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Starting March 2020, companies started feeling the brunt of the Covid reality in the country. The stringent lockdown to contain the Covid spread further proved catastrophic for the Indian economy. While the logistics & supply chain activities were functioning for the essential items, albeit slowly, companies which were not tuned with the echnological advances have had to face the major brunt. As they say, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, our logistics tech start-ups have slowly and steadily started spreading their wings, offering companies the much-needed fuel to drive growth. Through this perspective story, we asked some of the leading Log Tech Start-ups as to how they are braving the Covid odd and prepping for the post-Covid era…

Adoption of technology in the supply chain post COVID-19

AYUSH AGRAWAL

AYUSH AGRAWAL, Co-Founder, IntuGine Technologies: The onset and adoption of virtual communication in our day to day lives will seep into the business process. Enterprises will begin to replace legacy processes especially those that involve the exchange of paper-based documents with electronic forms of the same. We see a surge in demand for digital invoicing and electronic proof of deliveries going forward. These new-age methods will not only improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes but also ensure safety mandates such as social distancing. Apart from the digitization of paper based processes, we think the remote work culture will promote the adoption of digitization for end-to-end processes than just for specific processes.

MANISH BALANI

MANISH BALANI, Business Head – GST, Vayana Network: Large Corporates have always been very open to using best practices, processes and technology in reducing the overall costs of their supply chain. These companies develop supply chains, so they can reduce their costs and remain competitive in the business landscape. However, with the present Covid 19 situation, there will be more thrust given to keep the supply chain running even in such never-seen-before situations like a pandemic. More emphasis will be given on business continuity planning, which was never the case earlier. Technology will play a very pivotal role in this. There will be a lot more importance given to supply chain credit and finance, technology and continuity of business than ever before. Smaller businesses are also not staying back and are innovating and adopting new digital tools to minimize disruptions. Although, efforts are being put presently and will continue to be put, to digitalize everything from customs to ports to customers to deliveries, shipping lines and airlines, but it will be difficult to completely digitalize the process of flow and documentation.

SOHAM CHOKSHI

SOHAM CHOKSHI, CEO & Co-Founder, Shipsy: Being from the supply chain industry, we know while human movement around the world may reduce, cargo movement just cannot. Having said that, we are indeed moving to a new normal in terms of how we work in our daily lives. Through our interaction with the 500+ exporters and importers processing over 80,000 containers per month on our platform, we have identified three key themes:

  • Reduced dependence on "physical" especially documentation and other files which will allow the workforce to work from home
  • Tighter cost controls through:
  • Eliminating detention, demurrage
  • Tighter inventory levels with eye on transit time adherence
  • Enhancing vendor base of Freight Forwarders / Shipping lines with digital bidding
  • Moving to a "spot" driven world, with shorter rate contracts
  • Effective task management across diverse teams so that everyone knows their tasks, deadlines and can thus work from home.

From a domestic distribution perspective, one key theme, which is coming around is retailers rapidly moving to Omnichannel model. The belief is that customers will not go as much to stores / malls and instead, these store locations would become mini warehouse points for home deliveries. The local / hyperlocal models form the major discussion points with both players – retailers and 3PLs trying to adopt technology to adapt to this new normal.

CHITRANSH SAHAI

CHITRANSH SAHAI, Director & Co-Founder, GoComet: The supply chain industry's reluctance to break free from the traditional, obsolete ways of managing logistics has stifled its growth for ages. The present crisis has only brought the vulnerabilities and inefficiencies of the industry into sharp focus. Supply chain professionals have treated digitization as a choice for decades. However, today digital transformation has become critical to the survival of companies. For instance, the present market is spot rates driven as freight forwarders have been revoking existing contracts in the wake of the crisis. For organizations with hundreds of shipments per month, suddenly having to manually create, compare and negotiate each rate to ensure they have secured the best deal is impossible. At GoComet, we noticed that in recent times, our clients have rapidly extended our software to their other businesses across countries. This seldom reflects the kind of impetus the pandemic has been for businesses to opt for digital transformation. To say the least, today and in the post-COVID world, companies will either evolve by adopting digital solutions or become extinct.

DIVAY KUMAR, CEO & MD, O4S: The current pandemic has exposed the underlying vulnerabilities of supply chains, leaving businesses across the world paralyzed during the imposed lockdowns.

DIVAY KUMAR

Limitations of transportation, physical contacts, and touch points have widened the demand and supply gap further. Towards this, companies across verticals are now rethinking and revising their strategies to deal with the current situation and envisaging investment in technology as well as automation to optimize supply chains. This will further support them in the days to come as organizations will have to work on reducing their reliance on traditional methods and labor intensive norms, be it during procurement, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, to recover and bounce back.

In the quest to optimize costs and reduce losses, all stakeholders will need to be brought on to a common platform so there is visibility of operations across the supply chain. This will enable stakeholders to closely monitor stocks across supply chains and take immediate corrective measures to mitigate any untoward scenarios.

MOHAMMED ZAKKIRIA, Founder, FreightBro Logistics: Over the last 2 months, I have observed all the supply chain & logistics related challenges through multiple industry forums. One thing is very clear; our current supply chain and logistics needs lot more collaboration and we all need to work together for 10X improvement. Just like the industry fragmentation, the supply chain tech is also not interconnected in many 

MOHAMMED ZAKKIRIA

cases. Technology driven companies have a robust supply chain system, which offers them clear visibility, hence they can change their strategies in case of any crisis situations like lockdown or quickly re-align their strategies to sail through difficult times.

