How a digitized logistics network will smoothen distribution of the vaccine

Health officials take part in a mock drill for Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine delivery. Source: AFP

How digitized supply chains will help combat COVID-19 in India

  • India’s logistics sector is expected to play a key role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution this year – digitizing the supply chain can greatly enhance its efficiency

The logistics sector was a key player in the movement of essentials and medical supplies during the nearly two-month-long lockdown in India last year. But in order to maintain its resilience as the country recovers from the pandemic, it will need to modernize its supply chain infrastructure.

Or at least that’s how R S Subramaniam, the senior vice president and managing director of DHL Express, perceives the local logistics space. India’s USD 215 billion logistics sector is one of the largest globally and has been growing at a CAGR of 10.5%, according to a recent report.

“For the logistics sector, the year (2020) has been a busy one! More so during the lockdown, when the sector emerged as the key player in prioritizing the shipments of essentials and medical goods,” DHL Express Senior Vice President and MD R S Subramanian said. “As the vaccines get rolled out hopefully in the next few months, logistics will again be at the core of the next stage of the battle against the virus in 2021.”

The changing global geopolitical situation will open doors for Indian trade to remain competitive and also provide more opportunities for the country’s smaller and midrange businesses. Staying competitive and becoming a global sourcing base for a variety of sectors including auto, fashion, life sciences and food processing, among others, is an opportunity that needs to be harnessed, according to Subramanian.

“This will give a big boost to the Indian economy and aid it to recover fast,” said Subramanian, adding that along with the need for reforms to simplify India’s regulatory framework, digitalizing and adding transparency to the supply chain will take precedence.

This is because digitalizing the supply chain now might help to streamline costs in the long run, with the government aiming to lower the logistics cost from the present 14% of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to less than 10% by 2022.

To that end, updating the supply chain with newer, proven technologies like AI, machine learning, IoT, and blockchain to both streamline processes, as well as to enhance transparency and accountability will remain a critical driver for value creation, adds Rampraveen Swaminathan, the MD and CEO of Mahindra Logistics (MLL).

For most logistics players including MLL, the main, initial challenge of 2021 will be the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain throughout the country. “At MLL, we are in the process of partnering across the ecosystem to help develop fit for purpose solutions across the value chain,” he said.

Additionally, a strong chain of right technology infrastructure to support the vaccine data is being mapped across the supply chain, Swaminathan added. “Going forward, we continue to see an increased level of service integration, higher growth in fulfillment logistics and increased adoption of multi-modal transportation for cost optimization,” he said.