his deep and wide expertise, rapidly ascending the ranks to Chief Officer and then Captain. Dhruv spent seven years at Bourbon’s helm; this experience gave him the confidence to go bigger, realizing the potential of his entrepreneurial nature and tireless tenacity.
Over his 15+ years at sea, Dhruv saw firsthand the outdated procurement processes and obstacles to getting supplies swiftly and efficiently. Focused on leveraging the best and newest technology, he conducted extensive research in procurement, identifying ways to directly connect ship owners with suppliers in an intuitive, common online marketplace.
Over a lunch with friend and fellow Chief Officer Vivek Sahi, the two discussed the idea of an “Amazon for the shipping industry,” from which seafarers could procure all their needed supplies almost instantly. Having both spent plenty of time at sea, they shared common insights and experiences, always arriving at the same obstacle — maritime procurement — which had yet to see a lasting solution. The conversation eventually moved on, but Dhruv found himself unable to stop thinking about the idea. He left Bourbon and asked Vivek to join his new founding team, certain their vision could be a literal sea change for the industry.
Characteristic of Dhruv, he exuberantly shared the idea at dinner with his closest childhood friend and her husband, lawyer Sunny Bagla, who was convinced of the potential impact and decided to join as their third co-founder.
Anchored in Experiences
Armed with years of direct experience at sea and a detailed understanding of compliance / maritime law the team created a product that genuinely enriches the seafaring experience by providing access to quality products at competitive prices from any remote port across the globe.
ShipsKart is also the first in the industry to launch a mobile app for maritime ordering that’s not only accessible to ships and crew, but also vendors and ship owners / managers, making it easier for all involved to place and track their orders. “In almost every industry today, eCommerce platforms are the norm, yet maritime procurement still lags. Bringing existing analogue marketplaces online with ShipsKart will not only help increase savings and benefit the bottom line for companies but will also increase the resiliency of global supply chains,” says Dhruv.
Having recently closed a 2.7M Series A led by TMV and Hermes Offshore, ShipKart is ready to expand its global footprint to additional countries through strategic partnerships, along with physical offices and warehouses. The team also plans to open fulfillment centers close to major ports, which will help to increase cost-effectiveness and improve delivery services. Dhruv and his partners intend to empower mid-segment shipping companies and suppliers by acting as foundational digital partners, allowing for greater overall efficiency and organization.
We asked Dhruv what words of advice he’d offer a new founder breaking into a legacy industry. His response: “You have to believe deeply in your product — and keep working to make it extraordinary. Don’t give up easily, work hard, be humble, and above all, persevere.”
TMV is an early-stage venture firm that invests in purposeful startups reimagining the future.
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