India’s e-commerce market is growing at an astonishing 30% CAGR and logistics, shipping, and delivery together make up the soul of the supply chain management process. One of the major players of the arena, Ecom Express, is keeping the show running with a focus on speed, safety and reliability and has won the trust of giants like Flipkart and Amazon. We spoke to K Satyanarayana, Co-Founder and Director, Ecom Express, to understand how the future of e-commerce in India looks like from a logistical standpoint. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
What are some of the megatrends that have the potential to elevate the significance of the express logistics industry from a purely operational role to an increasingly strategic one?
When we talk about megatrends in the e-commerce industry, the reach is the basic engine. This means, if you want to intensify your play in the system, you need to strengthen your reach. Today, the end-user is available wherever he has access to a smartphone. The range of end-users can be anywhere from a remote village in Tamil Nadu to all the way up north in Kashmir. Today, even the industry is claiming to have built traction in the rural area (close to 60%). We at Ecom Express cover almost 26000 pin codes pan India which is close to Indian posts, with which we have enabled industries and emerged as the growth driver in the new market. We have reached out to unique pin codes and markets which were not accessible back then. This has in turn, allowed us to get orders from the remote areas. We acted as an enabler in driving the e-commerce growth in these rural markets.
Everything runs on customer promise and it is all about customer experience. The customer expects two primary things: intact packet and on-time delivery. The players like us are really fine-tuning that and that is going to be a continuous exercise. In providing customer experience, there are three main points- one is shortening the delivery cycle. The second is giving a customer experience not only in terms of brand value but also in terms of on-time delivery and customer interface at the time of delivery. The third element is managing the scale and capacity to ship. In order to keep up with the 30-35% year-on-year growth of the industry, automation will prove to be a key enabler. Delhi NCR, Bombay, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Surat and Jaipur are some places that will prove to be critical markets for the same.
How has Ecom Express been able to implement multi-modal distribution for both B2B and B2C segments for optimum on-time delivery?
We cater to the B2B customer but our service is B2C. The commitment to both the B2B and B2C customers are different. In the case of B2B, it’s a commercial emergency and in the case of B2C, it is a personal requirement. Thus, the time-definite next-day deliveries are more prevalent when it comes to B2B while in B2C there is still some tolerance.
As a company, we have commitments towards our e-commerce customers with respect to keeping our promise made to them. Our whole network planning is defined on the basis of customer promise. We mostly deliver via road but when we talk about the multi-modal distribution pan-India, in order to keep the customer promise, we operate via air or road transportation or a combination of both. It is completely aligned on the terms of road transportation, long hauls, milk runs.
Time is the essence of business. The customer expectations are all about the shortening the delivery cycle. The purchase pattern at present is more impulsive. On-time delivery gives customers happiness. Consequently, e-commerce players are moving towards same-day and one-day deliveries. However, one-day delivery depends on the availability of the supply. They are aligning their complete promise on the availability of supply and are bringing the inventories closer to the customers’ location in order to operate seamlessly.
In December, Ecom Express closed a $36 million funding round from CDC. How do you plan to utilize the funds apart from growing your footprint?
With our recent funding, we are looking forward to further automating our business and investing in data sciences and analysis- we are looking forward to more tech-based activity. In e-commerce, the peak season defines the success of the company. Hence, we want to build us the requisite infrastructure to match the scale of the season by investing in 4-5 smart hubs where we will have a fully-automated system so that we can easily manage the scale and size, particularly during the season.
Cargo security has been a huge concern for the industry as well as the end consumer. What systems have you put in place in order to eliminate theft and pilferage?
In terms of security, significant improvement has been made in terms of tech support on long and short-haul cargo deliveries. We have fully aligned and managed all our transportation to our operations only. That means there are dedicated ones with the scheduled time of departure and arrival.
Every vehicle that is operated by us is complete with security features. That means, every vehicle is enabled with electronic locks- which are controlled by OTPs. In addition to this, we have proper visibility of the amount of product loaded in every vehicle. This helps us mitigate transit losses.
In case of aviation side, we need to operate through cargo agents. We get proper challans which are signed back to back on the booking of bags. Moreover, at the time of booking, our offices are informed about the number of booking immediately. These validation checks and balances have enabled us to mitigate transit losses, although there could be a few incidents even then.
So far as processing centres or hubs are concerned, including customer interface at the delivery site, all the facilities are under CCTV and we have complete control over the activity of the people.
In addition to this, there are checks and balances with regard to employee’s entry and exit in office and declaration of their phones with IMEI number before entering the office.
In delivery centres, we have control over how many shipments are carried by each staff. With shipments, the employee is given an employee code and date and time at which the shipment is taken out. The delivery centre-in-charge has complete visibility and access to the dashboard through an app, where he can completely monitor the performance of the delivery staff. We ensure that the customer never incurs losses. Apart from this we also have an in-house security and loss prevention team which takes care of the losses.
Skilled workforce has a positive relationship with a reduction in cost, reduction in time, improvement in reliability, flexibility, and safety of a logistics system. What initiatives are taken by Ecom Express in this regard?
As a company, we are at an advantage since majority of our workforce consist of full-time employees and 70% are on-role. We provide them with in-house training. We are also associated with the National Skill Development Council whose members conduct one-day training programs at our campus. Our employees perform and handle tasks exactly the way they have been trained. So, when it comes to handling the shipment, we train them to handle it with care as even the slightest damage of the order package heightens the chances of customers rejecting the order.
Also, the delivery boy is endowed with soft skill training that enables him to interact with our end consumers and deliver a good experience.