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We fundamentally believe in the organic way of growth: Mahendra K. Shah, MD, V-Trans

In an interview with BW Disrupt, Mahendra K. Shah, Managing Director, V-Trans, talks about company, challenges, new technology etc.

How did V-Trans adapt to the pandemic? What were the challenges faced at an organizational and at the industry level? 
The pandemic in India impacted most of the business including logistics. However, we managed to navigate through the tough times and made some quick and correct decisions to get some benefits where there was an opportunity for us, such as pushing for digitization in many of our operations, making internal synergies, etc. 

COVID provided an extreme push to the entire ecosystem which helped us in moving fast forward with our tech agenda. Post the initial few days of the pandemic, to absorb the magnitude of the shock, we assessed the scenario in terms of the safety required for operations. Logistics was one of the first ones to support industries in starting their functions, and in logistics, we were amongst the first ones to turn the engine on and hit the road with carrying the load of the nation, this time more of essential items.  

We experienced the new modes of communication modes and used them extensively which were never used in the past. Within the first 10-15 days of lockdown, our full leadership team used to meet every day on the digital screen to understand the ground realities and based on that used to prepare the strategy for the next day. We were aware that as a dependable logistics player, we had a role to play in the tough scenario and we did everything to meet expectations that our clients had from us. 

There were many adaptations we made to be in sync with the new environment. We took communication to digital format, became more flexible and quick in decision making, also stayed agile in our operations by using technology, and stayed closely connected with clients through our constant communication. We did things that are not in trend like opening up smaller transhipments as well as synergized internally with diverse business services that we had to optimize. Maximum transactions were converted online like, payments, e-Bill, e-PoD, and e-Invoice, etc. Extra safety measures were deployed and were monitored from the corporate office. 

What are the business opportunities in SAARC nations, focusing on Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal?
SAARC is the very next business destination when you consider surface transport expansion beyond the nation’s boundaries because of its potential for the logistics industry. As an organization, we have grown considerably in the last six decades and now cover every nook and corner of India. Therefore, our decision to expand the horizon to SAARC countries was a natural one. In the first phase, the focus is going to be on Bangladesh, Bhutan & Nepal. We primarily see the trade of textile, agro commodities, automobiles, etc. amongst these countries, and with our growing network in the eastern part of the country, it was strategically beneficial for us to expand our footprints there. Many of our existing clients have substantial loads for Bangladesh, Bhutan, or Nepal and there was a demand to serve them in BBIN as well. In keeping with our business objectives, we launched our SAARC operation on our 62nd foundation day last year, 21st Nov 2020.  

The trade between the SAARC countries has been encouraged by various trade agreements between the respective countries' governments such as SAFTA and others, and also there have been projects identified to build a surface network connecting the bordering districts. Further trade is enhanced by Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) signed in 2015, which is supported by ADB (Asian Development Bank).    

Will “Vocal for Local” impact the future of the sector and the company?
The center has been pushing and supporting Indian manufacturing for quite a time now with Make In India, and it has become a big initiative, which has fetched good FDI in India, (USD 73.45 Bn in FY 2019-2020). While “Make in India” focuses on some 25 sectors to boost manufacturing, the recent campaigns of GOI like, Vocal for Local and Atma Nirbhar Bharat have given a new dimension to the economy towards being self-sustained. These initiatives have prompted the people of the country to be more supportive of businesses from the land. 

Logistics has been a focus industry for GOI, and they have taken the target of bringing down the logistics cost to GDP from above 13% to below 10% and various developments are happening around it. With coining the phrase “Vocal for Local” honorable PM asserted the need for the nation to come together and encourage local businesses and products. He also emphasized a lot about the importance of the supply chain. Given the background for the push towards the industry and movements such as Vocal for Local and the ever high importance of supply chain as a function, the logistics industry is at the best of the times and will see good days ahead. V Trans being the proud Indian company with a legacy of 6 decades is surely going to be benefited from the whole development in the ecosystem. We have seen the traction in sentiments for local players, however the same will take some time for translating into business numbers. We are reasonably sure that the strategic direction of the center and efforts of the sector and our company in harnessing technology and thus bringing in transparency and optimization will show very good results. 

