We have built our decisions completely on data-backed predictive models

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Facing regulatory and social pressure about sustainability, concerns about cyber security, and an increasingly difficult retail market, many companies have been slow to catch up with the new circumstances of supply chain management. Predictive analytics presents tangible solutions to so many of these modern woes. Aditya Shah, Executive Director, V-Trans (India) informs Upamanyu Borah, how their functions have increasingly moved from being reactive to proactive and predictive, in the wake of the crisis, allowing for improving operational productivity and better customer satisfaction.

What is the current state of your transportation and warehousing segments?

Both the segments are dependent on the manufacturing and supply of finished goods. As manufacturing and supply chain cycle has started rolling, transportation is also moving and facilitating the same.

Besides, inventories that clients couldn’t collect or take due to lockdown and the new load making our transshipments full to the capacity, we are prioritising the inventory based on essential services and critical importance to the clients.

Likewise, warehouses are full with inventory. Because manufacturing activities came to a halt, the inventories remained ideal in the warehouses. However, at present, we see good traction in the warehousing activities.

We are now close to 80–85% of our pre-COVID business levels. Given the short-term scenario, we hope to adequately recover by October 20 and be better, going forward.

How efficiently have you been able to assist domestic supply chains and keep cargo moving during the crisis?

V-Trans is predominantly operating in the domestic market only. Our network and infrastructure is penetrated across India and we cover every nook and corner of the country. Similarly, our clientele is from across geographies and industries. As we move both raw materials and finished goods, our role becomes very significant to keep up the economy.

In the initial few days, we partly halted and only served emergency services. But soon we started supporting all essential deliveries adhering to government and industry rules and instructions. In a short time, we made our services functional and available for every logistical and transportation need.

In totality, as we have our own fleets, loyal set of ground staff and drivers as well as attached fleets, cargo movement did not experience any hindrance. It was the local lockdown and containment zone which had put the cycle into a lower gear.

What are those aspects of the sector you believe require adequate attention from the government and industry alike?

Clear guidelines on movement, controlled fuel prices, and better coordination between the state and Centre on many aspects would prove beneficial to the industry and ease existing complexities.

Will the cold chain continue to be a vibrant sector or has to remodel many of its aspects after the jolts of the pandemic?

For perishable cargo and pharma, cold chain would continue to be a vibrant sector. In this hour of a global outbreak, the wastage of food can prove to be another disaster we can’t afford. This could be minimised with a better prevalence of cold chain market and infrastructure in the country.

A robust cold chain infrastructure with effective policy support and implementation strategy can go a long way in unprecedented times such as now.

How do you ensure vertical integration with the distribution network, thereby allowing direct control of the market and also customers?

We provide end-to-end solution right from express to hard freight to value added services like warehousing which allows customers to have single roof solution.

Our central procurement cell has created an ecosystem of vendors and we float the queries to all vendors simultaneously. Hence, the market rates remain within our control supported by the ongoing benchmarks.

In the wake of the crisis, what are the top 3 areas in which technology has had a deep impact on the way V-Trans works?

Communication– This is one area where technology has come to our aid, especially in the recent times. Decision making has become faster, thanks to the virtual platforms that made connecting with colleagues and clients possible at any time. Our communication channels have developed better and we remain constantly updated with the information required for problem solving and immediately address our customer’s concerns.

Business intelligence and predictive decision making– In the last couple of years, we have built our decisions completely on data-backed predictive models with accuracy of 95% and above. This has really helped us in many areas of network expansion, business development, enhancing service levels, ultimately impacting the bottom line positively.

eCargo, our in-house ERP has been the backbone since inception. All the data is hosted there, with intelligence built in to bring efficiency and service enhancement. We have recently upgraded it to a more mobile-friendly version. One can now access the full ERP services on mobile from anywhere; this has also helped us immensely for flawless execution of operational objectives amid the ongoing crisis.

There’s an enormous amount of talk around it, but how important is data and information to logistics professionals as they work to improve e-commerce delivery efficiency?

Data is extremely critical to any industry and any function. It has often been said ‘Data is new Oil’. Whether it’s in the logistics, e-commerce retail or any other industry, using data is not a choice anymore.

The kind of complexities that exist and the very thin margins of error, data is the only way out to plan things well.

Besides, predictive analysis gives you more confidence on your business strategy. You can check multiple times in your train and test data at what confidence level and accuracy you want to move ahead.

Specifically, in e-commerce, there are many areas where data helps, be it inventory routing, location optimisation, sentiment analysis, demand and delivery forecasting, predictive modelling, and more.

The carbon footprint of the logistics sector is high, and there is increasing pressure on the sector to be environmentally sustainable. How are you addressing this issue?

The industry has always been one of the major contributors to the cause. Although we have innovations like eTrucks which has the power to make substantial impact directly on the issue, however for a country like India, this will take considerable time to be a commercially viable option.

Everybody needs to play their part for conserving the environment, and we are proud that our company has been steadily progressing in that direction.

Our corporate office which is a ‘green building’ is LEAD certified. Besides, at many places we have done rain harvesting measures. We also abide by electronic waste policy. Most of our trucks comply with latest BS norms. Further, we always use undiluted fuel for our own trucks.

We keep a keen focus on health and mental well-being of our drivers and on-ground staff through various trainings and camps, thus encouraging a healthy and happy ecosystem for logistics industry.

Going forward, how will emerging trends, structural changes, and new markets redefine your company?

We have transitioned from a regional transporter to a pan-India single window logistics solutions provider. We have in the process learned and built new technologies and process. During the journey, we have also created some strength that makes our company unique– on the national level the scale that we operate for LTL segment can be compared to none. Our diverse industry base and capabilities to deliver any load in any geography in the country is also noteworthy.

While we continue to further increase our strengths, we also adapt to the emerging trends like lean management, integrated approach, big data and automation.

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