In a conversation with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai on TNIE’s Expressions — a series of webcast — sector experts such as Randhir Singh Kalsi, Executive Board Member, Maruti Udyog India Ltd; Vineet Agarwal, President, Assocham, and MD, Transport Corp of India; Sukanta Das, Chief Logistics Officer, Hindalco Industries and
Srihari Icharapu, Co-founder and CEO, Cargo Exchange say, while Covid-19 increased opportunities and new avenues for the sector, the industry had struggled to manage the supply chain.
Randhir Singh Kalsi, Executive Board Member, Maruti Udyog India Ltd., says, “There is a focus on multimodal transportation and the first thing that comes to mind is that railways should be encouraged, because it causes less pollution, is supposed to be faster, and reduces congestion on road.”
From an auto perspective, he says, railways have to create huge auto-handling terminals at the loading points and the destination points. “Nevertheless, the action has started in that direction. We were doing 8% transport through railways earlier, which has increased to 15% in just three years.”
Infrastructure is the biggest concern for multimodal transportation, even for the alternate system of waterways, Kalsi adds. Sukanta Das, Chief Logistics Officer, Hindalco Industries, also mentions they diversified and localised suppliers and maximised the use of railways to evacuate stuff, which helped the company manage a higher amount of exports.
63% of the load in India is still by road, which is around 25% in China, says Vineet Agarwal, President, Assocham, and MD, Transport Corp of India. “The network is created, it’s just that the capacity needs to be channeled. We have the best networks in the world with the railways, we have a large number of wagons except that they need to be available at the right time and right place,” he explains.
Ports being closed, which led to a huge congestion; shortage of containers, and rising costs of shipments were some of the major challenges posed by the pandemic to the industry. On the other hand, consumer goods saw a great boom and the cold chain, which has been a weak area, also gained momentum.
Srihari Icharapu, Co-founder and CEO, Cargo Exchange, suggests the need for a visibility solution, which could be used to locate trucks, containers etc. and then to reposition them to match demand and supply.
“We are sitting on a huge set of data and certain analytical tools, performance monitoring tools need to come up so people can compare the time and cost of shipping through different modes and then decide what is appropriate for them,” Icharapu adds.