Logistics Industry: The Future Is Here

Logistics Industry: The Future Is Here

Raaja Kanwar, Managing Director, Apollo International, 0

In 2020, the corporate realm time traveled into the future, going years ahead of the original technology upgrade schedules. Before the pandemic, hardly anyone would have imagined that the services from healthcare to education would be delivered in a complete virtual fashion. However, it still doesn't mean that food, healthcare supplies, clothing, raw material, hardware, and so on, can be experienced remotely or downloaded online. Things need to be moved. This is precisely why the supply chains worldwide were stretched, over-stretched, and often broken during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the tech-savvy logistics entities magically survived! The logistics industry today is building its future, enabled by technology. Raaja Kanwar, Managing Director, Apollo LogiSolutions, walks us through the latest happenings in the logistics industry through an exclusive interview with him. A serial entrepreneur, Raaja holds more than two decades of professional leadership experience across diverse industries. Raaja is also the Chairman & Managing Director of Apollo International Limited (established in 1994 as a part of Apollo Group) & the Co-Founder and Director of UFO Moviez India, one of India's largest in cinema advertising platforms and distribution networks. Below is an excerpt from the interview with him.

In conversation with Raaja Kanwar, Managing Director, Apollo International

Could you speak about the impact of COVID-19 on the logistics sector and the trends that intensified and emerged?
COVID-19 deeply impacted global and domestic supply chains, creating major disruptions within the value chain. The ocean side witnessed disturbed line schedules, container shortages, and blank calls. The sky-rocketing freight prices and stock-out situation due to repeated lockdowns at the domestic front added to the woes of the cargo owners. This escalated the demand to keep high inventories, causing stress to already choked supply chains. Manufacturers, including the traditional players, started moving from conventional channels to e-Commerce to sustain sales. While the growth of e-Commerce was steadily fuelled, servicing the logistics within this terrain required a substantial and immediate adoption of technology-based logistics efficiency improvement initiatives. We, as Apollo, stood by our e-Commerce clientele and enabled new facility operations during the peak of the second COVID wave, ensuring business continuity.

The businesses are now strategizing to deliver results in the new normal, and all stakeholders in the logistics supply chain have an important role to play. All stakeholders need to be agile, flexible, and quick in decision-making to respond to varying market conditions.

How has technology been helping the industry to cater to demands within and outside the country? How do you perceive digital tools adding value at each stage of the supply chain management?
Technology integration in the supply chain can enable seamless last mile visibility and control.

It is therefore imperative for the industry to technologically elevate and capture realtime actions and respond to variations. 3PL players have a key role in the technological advancement of supplychain as individual actors may not have the where withal to make the necessary investment. As competition in the Indian urban markets intensifies, businesses are looking to target the untapped Tier-II and III markets. The challenge of Tier-II and III markets pertains to limited concentration and no geo tagging of addresses, which can be resolved only through technology.

Tell us about the trends shaping the industry today.
Technology adoption to reduce dependence on physical touch points: Logistics industry would need continuous investment in technology to digitize processes, reduce physical documentation and automate workflows. In this process, the resultant increased productivity will serve as an enabler, as well as a welcomed by product.

Aid in Agile Decision Making:Agility within the supply chain ecosystem will be key to staying relevant in an evolving market scenario. Operation planning, which earlier used to be a monthly exercise, is now required in real time. As an industry, we must empower our customers by providing complete visibility of products in storage and transportation while proactively pre-empting potential issues. It is incumbent to have a single version of truth for the management to rely on, which gives impetus to technologies like blockchain in the near future.The visibility and predictability are requisites both for transport infrastructure and services.

Vendor & Supplier Multiplicity:The businesses would also look at diversification of their vendor and supplier bases to reduce reliance on geographies or nationalities. The logistics service providers who can support the diversification by providing services across vertical and horizontal spans would become the preferred partners for businesses. The same logic applies to Logistics
service providers' own preferences, as they would need to build a large network of transporters, freight forwarding agents, and manpower contractors, among others, to cater to the changing be able to service the varying requirements of customers.

Flexibility in Spirit & Contracts: The contracting landscape would also undergo a change to arrive at win-win solutions for both cargo owners and logistics service providers. Both parties need to be flexible in spirit as well as in contract to create supplychain efficiency and pass on the benefit to the other party. There needs to be a strong management layer in logistics companies to understand client issues and provide workable solutions. Together, the goal is to reduce logistics costs across the country while focussing on innovation, resilience and increasing service quality.

Could you elaborate on the areas the logistics industry is focusing on enhancing its portfolio today?
E-commerce, both urban and Tier-II and III markets: E-commerce has grown exponentially in the last few years, increasing penetration in urban markets and now expanding to tier-2, 3, and rural markets as well. The e-commerce ecosystem can be successful if it is backed by a resilient and agile logistics framework.

Integrated Logistics Solutions to Create Efficiencies & Pass on the Benefit to End Customers, Reducing Logistics Costs: With integrated logistics systems in place, organizations can effectively reduce operational costs while increasing operational efficiency, which would, in turn, drive profitability.

Sustainable Solutions(both environmentally and economically): A mix of asset-heavy and asset light models to balance control and scalability.

Technology integration in the supply chain can enable seamless last-mile visibility and control

Tell us about your leadership approach and formula for tackling challenges in your current role: Leadership, in today's accelerating world, is all about managing change and taking charge to lead from the front. The new-age leadership is also about carrying people together, creating cohesive teams, communicating the wins and taking inspiration from the misses. Some of the habits that help me lead more effectively are -

Taking things personally:In a digital world where people want instant success and provide immediate services, exceptional leaders take things personally. I ensure I am not in a rush to simply get to the next level. I am passionate about my work and focus on the ideal outcome. I value and care about those who are associated with me.

The 5:00 AM Club:Your morning can dictate the rest of your workday. I start my day with a routine of meditation, exercise, and journaling. Having a planned morning helps me avoid mental fatigue.

Innovation, not execution:I always tell my people that innovating constantly is the only key to success. How we bring that big idea to life and execute it is still manageable, but it is important to have a certain amount of risk appetite to be able to think differently. Central to any innovation is its ability to solve a real problem.

Technological Proficiency:A leader who can leverage the potential of technology to advance business and advance an organization’s vision is the new-age leader that everyone wants to work with.

Could you tell us about the future roadmap envisioned for Apollo International, with Apollo LogiSolutions in particular? Which are the market opportunities planned for investing in future goals?
Focusing on supply chain solutions, we have diversified heavily from an asset-heavy to asset light model in the current year. Last year, our share of the revenue from supply chain solutions increased from 33 percent to 40 percent. The contract logistics market is pegged at around Rs.1,50,000 crore, of which the top 7-8 players contribute just five percent. So, there is room for a professionally managed logistics player to enter. We are focused on championing this market segment. Within this, we want to target players operating in ecommerce, hightech electronics, and chemicals. We endeavor to provide end-to-end supplychain solutions to clients as value addition through our network optimization, strong regional presence in India, as well as our proven expertise in handling large-scale supply chain projects spanning across geographies.

Raaja Kanwar, Managing Director, Apollo International
A serial entrepreneur, Raaja holds more than two decades of professional leadership experience across diverse industries. Raaja is also the Chairman & Managing Director of Apollo International (established in 1994 as a part of Apollo Group) & the Co-Founder and Director of UFO Moviez India, one of India's largest in-cinema advertising platforms and distribution networks.