LiftIt: Building a new network to reach the last mile

Half the world’s population lives and works in last-mile communities, where goods, services and information are often unaffordable or inaccessible.

Fragmented, inefficient and informal trucking industries make it difficult for companies of all sizes to ship their products from rural producing regions to urban markets. The cost of logistics in some developing countries can be up to 40 per cent of the product value, compared with about 8 per cent in OECD countries. 

High logistics costs lead to higher prices — and, in some cases, the unavailability of goods altogether. It also means lower income or lack of market access for rural producers, potentially uncompetitive prices for top export products (such as coffee and cacao), and uncertain or inconsistent supply chains, which hamper business growth and discourage new businesses from starting.

Optimising distribution and logistics to and from last-mile communities is key for development, especially in Colombia.

Rural development and investment are critical factors at this stage in the Colombian peace process, as thousands of newly-demobilized FARC soldiers are seeking new livelihoods; the government is encouraging farmers to reduce the cultivation of illicit crops; and rural communities long mired by conflict and poverty seek to improve their well-being. ALL PHOTOS: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

According to an IDB report, investments in infrastructure and more efficient domestic logistics services in Colombia could significantly impact some of the most marginalised and conflict-ridden states, with the potential for certain areas to see average foreign sales increase by as much as 45 per cent.  

Bridging the last-mile distribution gap

Enter LiftIt: The company that’s fundamentally altering the quality, cost and availability of logistics at scale.

LiftIt makes it simple for individuals and businesses to schedule cargo shipments of all sizes throughout Colombia. The platform provides quick and transparent quotations, real-time tracking of shipments, full-value insurance and guaranteed same-day delivery.

In less than a year, serial entrepreneur Brian York, operations ninja Felipe Betancourt Celis, and seasoned technologist Angel Celis Botto built the technology platform (fully in-house), recruited and deployed a network of thousands of truck drivers, and gained the trust and business of dozens of small, medium and large businesses across Colombia.

By leveraging Colombia’s network of more than 500,000 registered independent truck drivers, LiftIt is increasing drivers’ (and rural producers’) incomes, improving logistics services for companies reaching rural communities, and enriching the livelihoods of those living in these previously hard-to-reach communities.

“We’re on a mission to provide technology-driven and affordable last-mile cargo transportation throughout all of Colombia,” says Brian York, LiftIt Co-Founder and CEO. “With Mercy Corps’ experience in rural logistics, they greatly help us with our strategy and obtaining customers with rural farms, co-ops and associations.”

LiftIt believes its drivers are the foundation of its success, and carefully selects, trains and incentivizes its pool of drivers to ensure consistent service quality and shipment security.

“We’re on a mission to provide technology-driven and affordable last-mile cargo transportation throughout all of Colombia,” says Brian York, LiftIt Co-Founder and CEO. “With Mercy Corps’ experience in rural logistics, they greatly help us with our strategy and obtaining customers with rural farms, co-ops and associations.”

Building connections for greater impact

At Mercy Corps, we believe all people should have access to the products, services and markets they need to thrive, regardless of where they live. Consumers who live in remote rural areas or marginalised urban and peri-urban communities should be able to access beneficial goods and services with agency and ease. And last-mile producers should be able to access the logistics services and sales channels needed to reach markets, sell their goods and generate greater income.

Our vision is for all people to have access to the products, services and markets they need to thrive, no matter where they live.

LiftIt has the technology, model and team in place to help us make this vision a reality. We’re busy connecting LiftIt’s Colombia team to cooperatives and farmer groups, and look forward to the possibility of seeing the platform scale well beyond Colombia. 

“Rural transport is expensive in Colombia for smallholder farmers and low-income households to provide goods and services to market,” said Provash Budden, Mercy Corps Colombia Country Director at the time of investment. “By investing in companies like LiftIt, Mercy Corps aims to connect rural communities with more affordable and available logistics services. It’s one key area of the value chain that requires rethinking and is often overlooked.”