Understanding the volatility of supply chains during the Indian festive season

In Conversation with Dr Anil Chinnabhandar, Landmark Group

As the festive season approaches, companies (both traditional and contemporary) expect to see growing volumes of customer demands. In order to provide a seamless shopping experience, some companies even go the extra mile of creating seasonal employment opportunities to augment their fulfilment mechanisms.

The Dubai-based multi-billion dollar retail and hospitality conglomerate Landmark Group launched its first apparel brand ‘Lifestyle’ in India in 1999. Today, it is one of the leading retail companies of India and has earmarked its spot by delivering on-trend clothing and accessories to its customers on time without any excuse. Dr Anil Chinnabhandar, Senior Vice President – Retail Planning and Supply Chain, Landmark Group, in an exclusive interview, talks about the inside story of its supply chain, which never fails to make shopping a joyful experience for its customers. Excerpts follow:

Apparel is an extremely agile industry in nature where trends swing upside down within a span of a few days or weeks. Considering this factor, how do you plan inventory of apparels at Max’s stores across India?

Apparel consumption has become a more frequent phenomenon than ever before for the average Indian consumer. Regular consumers have started adopting fashionability and being on-trend. Looking good and feeling good with what they wear has become a critical personality factor.

Max fashion, while sticking to its core philosophy of democratising fashion, has reoriented its entire supply chain to offer ‘freshness’ on the retail floors regularly to cater to their customers’ needs.

Max’s customers typically visit stores in every 3 to 4 weeks and frequency increase manifold during the festive season

Max has also understood the pulse of their customer to shop via omnichannel – online, kiosk, market place, click & collect routes, and cater to such needs through single view inventory across the supply chain.

In the present era of e-commerce, areas like apparel, lifestyle and consumer electronics have become extremely competitive to operate. How do you manage the pressure related to logistics during festive seasons when demand spikes manifold?

Apparel purchases are an integral part of the festive seasons in India. Fortunately, Indian festive season pans across the country for a longer period of almost around 60 – 75 days, ensuring customers get multiple chance and choice to purchase clothing, accessories etc. to suit every occasion.

However, this season is the single largest trading period of the year, and thus, retailers like Landmark Group prepare as early as 3 months before to plan the movement of merchandise across geographies.

There are several consignments of fresh merchandise being supplied every 2-3 weeks to the retail stores. There are wide varieties of merchandise which will even attract the repeat customers also during these festivities. Logistics team works with a great deal of intensity and closely with the merchandising and retail teams to ensure optimum serviceability.

How do you plan the optimisation of your supply chain activities? Are your optimisation strategies based on speed or cost?

Optimising the supply chain has been in the DNA of Landmark for years. Without the merchandise at the right place and right time, there is no sale! But then again, the supply chain cannot undertake/ensure serviceability at ANY COST.

There has to be a ‘trade-off’ between service and cost. There are times where even the movement of merchandise via air is also justified. During festive seasons or even a season launch, it is very important for retailers like us, to showcase the entire range of merchandise across the geographies at once, be it Cochin or Guwahati, to provide an ultimate experience and delight to the customers.

Overall, the optimisation strategy should lead to better business and hence better profitability. Max’s supply chain adopts a balanced optimisation strategy which provides adequate business support while achieving its financial objectives too.

Which path-breaking measures have you taken to strengthen the logistics network of Landmark Group in India? Which innovative steps have you introduced to make supply chain processes more efficient?

At Landmark Group, we have integrated the larger retail planning and supply chain functions; meaning the entire demand management to distribution and replenishment functions fall under the same team to ensure seamless flow of goods.

The integrated team of Planners and Supply Chain staff work closely to minimise delays in both information flow as well as material flow. We have adopted ‘single-view-inventory’ strategy to maintain optimum use of inventory under the Omni-retail environment.

Customers can literally see/touch us anywhere, want/order at anywhere and pick-up/demand delivery at anywhere (stores, home). Obviously, the backend processes at the warehouses have been converted into an agile mode, leading to instant responses, be it the fresh supplies, B2C deliveries, click & collect orders etc. Integration of Omni retail with our store networks and online B2C capabilities cover the consumer needs comprehensively.

Which is the major Logistics Service Providing companies of Landmark Group in India? On what parameters do you judge the service levels of LSPs?

Landmark Group works with most of the leading LSP firms in India. The engagement rules are very straight-forward: give us good service and let’s grow together! We emphasise on promised delivery timelines, quality of delivery (accuracy, error-free, damage-free) and efficient delivery services (costs, resources). Landmark Group believes in long-term engagements and strives hard to nurture a sustainable and profitable ecosystem.

You have proven your supply chain management capabilities several times in your long, successful career. What learning and lesson you would like to pass on to the new-gen professionals?

Supply chain management is truly the backbone of any business. You need to understand that your very survival is dependent on the success and growth of the supply chain. As a supply chain professional, you need to embrace every opportunity and failure to learn from, to lead a better service offering. Service and costs are not contradictory, but complementary.

Continuous improvement of key processes and finding newer ways to smarten the supply chain should become the mantra for everyone. The strength of your supply chain business (and career too) depends on how many supply chain professionals have you groomed/grown. Because ultimately, it’s the ecosystem that you have nurtured, is what counts.

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