How Are Delivery Companies Operating Amid Coronavirus Lockdown?

India’s supply chain has been badly disrupted since the lockdown this week as produce is not able to reach cities.

Updated
Tech News
4 min read
E-commerce has been labelled as an essential service during the lockdown in India.
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Right now it’s an unprecedented situation; nobody knows how to handle it.

Everyone is complaining about grocery apps and delivery platforms not operating or running behind on orders. But not many realise the impact of a lockdown on logistics companies, that form the backbone of any delivery ecosystem.

When the government said everything is on lockdown, they meant everything! From warehouses to factories on the outskirts of different cities, everything was shut down. And just like everyone else, logistics companies are compelled to work from home. This has made managing tasks on the ground trickier and put them in uncharted territory.

Prasad Sreeram, Founder & CEO of a logistics company called COGOS paints a bleak picture for the industry but he expects the chaos to come down in the next few days.

His company is diligently working with truck suppliers on the ground, and after initial hurdles, they are slowing getting the supply chain back up and running.

“The modus operandi has turned out to be a law and order situation. Thousands of police staff are deployed on the ground and not everyone knows the do's and don't issued by the government,” says Prasad.

Businesses Taking a Hit

So how bad is the situation for logistics companies?

“Moral confidence of delivery people has dwindled. They are hesitant to come out on the road and deliver,” says Prasad.

More importantly, the government realised a little late that the lockdown has disrupted supply chains, which includes production, packaging, and transportation, which are now starting to operate once again.

“They realised food doesn't originate from cities. Which is why it was important to allow warehouses and factories to operate. And that’s not all. I have supplies, but what will I do without packaging stuff?” Prasad raises valid questions.

If any vital cog of the supply chain is disrupted, online grocery firms as well as local kirana stores will face the consequences of limited stock, which leads to panic buying. 

The same is the case with food delivery providers like Swiggy and Zomato among others. He says the food delivery segment is bearing the brunt of being not synchronised.

“When they get orders, their staff is not supposed to be queuing in big numbers. Also, these companies are forced to stagger their orders, which results in longer delivery times," says Prasad.

Work Behind The Scenes

Prasad says his company cannot rely on heavy bandwidth available at office premises right now. They are working at full strength, but the operations are taking place in the cloud, where they have set up a central database for everyone to access.

“We have created a virtual war room, where we have multiple means of communicating with everyone and the main database has been made accessible using control tower mechanism.”
Prasad Sreeram, Founder & CEO, COGOS

This basically means all region-wise operations at the company, engaging with the truck vendors is happening through a centralised system (hosted on the cloud). They don’t have a physical office, from where the business is running.

“There is nothing (office space) in Bengaluru or Guwahati right now,” he explains.

How the company is keeping a track of its vehicles on the road.
How the company is keeping a track of its vehicles on the road.
(Photo: Cogos)
“Once the requirement (supply), vehicles are cleared and the route plan is approved, our guy in the area speaks to the vehicle providers, asking them to the get the supplies moving.”
Prasad Sreeram, Founder & CEO, COGOS

Need of the Hour

Since the company is largely focused on deploying trucks for transporting goods, we ask Prasad about the volume of trucks needed in the country to fix the delivery situation.

“We need around a million goods and delivery vehicles (interstate and local included) across the country to meet the needs of people. On average, we have over 20 million Light Commercial Vehicle (LCVs) running at a time.

“We need a minimum of a million delivery vehicles, which is also just a drop in the ocean,” Prasad pointed out.

His company is working with giants like Amazon, Flipkart, Big Bazaar and Big Basket among others. And to get more vehicles on the road, they are looking to use digitisation as a medium.

“We’re releasing a new app which contains details of drivers and trucks which gives them legal rights to operate during the lockdown.”

App is being used to track the vehicles, and provide them with documents.
App is being used to track the vehicles, and provide them with documents.
(Photo: Cogos)

The lockdown amid coronavirus in the country, according to Prasad, has affected 90 percent of businesses, and after initial skepticism, the industry seems even more resilient to keep supplies moving.

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