Entrepreneurs, Jai Kanwar and Clemente Theotokis, on the power of youth, Forbes 30 under 30, and the future of freight 

With technology surrounding us in our day-to-day lives, it can be easy to forget that some industries are lagging in terms of technological progress. With a legacy dedicated to traditional ways of working, the logistics industry is crying out for innovative change, and disruptions around the globe have brought this issue to the forefront.  

However, Jai Kanwar and Clemente Theotokis are on a mission to transform supply chains in the logistics space with tech-driven solutions. Determined to establish a start-up business following their graduation from university, the two school friends identified a need for innovative technology to transform the movement of freight by enhancing efficiency, minimizing costs, and reducing environmental impact.  

Jai Kanwar and Clemente Theotokis
Jai Kanwar and Clemente Theotokis

Enter Zeus Labs (Zeus), a pioneering tech-driven company offering reliable, easy-to-use freight transport technology for shippers and haulers to solve sustainability challenges and optimize productivity. As young entrepreneurs, Jai and Clemente are brimming with passion and determination, and their efforts have recently been recognized by Forbes, with the pair appearing in the 30 Under 30 Europe Class of 2024 in the Manufacturing and Industry category. 

“We always believe that there is an opportunity to use technology to make the supply chain more efficient, productive, and sustainable,” Clemente opens. “We launched in 2019 and unveiled our first product, Freight Connect, in August 2020, with a vision to create the new universal standard in digital and sustainable freight. In February 2024, we secured a large contract with public 3PL provider, Wincanton, which acquired exclusive UK and Ireland software rights for Freight Connect and Freight Command, thereby further cementing Zeus as a player in the industry. 

“We focus on providing our customers with more sustainable transport solutions in a digitized process from order to invoice. We’re currently operational in around 15 countries and we’ve completed more than 20,000 full truckload (FTL) shipments to date. Our core product, Freight Connect, seamlessly connects freight won by Zeus from our customers via annual tenders, to our signed up and verified users across Europe, as well as the UK’s import and export markets.” 

Jai adds: “Clemente and I have known each other since school and while at university, we set about creating a business for when we graduated. The first thing we realized is that we’re surrounded by technology in our day-to-day lives from ordering food to online shopping. 

“However, when we came across the logistics industry, we were surprised to discover that it was, to some extent, lagging from a digitization perspective. The statistic that triggered our purpose was that 30 percent of European trucks run empty on a day-to-day basis, which is the equivalent of one million trucks running completely empty every day! 

“Determined to find a solution, we conducted research and spoke to numerous trucking and logistics businesses of various sizes to learn more about the industry and its challenges,” Jai recalls. “It quickly became apparent that although most companies had the ability to use technology, they were reverting to emails, phone calls, texts, even post and a map and pins to plan transport routes and driver schedules. That was our spark – the urge to change the industry.”  

Driving change 

Obtaining a degree while establishing a business is no mean feat, so we’re keen to hear how the two friends juggled their priorities. “It was certainly a lot of hard work,” Clemente laughs, “but we wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t worked so hard in those first few years. On a personal level, Jai and I are extremely good friends, and I don’t think anything could come between us.” 

“We’re aware of our position as young entrepreneurs, and it’s important for us to be surrounded by seasoned professionals and industry experts to help us execute our mission,” Jai says. “We’ve hired a complete team since 2019 with extensive experience in both logistics and technology to help us further develop our offering.” 

“However,” Clemente interjects, “while it’s important to combine innovative thinking with experience, I would urge young entrepreneurs to use age to their advantage. Young minds quite literally think differently given the fact that we were raised in a digital era with technology in pretty much every aspect of our lives. As young people ourselves – me being 24, and Jai, 25 – there can be a stigma around young entrepreneurs, but it’s quite the opposite; our fresh outlook can disrupt and innovate legacy industries.”  

Learning curve 

Both Jai and Clemente clearly possess an entrepreneurial spirit that has guided them through their educational and professional journeys, leading to the pair being recognized by global media giant, Forbes. “Being named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the Manufacturing and Industry category was a great honor and somewhat of a surprise that made us reflect on what we’ve achieved over the last four years,” says Jai. “We wouldn’t have done anything differently, otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today, but that doesn’t mean the journey has been smooth sailing.” 

“It’s definitely been an interesting journey,” Clemente agrees. “We’ve made mistakes, of course, but most importantly, we made them early and learned from the consequences. Starting a business is never easy, but implementing the mindset of genuinely learning from your mistakes means you’re constantly learning and gaining valuable experience.” 

