Logistics sector inches back to normalcy; return to total normal expected in a few months

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As the nation inches towards ‘Unlock 3.0’ the logistics segment has observed around 75 per cent normalcy and is moving towards pre-lockdown levels. There are hopes that it will be normal in the next couple of months.

Even during the lockdown, the roadways and the railways had been less affected when compared to the airways and waterways. The major impediment had been the disruption in services due to the absence of truck drivers—a number of truck drivers had left for their villages during the lockdown and did not return soon. There was also an attempt by transport companies to make up for the shortfall of drivers.

It is expected that the logistics industry in India stands to benefit in the coming days, with opportunities ironically arising from a difficult environment brought forth by the COVID-19 crisis. One of the major trends observed during the pandemic-induced lockdown has been the substantial rise in e-commerce segment, leading the market players to re-evaluate their logistics footprint and seek a decentralised approach that can offer greater flexibility and proximity to major urban centres, and insulate their supply chains in a better manner against such unprecedented events.

“The fact that the logistics industry has risen to the occasion to service customer needs, despite COVID-19 uncertainties, indicates that the industry is resilient enough to make a relatively faster recovery and emerge stronger. Going forward, we envisage the logistics industry to strengthen on the back of gradually improving domestic demand and a revival in the manufacturing sector post the COVID-19 crisis. The government is currently working on a National Logistics Policy in order to promote seamless movement of goods across the country, the implementation of which is expected to augment investment in the sector significantly. The industry today is at the cusp of technology-led solutions, infrastructure and skilled resources, which, in the forthcoming period, will usher in greater efficiency in operations, thereby ensuring better quality of services and customer management.” pointed out Dr. Shrinivas Rao, CEO-APAC, Vestian Global Workplace Services.

Many logistics players are observing a return of near normalcy in demand from fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and food segment while other industrial segments are expected to take more time to recover. “We are seeing a return to about 75 per cent of normalcy in the FMCG and food segment. However, industrial movements remain subdued with many of our customers struggling with man power and demand issues.” observed Nikhil Sunil, co-founder and director, FreightX, an on-demand logistics company.

Many experts also feel that adopting new technologies can also change the way logistics segment works in India. “The logistics industry is one of the key pillars of the economy and has played a crucial role in these COVID-19 times. Like any other express logistics business, we did face a turmoil in the month of April with everything coming to a halt; however, we bounced back. By May 2020, we were back to 60 per cent of our earlier numbers, and in the month of July, we hit close to 90 per cent of our pre-lockdown figures. We have been operational in almost all pin codes across the country since the crisis. However, whenever government lockdowns or containment areas have been imposed, we monitor these and we stop and resume our services accordingly in those pin codes. Currently, we have resumed operations to most of the locations now,” remarked Abhik Mitra, MD and CEO of Spoton Logistics, a multi-modal express logistics company.

Mitra further said there is a huge opportunity for companies in the logistics space to innovate and respond to the challenges in an effective manner. “Enterprises are now better equipped with technology that helps them automate various functions, resulting in operational efficiencies. Adopting digitisation and advanced technologies will empower businesses to effectively function in the new normal,”, added Mitra.

There are many companies that are working on providing technical know-how to logistics players to adopt new technologies to streamline their processes and also maintain social distancing in the present circumstances. “From our observation of servicing clients in the logistics sector, we can clearly see that roadways and railways are relatively less affected by the COVID-19 impact on the logistics sector when compared to the airways and waterways. Due to heavy restrictions on international transport, roadways and railways have emerged highly important to maintain the optimum supply chain, especially for essential commodities. In the COVID-19 environment, where contactless interaction is the top priority, automation technologies have found faster adoption than ever in logistics. Interestingly, we are also seeing a massive surge in demand for IoT smart locks for trucks and warehouses both in India and South East Asia. The fact that you can open the lock from anywhere in real time helps warehouse managers control pilferage in transit or storage while completely eliminating physical keys which can be carriers of COVID-19 and risk lives while changing multiple hands,” remarked Gotama Gowda, founder and CEO of Openapp.

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