UBCC 2021: Decoding the role of logistics to tide over the pandemic woes

The UnBroken Cold Chain 2021, an annual thought leadership event hosted by Agility on its first day i.e. the 8th of July, brought together expert leaders who are at the forefront of the cold chain industry to contemplate the industry trends and issues.

The first session which was eloquently moderated by Satish Lakkaraju, Chief Commercial Officer, Agility, witnessed the panelists discuss the challenges faced by the supply chain and how their journey of constant learning and innovation helped them overcome the same.

While addressing the impact of the pandemic on the supply chain and sharing the thought process of the government at the time, Vandana Agarwal, Former Sr. Economic Advisor, Ministry of Civil Aviation, GoI said, “Disruptions in the supply chain is not very new to the industry. But what was important for the government at the time when the pandemic started was, what is the new disruptions to the supply chain that are going to be posed in both the mid and longer-term. Due to the impact, the government had to look into the gaps that had been brought out and also address any policy or tax-related changes.”

She acknowledged that the disruption was different from usual. “There were multiple lockdowns. The severity of the virus was not uniform in different areas – it had a varied impact. While it was widespread across sectors, not every sector was impacted. So, the policy could not have a broad brush. Also, we had to cater to certain life sciences sector or IOT sector which showed potential to growth.” 

Speaking of the challenges faced at the forefront of the supply chain, Tushar Jani, Group Chairman, Cargo Service Center spoke about the challenge of bringing people to the forefront and motivating them to work. Further, showing appreciation for the innovation of the stakeholders in the supply chain, he mentioned, “The medicines coming in which had to be cleared in 15-20 minutes were done with the support of our government and customs body. We saw clearance of cargo taking place via email and WhatsApp in no time. The airlines also did their best by carrying cargo on seats and converting passenger aircraft to cargo at the time of need.” 

Keku Bomi Gazder, CEO, AAI Cargo Logistics and Allied Services Company Limited, spoke about the role of Indian airports and role they played in movement of vaccines, business reengineering and process simplification.

Dr. Ravi Prakash Mathur, Vice President and Global Head of Logistics and Supply Chain Excellence, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd touched upon one of the key principles of handling COVID products, which is to keep the number of touchpoints to a bare minimum. As the number of touchpoints increases, more will be the uncertainties and variability. He said, “One has to break the entire supply chain into sub-parts and then identify the critical elements, and then create a design that is seamless and has minimum variability which is essential to build an unbroken cold chain.

The other industry experts who joined the panel including Saurabh Kumar, CEO, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo Spoke about the importance of technological development, swiftness and flexibility of supply chains and sustainability of the system.

Vijay Sharma, Head – Cargo, Delhi International Airport spoke about the coordination, efforts undertaken as a team to facilitate a smooth functioning of supply chain for vaccine shipment. He stressed on the ground handlers – their understanding and how the processes were defined. Both, Saurabh Kumar and Vijay Sharma, also spoke about the criticalities that were faced in their respective cargo terminals and how they were able to handle the pressure with the help of cooperation from various stakeholders.

The power-packed session was concluded on the thought that the industry needs constant learning and innovation. And to do the same and set a benchmark of the Indian Cold Chain Industry, Mr. Jani suggested the formation of a ‘Pharma Innovation Group’ which will include all industry stakeholders i.e. pharma companies, airports, forwarders, government, and terminal operators.

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