Gatik’s Gautam Narang on the importance of knowing your customer

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Gatik is something of an outlier successful nan autonomous conveyance space. Whereas astir companies are either trying to standard robotaxis aliases commercialize long-haul self-driving pinch Class 8 trucks, Gatik is much focused connected smaller container trucks and middle-mile logistics.

Gatik CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang said location are 2 main reasons down this go-to-market strategy. First, an autonomous solution for middle-mile logistics solves circumstantial customer problems. Second, it’s a solution that tin beryllium deployed astatine scale, pinch nary driver down nan instrumentality today — not successful 5 years.

Gatik is nan 3rd institution that Narang and his brother, Arjun, founded together. Their first institution was successful Delhi, India, a aesculapian robotics startup that focused connected nan rehabilitation of changeable patients utilizing robotic arms. The problem was that labour is inexpensive successful India, and rehab centers and hospitals didn’t spot nan request for an costly and unsociable robotic limb erstwhile they could prosecute nurses.

Narang said he and his relative took that instruction to bosom and decided not to create exertion for technology’s sake, but alternatively to attraction connected validating nan existent customer symptom point.

The customers, successful Gatik’s case, were grocers and retailers that were struggling to meet nan expectations of nan extremity user for same-day delivery. Those expectations person already created a displacement successful nan logistics concatenation that Gatik has been capable to grasp onto.

Gatik defines “middle mile” arsenic distances aliases routes up to 300 miles. The institution has astir 40 trucks coming that move equipment successful a hub-to-spoke exemplary (rather than a hub-to-hub model) from a distribution halfway to microdistribution centers and from those centers to aggregate unit locations.

Today, Gatik does regular driverless operations pinch Walmart and Georgia-Pacific successful nan U.S. and Loblaw successful Canada.

We sat down pinch Narang to study much astir why Gatik doesn’t do free pilots aliases judge short-term partnerships, nan value of knowing your customer and what investors are looking for successful today’s backing environment.

You and your co-founders person beardown backgrounds successful robotics. What made you want to prosecute nan container motortruck attack to self-driving technology?

Matching nan customer needs to what was imaginable from a exertion standpoint is really we started nan company. When my co-founders and I decided to commencement Gatik, nan criteria we had successful mind was firstly starting pinch a existent customer symptom point. Back successful 2015, 2016, galore companies successful our abstraction were approaching this problem chiefly from a exertion angle, building exertion for technology’s sake. The reasoning was, we’ll fig retired nan tech and past interest astir nan usage lawsuit and business exemplary later. We wanted to do things differently.

Second, we wanted to attraction connected an exertion that was much adjacent term, truthful that’s really we went aft this middle-mile aliases B2B short-haul conception of nan proviso chain.

The penetration we had was nan world of proviso concatenation logistics is moving person to nan extremity consumer. The online market conception was increasing for illustration crazy, but making that two-hour aliases three-hour transportation model was becoming much challenging for nan grocers and retailers. In an effort to beryllium capable to meet that transportation window, they were moving their proviso concatenation to nan extremity user by building retired microdistribution centers.

All this is to opportunity nan routes were getting shorter but much frequent, and nan size of nan trucks was getting smaller, arsenic well. So that’s really we came up pinch nan class of Class 3 to 6 vehicles going aft this mid-mile. And nan champion portion astir this mid-mile was we had to run nan trucks backmost and distant connected fixed and repeatable routes. The full thought was, let’s not effort to lick autonomy complete a ample geofenced area. Rather, let’s attraction our efforts connected these fixed and repeatable routes, overoptimize nan exertion for these routes and get to nan constituent of driver-out faster and safer than nan competition.

How fixed are these routes? Are your vehicles conscionable driving from constituent to point?

We’re still operating Level 4 autonomy, but yes, nan operational domain is narrower compared to a institution that’s going aft robotaxi aliases last-mile delivery. Instead of going after, let’s say, a ample geofenced area for illustration nan metropolis of San Francisco, we run our trucks backmost and distant connected these repeatable routes.

Today we are nan only autonomous trucking institution doing regular commercialized deliveries connected nationalist roads without anyone connected board. When we started out, we were doing shorter routes, for illustration little than 10 miles constituent to point, truthful moving equipment from 1 storage aliases distribution halfway to 1 unit location. Over nan past fewer years, nan exertion has matured to a constituent wherever we tin do pickups from aggregate nodes and do deliveries to up to 50 unit locations arsenic good arsenic immoderate operation successful between.

To springiness you an illustration of a business wherever we’re doing precisely this is pinch Georgia-Pacific. So successful Dallas, Gatik is moving Georgia-Pacific insubstantial products from 1 of their distribution centers (DCs) to a web of 34 Sam’s Club locations. So connected a regular basis, nan nonstop way changes, and we are rubbing astir 5 to 7 stores. As agelong arsenic nan web is manageable and nan routes are known and repeatable, we tin grip those kinds of networks.

That’s really we deliberation astir our business arsenic well. We attraction connected circumstantial routes wherever nan exertion is solvable today, we get to nan constituent of validation wherever we tin return nan driver out, and past we do that again crossed different markets.

Editor: Naga

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