With the Covid-19 pandemic on the horizon, 2020 was a notoriously challenging time for all businesses, let alone start-ups, but Clemente is optimistic about difficulty. “Tough times are all Zeus has ever known, and there are always going to be problems or disruptions in any industry,” he states. “Although we haven’t been directly impacted by recent global challenges, we saw customers face supplier shortages and explore alternative ways to access trucks, with Zeus being one of the methods.  

“Companies have had to change the way they think and operate, but disruption drives innovation, which is embedded in our mission as a young startup trying to penetrate a large legacy industry. The pandemic particularly brought the importance of supply chain to the forefront, for instance, as it highlighted issues with manual and traditional processes. We’ve since seen a renewed focus on supply chain resiliency through digitization and innovation as companies come to view freight as a resource rather than a commodity.”  

Digitizing delivery Zeus truck

Turning to operations, Jai is keen to tell us about Zeus’ latest developments. “We’ve officially launched our second product, Freight Command, which is born out of Freight Connect. We realized that our large manufacturing customers, particularly public companies, will always have a certain risk profile and must consider how much volume to give a single supplier. Manufacturers typically wouldn’t allocate more than 50 percent to a single customer; for those suppliers using Freight Connect, the manufacturer benefits from the platform’s digital solutions, but must revert to legacy ways of working for the remaining percentage of allocated business.  

“Freight Command solves this problem by offering customers our internal tools to manage supply and demand from their customers and orders,” he explains. “It empowers customers to manage their whole network of freight, as opposed to just the volume they allocate to Zeus. As a software as a service (SaaS) and enterprise product, Freight Command enables companies to digitize and automate their supply chain from order through to invoice.” 

Clemente, on the other hand, tells us about the company’s venture into AI: “We’re at the beginning of our journey with AI and we’re soon to launch an exciting initiative, Zeus AI, which currently has five different use cases: slot management, consolidation, extra charge validation, live network management, and load assignment. We are enhancing our established capabilities in Freight Command with AI technology. To fully appreciate the capabilities of Zeus AI, we must first understand the relationship between AI and supply chain management.  

“AI is almost useless without data; companies must first digitize the supply chain to ensure clean data is stored in a single place, which can be done using Freight Command. Only then can you leverage the benefits of AI to gather the required data points in real time and suggest informed decisions within seconds versus hours.  

“That’s really the beauty of Zeus AI – speed, efficiency, and accuracy of information that enables data-driven decisions. The platform sits on top of Freight Command, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, meaning companies can train the AI model based on individual priorities like cost or environmental impact. Fundamentally, AI will make supply chains more efficient, sustainable, accurate, and cost-effective. We’ve already received great feedback that the system is unparalleled in the industry, but we’re continuously working to improve the technology.”  

Thinking outside the box 

As our conversation ends, Jai and Clemente share what’s next for Zeus. “We’re currently launching in India, where we’ve already closed our first few customers, and we’re also exploring expansion in the US and Middle Eastern markets,” Clemente says. “From a technology perspective, we’re constantly innovating and we’re super excited to deliver new AI capabilities to our customers. Developing such a capability is one thing but seeing it in action providing tangible benefits to our customers is something we’re really looking forward to.” 

Jai agrees: “Our vision for the future is the very essence of free command; to continue providing larger manufacturers with software solutions to digitize their supply chains. We aim to embed ourselves as much as we can within the supply chains of large manufacturers, becoming an extension of our customers’ supply chains. At the same time, we’ll grow awareness of Freight Connect across Europe and provide decarbonized transport as we support customers to reduce emissions.” 

What Jai and Clemente have achieved in just four years is testament to their drive and commitment, and serves as inspiration for entrepreneurs, especially young people with a passion to disrupt tradition. “We’ve gone from being newcomers in the industry to leaders in the sector, working with some of the world’s largest companies, being named in Forbes, employing people during the pandemic, closing a once-in-a-lifetime deal with Wincanton, and helping to  change one of the world’s largest and oldest markets,” Jai reflects.  

“We did all of this just by thinking differently; I still have the notebook we used to jot down and draw ideas, and although it hasn’t been an easy ride, it is worth every second of hard work and we’re still only at the beginning,” Clemente concludes. “We’re optimistic about the future and we’re excited to see how Zeus will enable a more sustainable, efficient, and tech-driven supply chain industry.”