During his years as a manager at Ottawa tech giant Shopify, Alok Ahuja had a front-row seat to witness e-commerce gradually strengthen its grip on the global retail sector.
And from where Ahuja sat, what he saw suggested the shop-from-home experience still had plenty of room for improvement. While consumers suddenly had access to millions of products from companies all over the world at their fingertips, they were relying on a handful of shipping outfits to deliver those items in a timely fashion.
In many cases, he argues, their definition of timely simply wasn’t quick enough.
“When we purchase something from a store or online, the purchase is not done until that item is in a consumer’s hands,” says Ahuja, a Carleton University computer science graduate. “And a lot of merchants have a hard time controlling that last-mile component.”
After four years at Shopify, Ahuja left the e-commerce giant in 2018 to launch shipping platform Trexity with business partners Mathieu Bouchard, Mourad Gazale and Darren Schnare. More than 100 merchants in Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Winnipeg now use Trexity to provide same-day delivery to customers via a network of thousands of drivers, including more than 650 in the National Capital Region.
Ahuja says Trexity was already gaining traction even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit as online shopping steadily gained in popularity. But he says over the past three months the platform’s revenues have been growing 150 per cent a week as e-commerce has exploded during the lockdown. Trexity is also a Shopify partner, meaning the one million merchants that use the fellow Ottawa firm's platform can sign up for Ahuja's service with one click of the mouse.
“It’s been really interesting to see where this has gone,” he says, noting the company’s customer base has grown tenfold since the first cases of the coronavirus appeared.
Among the big-name companies that have signed on to the platform are food distribution giant Sysco Canada. Ahuja says he’s close to inking a deal with a major provincial grocery chain and has talked to several big-box retailers about signing on as well. Locally, Trexity’s clients include well-known specialty food retailer La Bottega Nicastro.
The 12-person company doesn’t charge its customers monthly fees or take a commission, Ahuja explains. Delivery fees, which are included in the purchase price of delivered items, are calculated based on time and distance, at a rate of 52 cents per kilometre and 27 cents a minute.
Trexity then bills the platform’s customers for the amount of the fee. Drivers receive 70 per cent of the total, with Trexity keeping the rest.
The bootstrapped firm was profitable out of the gate, Ahuja says, and is currently in the midst of securing a seed round backed by several high-profile local investors as well as others from across the country.
He’s already looking ahead to a series-A financing round as early as next year and says he believes the sky’s the limit for the fledgling startup, which is set to enter the Toronto market in June.
“Last-mile logistics for retail is going to be the next paradigm shift,” Ahuja says. “With the second wave of this pandemic potentially supposed to be hitting in September, October, I think a lot of retailers are trying to get ready for it. It’s a very, very niche vertical, but one that is becoming the new normal.”