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Logistics Companies Await the Fruits of Months-long Festive Preparations Working round-the-clock alongside manufacturers and sellers are Indian logistics players as they endeavour to ensure the timely delivery of goods to consumers' doorsteps as well as nearby physical stores. To this end, their preparations began months ago

By Soumya Duggal

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With today marking the first day of Navratri, the festive season has officially arrived in India. Naturally, the demand for consumer goods is beginning to shoot up, especially on account of the absence of pandemic-induced restrictions which had dampened celebrations in the last two years.

Working round-the-clock alongside manufacturers and sellers are Indian logistics players as they endeavour to ensure the timely delivery of goods—spanning categories such as fashion, jewellery, FMCGs, electronics, etc.—to consumers' doorsteps as well as nearby physical stores. To this end, their preparations began months ago.

"As the country's homegrown e-commerce marketplace, we feel the festive season is an opportunity to create value for all stakeholders including sellers, customers, kiranas and ecosystem partners," said Hemant Badri, senior VP and head of supply chain, Flipkart.

"We are predicting a 50 percent increase in demand and are all set to support our sellers to deliver a seamless customer experience," added Saahil Goel, CEO and co-founder, Shiprocket.

Early Start for Success

Festive preparations at Pune-based Xpressbees started about six months to a year back, targeting coordination among delivery partners, store partners, manpower agencies and vehicle vendors. "We invested in BTS properties, meg sorters, PLT, handling equipment HPTS, scanners and IT infrastructure to ramp up our services across the value chain," said Harshal Bhoi, chief business officer, Xpressbees.

"We have an extremely strong network in 300 cities and this season we are also expanding to 30-40 more cities and towns. This year companies are expecting a steady rise in consumer demand, and we'll be supporting all their logistics needs within the last-mile and mid-mile segments. We'll also be supporting them with short-haul this year," said Prasad Sreeram, CEO and co-founder, COGOS.

"With our new partnerships with companies like Rocketbox (a cargo shipping business), Glaucus (a supply chain management solution), Wigzo (a marketing automation platform), Pickrr (a logistics aggregator), and recently, Omuni, (Arvind Internet's retail enablement business), we are providing brands with a one-stop solution for all their e-commerce needs," said Goel.

Consumer Demand Upturn in Tier II & III Cities

Recent reports have indicated that a steep rise in consumer demand is being observed not only in the country's urban centres but also in Tier II and III cities. To be well-prepared for this situation, Gurugram-based full-truck freight marketplace Raaho is expanding its presence across cities such as Bilaspur, Rudrapur, Karnal, Palwal, Sonipat and Tirupur.

"We have launched a dedicated office in Bhiwandi, in addition to those in Gandhidham and Pune in the country's western parts, because the more than 1500 warehouses in and around Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust–Nhava Sheva (JNPT) are bursting with an outlook of business of a lot more than the average 20,000 crore a month they do! Besides, with our 24X7 support teams, we are well equipped to meet the growing demand across Tier II and III cities, regardless of the availability of physical offices," said Imthiaz (who goes by only the first name), CEO and co-founder, Raaho.

According to Bhoi, in source locations such as Surat, Jaipur and Bangalore, the pick-up volume increases between 1.5 and 3 times during specific weeks of the festive season. This year, the company expects clothing and electronic goods, especially, to experience a 50 to 100 per cent spike in demand during certain days in remote locations.

"We have also strengthened our pan-India Kirana Delivery Program this year with more than 2,00,000 Kirana partners, who will help deliver customer shipments across the country, including the metros as well as Tier II and Tier III cities. Through this we hope to augment their incomes while also generating indirect jobs at the Kirana locations," stated Badri.

Season of Employment

In order to manage high demand during festivities, many logistics providers have been focussing on hiring, retaining and monitoring adequate and appropriate talent pool through quality training programmes, whose progress is measured by customer satisfaction scores.

"We are looking to increase our staff count by 100 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In other states we are looking to increase the staff count by 20-30 per cent. That said, this new hiring will not be just for the festive season. Every year we see the festive season as a step up, and the season becomes a new base for us," explained Sreeram.

Providing incentives (such as higher salaries, festive bonuses, rewards upon completion of contractual time periods, retention packages, etc.) is a potent way of ensuring that employees support the company in sailing through the festive season smoothly.

"We are hiring adhoc, off-roll and variable pay staff (per packet delivery) with attractive bonuses and allowance linked with volume, attendance, productivity and delivery experience. We ensure our delivery partners and business associates also benefit adequately during the festive season to keep them motivated," said Bhoi.

For COGOS, however, the special rewards and recognition programs run throughout the year, not specifically for the festive season alone. "We don't believe in just bonuses, we believe in incentivizing the performance," said Sreeram.

'Cashing' in the Festivals

As logistics providers gear up for the first unrestricted festive period in over two years, they express optimism about the potential growth in their shipments as well as revenue. The season has already led to a surge in truck suppliers on Raaho's platform by about 25 per cent. "This year, intercity freight rates are shooting up due to limited supply and urgency around time-bound festive deliveries. North-bound traffic is seeing a rise in the movement of electronics while south is witnessing some upward movement in food items. With our Bhiwandi launch in addition to Gandhidham and Pune, the west is witnessing phenomenal growth for us across categories," said Imthiaz.

With regards to the expected hike in COGOS' shipments and revenue, Sreeram said, "We are expecting an increase of 200 per cent than regular. There are multiple stages before e-commerce. There is manufacturing and other segments in logistics. We have seen that this season is overall good for everyone, not just e-commerce but retail and FMCG also picks up heavily during this period."

Soumya Duggal

Former Feature Writer

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