Technology is king

Despite logistics companies being better prepared to do business in 2021, the severity of the second wave has taken a toll on their manpower. It is why there have been huge delays in online delivery and our orders reaching us later than pre-Covid times.

“A large percentage of warehouse and delivery staff got Covid or have had an emergency in their families,” says Harsh Vaidya, Founder and CEO, WareIQ, which takes care of logistics of clients such as Wingreens, Monsoon Harvest, Bolt Coffee, Flatheads, Kama Ayurveda, Just Herbs, Lotus Herbals, and more. Rhitiman Majumder, Co-Founder and CEO, Pickrr, adds that irregular flight schedules have also led to an obvious delay in Turnaround Time.

Managing manpower and keeping them motivated, especially when their peers test positive, is draining, reveals Anshuman Singh, Chairman, and Managing Director, Stellar Value Chain Solutions. “We have been fortunate enough to have an extremely low incidence of positive cases across India, which is less than 3 per cent of the total manpower. We created a central monitoring group last year itself, the Stellar Protection Group, which monitors safety protocols through control towers, and are doing multiple townhall sessions, motivation through rewards and appreciation,” adds Singh.

In this crisis, LetsTransport Co-founder Pushkar Singh notes that companies’ main concern is the well-being of their driver-partners and on-ground teams. To ensure that, RT-PCR tests are being conducted and effort is being made to get manpower across all warehouses, distribution centres, and e-fulfilment centres, vaccinated. A Grofers spokesperson adds, “We are providing daily meals to everyone working in our warehouses and are paying higher wages to our delivery partners, up to double of their normal salaries.”

Tackling Uncertainty

Prasad Sreeram, Founder and CEO, Cogos Technologies, says, “NCR region has a different set of restrictions as part of their lockdowns, causing further uncertainty on the interstate movement of goods, and creating trouble for the logistics companies. Moreover, there are not enough fuel stations, especially in remote parts, which lead to delays.”

While orders are piling up in warehouses, the uncertainty has also led to a massive drop in orders for non-essential goods. Vaidya notes, “There is a surge in the demand for healthcare products and products like packaged food, daily groceries, masks, sanitisers, etc., that are a basic necessity. e-Pharmacy is witnessing a surge as we are processing 100,000 orders a day. The rise in fuel prices has added to the costs, and a large percentage of pincodes have turned unserviceable for all courier partners. Some apartment societies have stopped door deliveries, because of which a lot of parcels go missing.”

While some firms are facing challenges in segregating goods as essentials and non-essentials and getting an e-pass for successful delivery, others are unable to manage inventory due to fluctuation in demand and supply. Vaidya says, “There would be a one-off surge in demand for a particular product one week, and then excess inventory builds up in the next week. The pandemic has essentially created inventory chaos.”That’s why WareIQ is only focusing on essential Covid supplies, and are processing about four lakh such supplies a day. Competing with Amazon, it allows e-commerce brands to offer next-day delivery.

Turn to Technology

Anshuman believes technology is the only solution. “All exceptional handling has been made is 99 per cent tech-driven. We plan to own direct communication to sellers’ customers in-house so that there is no lag with customers receiving updates. Our WareHouse Management System, as well as Transport Management Systems, is 100 per cent on the cloud,” adds Anshuman.

Pushkar seconds him saying that an updated tech platform even helped LetsTransport. “More and more manual processes are being digitised to reduce/remove physical touchpoints and human interactions. Shifting to sustainable growth with the EV evolution and upgrading ourselves with the latest technologies is what we are focusing on right now,” he adds.

Even Grofers has scaled up the supply chain and manpower since last year. “This helped us serve over 2 million households from the beginning of the second wave. We plan to add over 7,000+ more personnel across functions. Additionally, we have hired close to 500 women employees at our warehouses,” says a Grofers spokesperson.

WareIQ is providing brands with the ability to make smart inventory placement decisions across a pan-India network through their AI engine which allows brands to be near their demand centres. Cogos Technologies is also helping all its stakeholders — customer, driver and vehicle owner — adapt to their tech product. “Our partners can now book, schedule or assign a trip by just using their phones,” adds Sreeram.