India’s Cold Supply Chain Sector – A bag full of sweet and sour

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With the increased movement of pharmaceuticals and perishables, especially post pandemic, the market is on the rise. According to recent market insights, the cold chain market in India was valued at INR 1.86 trillion in 2022 and is expected to reach INR 4.26 trillion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of around 14.27% during the 2023 – 2027 period. With this year’s summer special cover story, let’s take a look at the present situation of the cold supply chain sector in India – both challenges and opportunities.

India is one of the biggest producers of perishables that expand over numerous categories. Over 400 million MT of perishables are produced each year, including agricultural produce, horticultural produce, dairy, meat, poultry, and fish.

In India, cold chains are misunderstood as cold stores only. However, the cold chain industry comprises 3 segments i.e first mile connectivity (pack houses, manufacturing locations), cold warehouses (cold stores) & last mile connectivity (temperature-controlled retail outlets). The cold chain logistics segment accounts for 55.42% of the total market share as of 2022. By the end of 2027, the cold chain logistics segment is expected to hold a share of around 55.51% of the overall market.

With temperatures crossing multiple landmarks at just the onset of summer this year, one may agree that it has become more urgent than ever to fix the shortfalls of the Indian cold chain industry. It is crucial that India comes at par with the global standards to minimise wastage/pilferage/damage due to broken links in the cold supply chain.


The cold chain ensures the safety and high quality of perishable food at the time of consumption. Failure to comply with the temperature of the product may result in poor texture, discoloration, bruising and microbial growth. Cold chain infrastructure and logistics play a crucial role in ensuring the quality and safety of food and pharmaceutical products, especially in an excessively warm country like India. Lack of cold chain infrastructure would impact the food industry significantly.

“High temperatures or even a break in the cold supply chain may cause degradation in these products that may harm the end user. Over the years the pharmaceutical industry has used nontemperature specific drugs as pills for most of its purposes. With the necessity for transportation of COVID specific drugs, its importance has gone up,” says Mihir Mohanta (General Manager – Supply Chain, Mother Dairy Fruits & Vegetables).

Challenges of Cold Chain include Condensation, Damage to Cooler/Freezer, Mold/Mildew/Microbial Growth, Heat exposure at loading dock, and damaged/compromised shipments getting delivered

Kartik Shah (CEO, Coldrush Logistics) lists a few ways in which an efficient cold chain infrastructure helps shippers and logistics service providers maximise efficiency.

Temperature Control: Cold chain infrastructure, including refrigerated storage facilities, transportation vehicles, and temperature monitoring systems, help maintain the required temperature range for perishable products such as food and pharmaceuticals.

Product Integrity: Cold chain logistics helps in avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, and other environmental factors that can compromise the quality, safety, and efficacy of these products.

Compliance with Regulations: These regulations may include Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Distribution Practices (GDP), and other quality and safety standards set by regulatory authorities.

Traceability and Transparency: Temperature monitoring, tracking, and documentation enable traceability and transparency of food and pharmaceutical products throughout the supply chain. This helps identify and address any potential issues or deviations from the required conditions, ensuring accountability and providing visibility into the entire supply chain for improved quality and safety.

Extended Shelf Life: By maintaining the optimal temperature and humidity conditions during transportation and storage, this can help reduce waste, minimize product losses, and ensure that products remain fit for consumption for longer periods.

The rise of e-commerce and changing consumer preferences have also significantly impacted the cold chain industry in India, requiring adaptations to meet the evolving demands of the market. The need for seamless integration of technology has driven the adoption of advanced technologies to monitor and trace products throughout the supply chain. Changing consumer preferences towards sustainability and local sourcing are driving the adoption of eco-friendly practices and the development of localized cold storage and transportation infrastructure.

“The footwear we purchase are kept in air conditioned showrooms, but for most of India, the fruits and vegetables we consume are kept on the streets for selling. We are still not able to penetrate on grass root level and we’re ready to compensate for the loss of perishables, when it should be the opposite.” – Viikram Khurana, Managing Partner, Sheetal Parivahan

“We are investing in greener technology for reefer units and are currently testing a new mechanism that will help us be environmentally sustainable. We’ve discovered it to be quite effective and capable of maintaining the correct temperature during the delivery, and are looking forward to replicating the technique in other possible container sizes.” – Padamdeep Singh Handa, Senior Vice President – Sales & BD, Snowman Logistics

“If we are storing fruits in the fridge, they sustain for a longer period. So it’s evident if we maintain appropriate conditions for pharmaceuticals, we actually improve chances that they will remain effective. So maintaining the cold chain in the entire value chain is important if we do not want the product to be damaged.” – Bharat Rathi, Head Distribution and Logistics, Mankind Pharma

“Government should encourage the cold chain and automobile industries to collaborate for faster implementation of electric/CNG trucks. Improved road infrastructure, including the connecting rural roads to state highways to national highways, is needed. We should also develop and leverage rail freight infrastructure.” – Vijaya Bhaskar, Site SCM Lead, Pfizer

This is an abridged version of the Cover Story that was published in the May 2023 issue of Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete story, click here.