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The race against time – supply chains during festive season

festive supply chain
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Festive season is here, and as much as it is a joy to us customers, it is quite a challenging time for supply chain managers. Appropriate manpower, properly equipped first and middle mile logistics, safe but timely last mile deliveries and seamless returns/exchanges/refunds are few things that a supply chain manager strives to balance amid the crazy volumes of orders to be processed. After all, pleasing the ‘modern’ customer is not a piece of cake. Take this journey with us as we try to breach the minds of supply chain experts on what it takes to effectively manage their supply chains during the rush hour.

Shopping, for customers, has transformed from the mere activity of visiting a store and walking out with the desired ‘bundles of joy’. In the modern world, the customer – especially those exploring the digital world – wants everything to be perfect. Right from how easy it is to find what they seek on a website/app, to eventually getting their order(s) delivered safely and as quickly as possible, and furthermore, get them exchanged or refunded with least inconvenience. And these expectations only increase as the festive season comes to town.

It is said that the modern customer now ‘plans’ his festive shopping well in time to get the best deals on products. According to Integral Ad Science, 73% of young shoppers say they would prefer if brands released holiday deals earlier. As shoppers gear up for placing their orders, shippers need to ensure that they are absolutely ready to handle the surge in volumes.

Customer First Supply Chains

What is a customer first supply chain? Well, according to experts, it refers to all customer experience improvement initiatives embedded in the process of moving finished products from suppliers to customers. The emphasis is not too much on generating profits, but increasing and maintaining customer delight, which ultimately brings along the profits.

The key elements of a customer first supply chain include real-time market analysis, customer data, a top-notch warehousing management system, a dense network of fulfillment centers in key locations, and robust last mile support.

“In the face of significant shifts in consumer behavior, the role of the supply chain has been elevated to a critical enabler of a company’s customer responsiveness. A customer-centric supply chain is deeply knowledgeable of and responsive to customer needs. According to a recent Gartner report, 83% of companies demand that supply chains improve customer experience as part of the digital business strategy. In response, most are shifting away from a product-centric supply chain and towards a customer-centric supply chain.” says Kami Viswanathan, Senior Vice President, FedEx Express, Middle East Indian Subcontinent and Africa (MEISA) Operations.

Talking about the competitive advantage that a customer centric supply chain brings along, Dipanjan
Banerjee, Chief Business Officer at Ecom Express
says, “Thanks to the use of real-time data for demand sensing, customers receive seamless service and are encouraged towards repeat purchases, and thus businesses see an uptick in sales and bottomlines. Customer-first supply chain is even more crucial during the festive season to fulfill the sudden surge in demand and to have better control over operations.”

“During the festive season, as a service partner, we look to acquire new customers and the sales revenue also grows 3x to 5x. It is a very good time to showcase our ability to scale as a service provider, and it helps in brand building too. The connections we make during this time go a long way.” adds Harshal Bhoi, Chief Business Officer, ExpressBees.

When the customer has demands more than just quality and price of the product, your supply chain strategies can make or break your brand. Abhishek Agarwal, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain and Sourcing at Bombay Shaving Company says, “An efficient supply chain helps to source the products in a cost efficient manner. Good logistics partners help to use technology and logistics muscle to deliver on time with tracking updates. This ensures a great customer experience.”

Man v/s Machine or Man & Machine?

Lately, there has been a wider adoption of various tech-based solutions across the supply chain industry to make it more agile and efficient. Ultimately, technology plays a crucial role in delivering seamless customer experience.

Sudharson S., Manager – Supply Chain, CaratLane highlights an important point – “Festive season demands extensive attention towards supply chain management systems and new emerging technologies that are able to identify potential areas where the systems can break. This helps to fine-tune our systems to avoid any kind of disruptions that might occur during the festive rush.”


This is an abridged version of the original feature story that was published in the October 2022 edition of the Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.


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