The State of Logistics During Lockdown
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Businesses have gone through a lot since day one of the COVID-19 outbreak. First, a suspension of manufacturing units in China impacted international trade which had a domino effect on the global supply chain. Then, the nationwide lockdown and stringent impositions completely jammed the logistics industry in India. Labour shortages also resulted in limited availability of transportation facilities.
Though largely unorganized, the logistics sector is the lifeline of India. It holds critical importance as it connects markets, suppliers, and customers spread across the length and breadth of the country. Thankfully, with some relaxations in the lockdown mandates, the wheels appear to be now moving.
The decision to exempt the logistics of essential products from the lockdown appeared logical and necessary. It was taken in the wake of a growing crisis wherein consumers flooded grocery stores to grab even the last essential item stacked on shelves. The unwarranted panic buying not only depleted the stocks at a faster rate but also posed a threat to social distancing. Hence, the logistics sector was granted access to intervene and help tackle the situation effectively.
Limited products and operations
Soon after, the sector was allowed to deliver essential products to select 17,229 PIN codes out of the 26,000 that were serviceable before the lockdown was imposed. As per the trends revealed by a Shiprocket survey, medicines and food items emerged as the top essential commodities comprising a share of 80 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, during this period. Comparatively, personal care, supplements, and pet care products held relatively low demand in this category. The shipments containing non-essential goods remained stuck in hubs during transit meanwhile. In other words, they were absent from the supply-chain landscape.
Insufficient sellers in the ecosystem
The lockdown-led restrictions had an obvious impact on delivery and pick up of goods across all cities. Citing operational constraints, even the renowned e-commerce platforms along with smaller players initially made their logistics services inaccessible to the sellers on their platform.
In same lockdown report by Shiprocket, with a sample size of 1,931 sellers, metro cities and popular centers clocked the maximum to and fro of goods. Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru registered the highest numbers of pickups and deliveries, followed by Gurgaon and Hyderabad. It is noteworthy that the number of sellers active during the lockdown was only 7 per cent of those operating in the pre-COVID period.
Viewing the constantly deteriorating state of the economy, reopening the businesses became imperative for the authorities. But, not before ensuring the precautionary health measures.
With the pandemic’s positive cases climbing up the ladder, manufacturing units facing closures, and declining economic health of the businesses, restoring normalcy appeared a distant dream for the logistics industry. Hence, emerged a need for remedy that could mitigate the impact of the virus from the supply chain, help businesses reopen with confidence, and, simultaneously, ensure the safety of the industry workforce.
Tech to the rescue
Fortunately, tech-based services have enabled delivery sellers and courier companies to resume business. New-age applications have made ‘contactless solutions’ a reality while minimizing the risk of contracting the contagion for both the delivery agents and the customers. It has served as an antidote to instil confidence among industry-stakeholders and has majorly contributed towards getting supply-chain back on its feet. Tech-led delivery aggregators have created a safe and sanitized environment for logistics to operate.
Authorities have also green-lit the shipping of non-essentials in the government listed red, orange, and green zones, although no shipments will be made to containment zones. With blockages getting eliminated, the system is expected to regain its strength soon. However, it will still take miles for the industry to cover the lockdown-induced lags.