In the midst of the festive season, when the consumer spirits and demands are at their highest levels, retail and online marketplaces grab the opportunity to cash in on the seasonal rush. However, with the merriness of the holiday season, businesses face unique challenges, which can topple their efficiency of operations leaving the consumer with disappointment.
To understand the key ingredients required to carry out operations effortlessly during the festivities, we reached out to K Satyanarayana, Co-founder & Director, Ecom Express – one of India’s leading end-to-end technology-enabled logistics solutions providers. In this exclusive interview with Logistics Insider, Mr Satyanarayana spills the beans about how his company carried out unhindered operations during the festive sale, the benefits of a seasonal hiring spree, their reverse logistics strategy and much more. Edited excerpts:
During the first week of festival sale, goods worth $4.6 billion (INR 32,000 crore) have been sold online, with Flipkart Group emerging as the leader with its big billion days sale accounting for 64% market share. Kindly elaborate on how did Ecom Express manage efficient and unhindered operations during the festive sales?
To respond to the unprecedented surge in festive sales, we ensured service enhancements through technology, automation, advanced analytics, and data science for efficient and unhindered operations. We had further strengthened our network, infrastructure, and operational efficiency in anticipation of the upswing. Our data analyses help us predict volume trends so that we can plan our operations accordingly. We are also strengthening our operations by investing in automation to manage scale and improve productivity in all functions, such as finance, human resources, operations, and network planning.
As consumer behaviour changes, the festive online sale season with each passing year becomes grander and grander and puts more pressure on the logistics companies to meet the increased demand. Throw some lights on how expansion in processing capacity and investment in automation ahead of the holiday help logistics player tackle the festive rush with ease?
The company has taken a slew of measures to be ahead of the curve and expanded its capabilities to be better prepped for the online festive sales and to support the growth of the industry. As a leading provider of technology-based end-to-end logistics solutions for the e-commerce industry, and as part of our commitment to evolve ahead, we have invested in hi-speed automatic sorting machines in the centres and hubs to manage the increase in volumes. We have also expanded our total hub and processing areas in all major centres of India to a higher processing capacity. The expanded facilities include large format sort centres, hubs, fulfilment centres, and delivery centres.
A significant portion of the investment in expansion and automation, including upgrading, was activated before the festive season across India. The company has also established many new delivery centres across India to serve more areas and trim down the delivery time.
A skilled workforce is the essence of any business operation. How is skilled staff a factor of great comfort during the festive rush? Also, how can companies ease their festive stress and attend to the inventory influx with a seasonal hiring spree?
Customer focus is at the forefront of our strategy, and we have been nimble and agile in aligning our infrastructure, technology, people, and processes to ensure better service results. As a responsible player in the industry and its surrounding ecosystem, we are constantly striving to improve our entire supply chain network which is well synchronized and provides transparent services to our customers. To prepare for the surge of online shopping, supported by the festive sales and a growing preference for door-to-door delivery, we have created seasonal jobs in our sort centres, hubs, fulfilment, and delivery centres across the country. Online order demand is growing as people have finally come out of fear of the pandemic and embraced the new normal, so the industry will also see a huge influx of talent across all functions.
Consumer demand for same-day and next-day delivery has made delivery time an essential part of the e-commerce logistics operations. Throw some light on the strategies adopted by Ecom Express to cater to this growing trend?
E-commerce is a dynamic industry and has undergone rapid transformations over the past two years. Unlike courier services 10-15 years ago, where express delivery was limited to high value, low weight packages, all other products these days deserve express delivery, as demands have evolved. As a company, we operate in the e-commerce sector where express delivery plays an essential role. Our facility centres are strategically located across the country and our model is based on strong delivery service capability, scalability, and customization. We leverage technology and automation to enable first-mile pickup, processing, mid-mile network, and last-mile delivery solutions. We have also invested in innovative, technological, and mobility solutions and opportunities that increase and support productivity and efficiency to support better services.
As the festive season increases sales and revenue by 3-4x, the pressure of returns and reverse logistics also increases multifold. How does Ecom Express prepare itself for the deluge of increased returns?
With the ongoing growth of e-commerce, the volume of return orders continues to soar and more so during the festival season. When it comes to returns, we ensure that the reverse logistics process is as hassle-free as possible. We provide regular Returns solutions, as well as Quality Check Return solutions (subject to product conditions and other parameters meeting the customer’s return policy), by simplifying and streamlining the return of goods from the end customers back to sellers or its point of origin resulting in faster refund or replacements. We pre-empted the surge in volumes during the festive season and have been continually optimizing our processes, including handling returns, to provide an enhanced customer experience. We have ramped up our returns management solutions and our advanced tracking system, to enhance customer experience, wherein customers can track the reverse movement of goods. The robust network that we have created not only caters to forward logistics but also enables us to handle the surge of returns requirements by e-commerce brands.
Throw some light on the newly launched Ecom Sanjeev program and what it aims to achieve.
Our Delivery Partner Program called Ecom Sanjeev Program (ESP) aims to create part-time employment opportunities where people can work flexible hours to maximize their income by delivering e-commerce packages to end customers. This flagship program, in addition to empowering the workforce together, helps increase the company’s delivery capacity to ensure speed, reliability, and efficient logistics solutions to deliver ordered products safely online at the doorstep of customers.
Any individual – fresher or experienced – can take up this part-time job for additional income by applying online using the Ecom Sanjeev app available on Google Playstore. They will have the flexibility to choose their preferred time slots and workdays. The delivery partner must possess a valid driving license with a vehicle and must have a smartphone. All personal documents for enrolment can be uploaded through the app and the verification will be done at the nearest Ecom Express centre.
The program aims to create opportunities for students, homemakers, and individuals looking to supplement and maximize their income by delivering e-commerce packages during their spare time.