Right from the customer demand to ordering to manufacturing to shipping to selling / delivering to end customers, we see more tech collaborations in the future to make this chain seamless and get the complete visibility of goods and information to predict the data trends. CXOs and supply chain heads are always keeping abreast of new developments disrupting their industries, to stay updated on the available opportunities. During the lockdown, most of them would have re-looked at their existing supply chain operations, identified the gaps and explored possible areas for improvement. Technology has the biggest role to play here, at the same time, one cannot do everything. Adapting to new business models, plug-in right solutions, end-to-end integrations are going to be the primary focus. To make better and quicker decisions, companies should have the information they need to adjust their strategies in real time. Covid exposed the current challenges as well as possible opportunities to strengthen the supply chain ecosystem.

Gearing up for the changing times

SOHAM CHOKSHI, CEO & Co-Founder, Shipsy: At Shipsy, we are offering end to end technology solutions that help:

Importers and exporters reduce freight costs by 5-6% through:

  • Digital rate procurement and e-bidding
  • Digital document and task management
  • Automated tracking and ETA refresh through Shipping Line integration
  • Invoice reconciliation and auto deviation indication from contracted rates

Retailers reduce distribution/logistics costs by 9-10% through:

  • Automated route planning and system suggested procurement of market vehicles
  • Integration with hyperlocal delivery players
  • Integration with courier partners for unified booking and tracking
  • Digital POD and Zero Contact Delivery

Overall, COVID has accelerated the adoption of technology all around, to ensure that unnecessary costs can be reduced and there is no dependency of physical presence in offices. For players that can offer a SaaS based platform with no large upfront fees, no need to do setup, an easy free trial – this is a tremendous opportunity to partner with all the players across the supply chain.

Divay Kumar, CEO & MD, O4S: O4S is helping over 35 clients across industry verticals get visibility into their supply chain and subsequently help optimize them. Our team consists of experts from across industries who with the help of learnings from these clients have developed multiple products that are focused on bringing all stakeholders of complex supply chains on a common platform. In accordance to asking of the coming times, we have designed the entire suite of offerings on an easy to deploy, highly scalable SaaS platform available to clients across industries. The solution doesn’t warrant any capital expenditure as the costing is based on a ‘pay as you use’ model.

Ayush Agrawal, Co-Founder, IntuGine Technologies: We, as an enterprise, have made full use of the opportunity presented to us by the pandemic. We have revamped our internal processes, developed more solution offerings, and have made necessary changes to our current products. We think the pandemic has really made enterprises more aware of the fact that digitized infrastructure is a key factor in retaining stability during uncertain times and so we expect a surge in demand for end-to-end process digitization requirements and we are very well prepared for that.

Manish Balani, Business Head – GST, Vayana Network: With the changing times, Vayana, as the largest 3rd party supply chain finance network in India, is keen to explore newer sub-sectors for extending credit in the logistics sector. Also, as the largest GSP in the ecosystem, providing GST and e-way bill pass through APIs, Vayana can help logistics as well as logtech players in automating their e-way bill creation and allied activities. Since the year 2018 when eWay Bill compliance became effective nationwide, Vayana GSP is working with several solution providers [ASPs] to address the requirements of corporates, logistic firms and SMEs for enabling an easier and integrated eWay Bill compliance experience. These APIs are envisaged to be consumed by large taxpayers and logistic firms/platforms who have substantially large volume of transactions. We have integration with NIC and have been enabling several solution providers to integrate to NIC through Vayana GSP.

Chitransh Sahai, Director & Co-Founder, GoComet: At present, our focus is on keeping a close eye on the market trends and developing products that equip supply chain professionals to navigate the new normal. For example, in response to the COVID-19 disruptions, we developed the GoComet port delay module. Through this module, we are freely sharing our live global freight visibility data with companies around the world. The user has to simply search for the port of his choice in the search field and the module instantly displays the average and maximum delay for that port.

The idea is to keep coming up with innovative solutions to help companies in this time of crisis and beyond. The impact of COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented demand for smarter, automated solutions. As every company would want to invest in building agile supply chains, now is the perfect time for tech players in the logistics space to tap into this demand. To give an example, the industry is sure to witness a surge in adoption of cloud-based systems as they offer scalability, easy integration with existing systems and reliability for businesses across borders.

As cost-saving strategies have become important to companies more than ever today, there is going to be immense scope for any service or product that is going to help companies drive cost savings. In a nutshell, those with unique solutions to actual problems are sure to win in the post-COVID world.

Mohammed Zakkiria, Founder, FreightBro Logistics: At FreightBro, we are digitizing the freight forwarding companies, not just in India but globally now. This particular segment in the supply chain requires the highest level of digital transformation, data standardization and tech collaboration. For a single shipment, there are dozens of parties involved and it requires hundreds of e-mail exchange, phone communications and someone has to physically carry the documents both at origin and destination. The systems are siloed and the processes followed are mostly analog, due to which the overall operations become less productive and creating inefficiencies across the supply chain. Post COVID-19, many freight forwarding companies will accelerate their digital transformation in order to adhere contactless sales, better customer engagement or make more business sense. Also, we expect significant investments in customer facing platforms / new solutions, which can help them to digitize faster and stay competitive. We see a huge potential here as the demand for such solutions has been on the rise since the first lockdown. Covid-19 has opened up opportunities for many logtech players. There is a huge mindset shift towards digital solutions, which can make supply chain more agile and well connected. Technologies like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Warehouse automation, robotics will make bigger impact and reshape the future.

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