Opinion Piece: Digital market gains traction in heavy sector
By Arjun Mohan

CEO of heavy equipment rental company shares how tech-powered commerce is making its way to construction.

On demand, real time, live market rates and the other instantaneous signals of tech-powered commerce are beginning to grip construction.

Terms first heard in relation to movie streaming, ride hailing and online shopping are entering the industry’s vocabulary thanks to promises of greater availability, improved agility, and reduced costs.

For a traditionally conservative sector the arrival of tech trends borrowed from consumer businesses will bring similar benefits, just more slowly. Price transparency, competition and choice will all improve.

The model is already being put to the test by Tenderd – an online heavy equipment rental marketplace for the Middle East and Africa. The company has just completed its second year of trading, demonstrating the value of on-demand heavy equipment rental for companies with assets sitting idle but ready to rent and those who want to defer capital expenditure by hiring instead of buying. For both sides of this supply and demand equation Tenderd offers levels of pricing transparency and competitiveness new to the market.

“We want to bring all the efficiencies of an open marketplace to the sector,” said Arjun Mohan, founder and CEO of Tenderd. “We are on our way, but the industry is so huge to actually have an effect we need more time to gain a significant volume.”

The Tenderd team is using the COVID-19 hiatus to revisit service refinements they wanted to include since foundation. One of these, the Tenderd Track marketplace, will increase market transparency for enrolled companies, Mohan explained.

“We have given 30 companies access to the Tenderd Track marketplace,” he said. “Previously, you wouldn't have been able to view our entire inventory and there would still be a human in the transaction loop. But the Tenderd Track marketplace is completely self-service.”

The Tenderd team prequalifies any enrolled companies, ensuring trade licenses and tax documents are up to date. Enrolled firms get a login to access the private marketplace, which then reveals the price and availability of all the equipment currently on Tenderd’s inventory.

“You can see where it is and all the daily, weekly, and monthly rates,” said Mohan. “You can select it and you can execute the agreement within the platform.”

The next development on Tenderd’s agenda is expanding beyond the construction sector into new industries with similar equipment needs, such as logistics.

Mohan’s approach to this will be the same as it was at the start of Tenderd’s journey. He believes both timing and a ground up approach are crucial to establishing a start-up in a conservative market.

“There have been a lot of studies on what makes start-ups successful and the number one factor was not the idea, or the team, it was the timing,” he said.

Mohan believes getting the timing right comes down to assessing a market first hand, in the field.

“You've got to get out there and talk to the people you want to work with as customers or suppliers,” he said. “A lot of startups try the opposite, a very top-down approach. They want to broker big partnerships, but it just goes nowhere.

“You need to start in the field, discuss your idea with people, get their feedback and incorporate it into your product: that's when you can actually assess if your timing is right.”

The approach paid dividends for Mohan, who got Tenderd rolling by cold-calling project sites in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to introduce his business to once-sceptical project managers. From this hands-on start the business has grown to encompass all seven UAE emirates, include an office in the Saudi capital Riyadh and expansion to Jeddah.

New sectors beckon, but the same promises of a digital market place still apply.

About the author: Arjun Mohan is the CEO of Tenderd.