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QuantumID: Introducing cloud-based cargo management and tracking technology in India, the Philippines

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Countries: India, The Philippines
Sector: IT, air cargo

Challenge: While studying for an MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Business, Milind Tavshikar helped develop a handheld RFID cargo tracking technology. The technology, called SmartKargo, offered a promising low-cost way to improve efficiencies for businesses in developing countries but the young business struggled to obtain financing to expand internationally.

Solution: A $3 million OPIC loan helped the newly-formed QuantumID Technologies expand its nascent operations in 2010. OPIC more recently agreed to provide additional financing to support the company’s expansion into the Philippines.

Impact: QuantumID is today a growing business that offers an efficient, low-cost alternative to traditional methods of shipping cargo internationally and currently employs more than 50 people in the India as well as 15 in its Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters.

Using technology to lower the cost of shipping cargo
In the same way that passenger air travel can be complicated, so can shipping cargo by air. Developing countries in particular often lack the technology to ensure that cargo can be moved reliably and securely from one point to another, particularly when the cargo must be loaded on multiple planes to reach its final destination.

In 2010 Milind Tavshikar was a recent graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Business with a winning business plan built around a technology he’d developed to lower the cost and improve the efficiency of shipping cargo. SmartKargo is a cloud-based RFID technology that uses handheld devices to scan cargo before it is loaded onto aircraft. Because it is cloud-based, it can be deployed without any upfront investments in hardware and when it is deployed it can help reduce theft and misrouting and improve value chain productivity.

Tavshikar’s business, QuantumID, had won money from a business school competition, had raised additional funds from angel investors and had had early success entering contracts with some major Indian airlines. But as it sought to expand in India, it struggled to raise financing.

Tavshikar learned about OPIC during one of OPIC’s outreach events to small businesses and ultimately obtained a $3 million loan to expand its business in India.

“We struggled for a year and a half to bring more money into the company. “Since we were a U.S. corporation, banks in India did not want to finance us and since our customers were in India, banks in the U.S. did not want to lend us either.” In 2015, OPIC committed additional financing to support QuantumID’s expansion into The Philippines, a country whose geography of more than 7000 islands poses significant challenges to travel and cargo transport.

In the five years since OPIC initially partnered with QuantumID, the company has formed partnerships with multiple international air carriers including Norwegian Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and India’s Spice Jet. This network is supporting international freight shipments across multiple carriers, as well as cargo shipments in passenger jets. As more travelers decline bag checks and carry on their luggage, airlines are seeing more unused cargo space. By offering businesses a reliable way to move cargo on commercial planes, the QuantumID technology helps lower the cost of shipment.

This project was profiled in 2015