India Needs An Efficient Cold Chain Infrastructure For Its Agro And Healthcare Industry

The agro and healthcare industry in particular is the sector which is heavily dependent on cold storage infrastructure, as it ensures the safety of various biologicals such as vaccines, medicines, blood and perishable goods

India’s cold chain network has played an integral part in maintaining the quality of perishables and other temperature-sensitive products. And yet, there are many challenges to ensure the on-time delivery of perishable goods around India.

A recent report highlights that the country’s total cold storage capacity is estimated to reach 40.7 million metric tonnes of perishables by 2023 and that this growth will be driven by online groceries, pharmaceutical sales and vaccination drives.

Along these lines, Alok Shrivastava, MD and CEO of Mr Kool said that to simplify the supply chain, we need to break it into two parts, first, transportation and second, warehousing.

Speaking at BW Businessworld’s Supply Chain Resilience Summit and Awards 2022,

Shrivastava also said, “In the Indian scenario, setting up warehouses and buying trucks have been capital-intensive units. It gets more difficult when 80 per cent of players are unorganised in this industry.”

We need to invest in the latest technologies and going to the customer is another critical aspect, he added.

At the Summit, Mira Jhala, founder at Go Frogo said, “Modern trade is about valued at about USD 70 billion in market share, while online is just under USD 40 billion right now. It is expected to grow manifold in coming decades.

“In Indian retail space, goods and grocery occupy 66 per cent of the market share,” he said. He also said that ‘frozen food’ is going to be a USD 20 billion market by 2024.

Jhala also emphasised that India needs to build trust with its customers and needs to provide a certain level of service and quality to achieve these numbers. “We can use IoT and existing technology to minimise our loss,” she added.

Focusing on the problems with last-mile delivery, Mukesh Sah, Head of Supply Chain at Devyani Foods commented that it is still a painful experience due to a shortage of

infrastructure and lack of awareness of the delivery person. Retail shops don't have a proper freezing setup and this leads to the deformation and damage to the products.

Naresh Jawa is the CEO of All Fresh, a company that deals with fruits like apples, peaches and supplies from Uttrakhand. Speaking at the Summit, Jawa said that it is very difficult to sell in Mumbai because it gets wasted in a long journey. “From Uttarakhand, we are unable to Bangalore and Chennai, we are able to deliver only to Delhi in most cases.”

In contrast, he said, the problem lies in major movement, the last-mile is not a big issue in our business, he added. “If you set up the right cold chain system, you can save 5 to 10 per cent, from getting wasted.”

As far as infrastructure is concerned, even today, trucks are not equipped with the right system. No truck is ready to travel from Delhi to Bangalore with cake and bread and there is nothing strange in this for them, because it is happening since long time. Now we need to change perceptions that this could happen, said Sanjeev Sishodia, COO of Bakers Circle.

Pharmaceutical companies are also concerned with weak supply chain infrastructure as India emerges to as the medical hub for the world. Shailesh Acharya, COO at Parazelsus, said we have largely the same problems in that we need trucks with European standards. “In our industry, the storage of medicines is very crucial and could be life-threatening, so, end-to-end supply is very important. Education for the bottom-level handlers is very important.”

Technology like phase change material (PCM) is passive thermal energy storage material which is used in the thermal packaging industry to maintain a temperature-sensitive product within the manufacturer's required temperature range during all transportation phases, explained Vishnu Sasidharan, VP at New Product Initiatives, Pluss.

“We should look at the long-term. Hence, we should focus on green energy because cold chain supply is all about the regular supply of power. Sustainability and probability can go side by side,” Sasidharan said.

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