Has the Union Budget faired your expectation?
As it is said, India is a country of many countries and a budget that makes everyone happy is easier said than done. Still, we understand that this budget is focused on fundamentals, as it has addressed the key economic and social issues, such as health and infrastructure. This budget is expected to give a push to the industrial output through various supports and schemes announced and as a logistics service provider, we shall benefit from the growing industrial output in the country as a whole. 

What technology trends will transform the logistic industry in 2021?
Logistics has become one of the central axes of every manufacturing company. Efforts are increasingly focused on ensuring that products reach the consumer most efficiently and are trying to improve supply chains to optimize processes. The government’s focus to improve the sector has increased in the last couple of years. Grant of infrastructure status to the logistics industry and forming of a special department for focusing on the same are big initiatives in this direction by the government. 

For us, service and operation is our product, and to drive it one needs a completely scientific approach, hence technology becomes vital for aiming for higher efficiencies. Along with the macro-level development in the economy, there are some technology trends also that are ready to make big difference in logistics 2021. Same are enlisted below -  

  • IoT and Big Data:

As IoT advances, businesses can automatically manage their inventory and stock movement better. The system works by collecting big data into a central system for analysis. From the outcome, supply chains can derive valuable insights. Big data application in the supply chain improves operations, hiring processes, or marketing strategies.

  • Blockchain:

Blockchain is an excellent option to bring more security to information records. This gives insurers more confidence, for example, and can help the government streamline enforcement or enable more efficient payment systems.

That is, this tool proposes that processes such as cargo booking and delivery, delivery records, or financial operations data should be performed more transparently. Allowing greater traceability and generating more credibility among those involved. With its availability of well-structured information, this technology allows your processes to run more smoothly. 

Blockchain is said to have a strong growth predisposition for 2021 with companies aiming for process improvement.

  • AI and Machine Learning

AI and ML technology has brought about several new processes in supply chains. Large-scale automation is one of them. Machine learning can read, identify, and replicate complex content, patterns, and procedures. Rather than have your employees stuck on doing repetitive tasks, AI automation handles all that.

  • Providing Strategic Foresight to the Business at the Highest Levels

CEOs increasingly look to analysts and data scientists to understand and assess market dynamics, support business agility through foresight, and enable differentiation through innovation. Predictive decision-making has been of great support for the last some years and will play a more vital role going forward.  

  • Digital supply chain twin –

The concept of a digital twin has been around for some time now. Typically, a digital twin is a virtual replica of a real-world business process, model, or function. In today’s dynamic and highly competitive supply chain landscape, network optimization is the way to go.

How do you look at expansion?
As an organization, we fundamentally believe in the organic way of growth and this is the main reason for our steady growth in the last couple of years. Today, we have over 750 branches and 50 hubs across the country and serve above 16000 pin codes. We recently expanded the footprint to SAARC countries and have started moving the material to Nepal, Bangladesh & Bhutan. Further penetration in selected states of the country to build a secondary market and enhancing the SAARC is the strategy for next year. Besides constantly enhancing the infra and tech support which is a key goal for each year and has been a part of the journey.   

What are your marketing plans?
Marketing is all about understanding the clients and what do they want, and we understand for sure that in our industry what does a customer want – “He wants his goods on time, in intact condition at a competitive cost and with decent customer support when needed”. We believe in providing this, we have aligned the operations to deliver this promise and develop the communication on highlighting the USP of our group. 

We are inclined towards a digital strategy and understand that social media channels & website are our most important tools for that. We have one of the best engagement rates on our social channels, which is proof of why organic growth is preferred. We are working to offer a similar experience to our customers because ultimately it is the experience that the customers expect. It entails providing them with a direct and convenient experience on different touchpoints and in their buying journey. We are also automating part of our communication process and have started using the data points to customize the communication as per the buyer’s preferences. The whole action plan is to create an Omni-channel customer strategy for building a stronger connect with our clients and gaining their trust.

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Mahendra K. Shah V-Trans

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