“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That adage was particularly true for India’s retail sector. The nearly US$900 billion-worth industry was one of the most affected globally by the COVID-19 pandemic. To get an insider view of how the industry is coming to terms with the realities of the post-COVID world, we spoke to Hemant Agarwal from V Bazaar Retail – one of the largest family networks of retail outlets stretching across northern India. In this exclusive interview, Hemant Agarwal, CMD, V Bazaar Retail, talks about various aspects of the retail supply chain and much more.
Q] What supply chain innovations have you implemented during the overall Covid period?
Supply chain management is all about inventory management. In terms of inventory, we have implemented a warehouse management system that has brought the whole inventory into our ERP. Through, this we can find the location of a product in the warehouse and can trace the item. For instance, we have more than five lakh pieces at one time and now any one piece can be traced easily. This system has been implemented during the pandemic. We have also customized the products through our partners. Through this customization and technology, we showcase the trends we sell including the capacity of the store, different types of inventory that has to be sent to numerous stores. Due to the pandemic, we are much dependent on analytics and MIS systems now.
With the increase in fuel prices, we are trying to optimise our costs. We ensure timely delivery through our own fleets from one side to another. We have partnered with Gati Logistics as a
third-party logistics service provider.
Q] You forayed into the grocery business in March this year. What challenges are you facing in last-mile delivery while ensuring a robust supply chain?
We haven’t seen this type of scenario before. But with a decline in Covid cases, there has been a surge in the demand, whereas the production hasn’t stopped but is disturbed since the last Covid wave. This has happened due to a lack of raw material or workers or lockdowns. However, the demand is more and supply is a little less in the category of FMCG. Even manufacturers are producing only 65-70% of products, in comparison to 90% during pre-Covid times, which is a hurdle for retailers and distributors.
Q] How has digitalisation helped in building a resilient system?
We are more into offline retail and we haven’t started our online portal. We will be starting our own website in a couple of months. We have digitalisation at the front-end in our retail stores. But don’t have much digitalisation in the backend supply chain. We are positive that we will surely achieve this once we go online with our products.
Q] What are your plans for store expansion?
For the last one and a half years, we have not been expanding aggressively. Overall, we are trying to understand the changes at large due to the Covid situation. We have been understanding the different tools and we are thankful that after this recent festive season, our business has rebounded. After FY 2021-22, we are planning to expand in the next financial year and add around 28 new stores in the coming months.
This is an abridged version of the original interview that was published in the January edition of the Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.