When the going gets tough, the tough gets going: Ketan Kulkarni, Blue Dart

Ketan Kulkarni from Blue Dart speaks about the new normal

The spread of the deadly virus has brought a rough patch for businesses across the globe. As businesses are trying to get back on their feet, one of the major hurdles they are facing is to realign their supply chain in order to create a cushion for themselves. At a time when businesses are buckling up to weather the storm, we reached out to the industry leader Blue Dart that has been on its toes throughout the pandemic to deliver the best to its customers.

Through this interview with Ketan Kulkarni, CMO and Head– Business Development, Blue Dart Express Pvt Ltd, we unearth the methods Blue Dart adopted in order to successfully emerge strong amidst such times. This fireside chat also throws light on the company’s collaboration with the government, their continuous innovation, the technological reforms, their comeback strategies and much more. Edited Excerpts:

The spread of the pandemic has created a shift in global market trends. How has Blue Dart adapted to these new trends to maintain business continuity while keeping in mind consumer behaviour?

Throughout the lockdown, our teams have been working round the clock to deliver essential commodities such as ventilators, PPE, testing kits, reagents, enzymes, respirators, surgical masks, goggles and gloves amongst other medical and pharmaceutical supplies across the country. Our ‘First in, Last out’ policy ensures that we continue to serve and support the nation and our fellow countrymen in the fight against the pandemic that has slowed down the world. We’ve pitched in to support our nation during previous disasters – the Bhuj earthquake in 2001 and the Tsunami in 2004 – ferrying relief materials to areas otherwise inaccessible to other modes of transportation. It’s no different during this pandemic.

I believe two major trends have emerged very strongly through this lockdown. The first being a swift shift to digitalisation and technology as an enabler and the second being a reemerging e-Commerce sector.

Blue Dart has always been a market-leader with its cutting edge technology. While having our Business Continuity Plan in place, our IT teams were at their action stations, geared up to take on any curve ball coming their way. Blue Dart, as part of Deutsche Post DHL’s eCommerce Solutions division, aims to enable the strong growth momentum that has been seen in the dynamic recovery post the COVD – 19 Pandemic in India. We will continue to focus on all core sectors as the trade facilitator of the nation. All in all, we have remained agile and adaptive to the changing environment.

COVID-19 has impacted the revenue streams and bottom lines of organisations including Blue Dart which reported a consolidated net loss of INR 38.29 crore for the year ended March 31st, 2020. How soon do you expect your operations to come back to normal?

The business environment has been challenging during the 2019-2020 fiscal year with the overall profitability being impacted due to the adoption of Ind AS 116, a new accounting standard which led to a higher impact on profit as these are long term leases related to air infrastructure, right-sizing/ restructuring exercise undertaken in the quarter ended December 31, 2019 to improve efficiency.

While we had started reaping the benefits of the cost efficiency measures and restructuring exercise, the pandemic enforced lockdown beginning in the second fortnight of March impacted our business. Blue Dart is a resilient company and we operated every single day, even during the lockdown.

Automation and technology will continue to be the pivots of our business. As a company focused on revenue enhancement, service quality and profitability, we will continue with an unwavering focus on delivering our core competencies of reliability and responsiveness with immense customer-centricity. Our commitment to serving the nation remains persistent.

How according to you has technology served as a support system of supply chains at such unprecedented times. And, how do you think can it help India emerge as the nerve centre of Modern Supply Chain in Post-COVID era?

As part of the DPDHL Group, we firmly adhere to the Group’s ‘Strategy 2025 – Delivering Excellence in a Digital World’ through which we intend on further simplifying processes for our customers by harnessing the power of
digitisation and technology.

Technology has become the backbone of not just the logistics industry, but almost every industry across the world. The ability to work from home is simply the start of what is set to be a technological revolution in the future. We have been using technology-enabled mobility solutions for administering specialised pickup of product returns, which also includes quality control checks, product image verification and close coordination for timely pickups.

Blue Dart has been working closely with the Central and State governments during the pandemic to ensure smooth transfer of essential goods. What are the initiatives taken by Blue Dart to help local communities fight this pandemic?

Blue Dart is providing support with daily shipments across India for requisitioned items by State Governments, Municipalities, Hospitals and Research Centers during the lockdown period. Some of these include COVID – 19 testing kits, special food for paralytic children, medicines for senior citizens residing in another town sent by their families; masks for cancer affected children as well as healthcare staff, shipments containing temperature controlled medicines as well as COVID – 19 samples, packaged according to UN specifications, that need to be kept at a specific temperature in order to maintain their efficacy amongst others.

To ensure the safety of frontline staff, Blue Dart has installed temperature monitoring equipment across its operational centers in addition to issuing safety gear and masks. We are also extensively fumigating all our facilities including retail counters, which are high customer traffic areas. Blue Darters have been mandated to download the ‘Aarogya Setu’ application to keep themselves updated and safe. Regular internal communication on hygiene & provision of hand washing equipment is also being implemented.

This is an edited and abridged version of the original interview that appeared in the August issue of the Logistics Insider magazine. Click here to read the complete and unedited interview.

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