Changing How Rural India Shops

Supply Chain Management plays a key role in the economy of any country. This contributes to improving the relationship with customers, suppliers, income generation, and most importantly, the availability of products in the remotest of places. But, there are many challenges that a country like ours is highly susceptible to because of its vastness and diversity.

We interviewed Ms. Ajaita Shah — CEO of Frontier Markets, one of our cohort companies in Supply Chain Labs, to have a closer look at how her enterprise, which focuses on rural India, is carving a new path for rural outreach with innovative supply chain management via assisted e-commerce.

She has vast experience in this particular field and she has been constantly working with social enterprises, microfinance, rural distribution and marketing to ensure that companies get a never-before rural inlet; while also empowering rural women.

Here are the notable key points taken from the interview:

Frontier Markets: Their Role and Responsibility in Supply Chain

Frontier Markets, essentially, are the suppliers to rural customers. What they do is bridge the gap between access and help brands to reach rural customers and remote villages, especially rural women. The entire model is based on assisted commerce that is fully run by women entrepreneurs known as Sahelis.

Shah says, “We essentially work with three critical things:

  • One, generating demand for products and services — helping rural customers actually know what the products are and what the services are.
  • Second, we do physical fulfilment. We take the products and deliver them to the doorstep of where the actual customer lives.
  • And third, we’re collecting data to help companies understand better details and insights about rural customers.

We do this through a physical and a digital platform. Our supply chain essentially is a group of rural women who we invest in and who are connecting us to the customer.”

Challenges faced by Companies: How can they overcome them?

Well, it is because of the massive market demand. In the last couple of years, rural customers are growing rapidly. They have access to the Internet, improved infrastructure, the desire to actually buy white goods and products and the money to make it happen. Almost a 2.2 trillion rupee market is untapped today.

“The reason why it’s not tapped is not because of demand, but it’s actually product and service companies’ lack of efficiency to reach this customer base. This rural customer is one hundred million households or seven hundred million people, but they’re scattered in seven hundred thousand villages,” says Ajaita.

Another challenge is digital disconnection. E-commerce platforms today have no outreach to the digitally-challenged rural customers.

Bridging the Gap!

Frontier Markets has designed its model in such a way that it’ll be helpful to connect to rural customers, who actually want genuine products and services. Frontier Markets partnered with companies like Samsung, Philips, Crompton, Bajaj, as well as even social enterprises that are coming up with innovative solutions. This assistance between the companies and the people helps the total ecosystem to work fluidly.

Rural customers get the confidence to buy online and the companies get better access through know-how. So, the companies can essentially bridge the gap between rural customers and their infrastructure limitations. They can continue their services even if they don’t have any sort of infrastructure present in that particular place.

Tech won’t solve all approaches!

This is one unique way to handle the customers in a rural scenario with Sahelis.

According to Ajaita, this market has a customer base of half a million households and Frontier Markets has a network of 10000 Sahelis. They are the women entrepreneurs who are best at getting customer insights because they go into the hearts and minds of where the rural customer lives. Every data point is looked at with exclusivity. This data point can inform product companies about the actual demand for the product and then deliver the products.

What makes this system really unique in terms of services is that consumers can directly communicate about not what they want to buy but what they actually need on this platform. The model has been designed to look at the rural customer as a lifetime value solution. So, the customers trust their Sahelis in a way that they will intentionally buy everything from them, forever.

The rural market is not always a tech-centric market. Tech won’t solve all. Consumers here are more inclined towards a trusted face with a digital look — assistance is a significant factor here.

The vision of Frontier Markets

Ajaita, with her experience of 17 years, informs us that they do have some strong visions in place. They do value their rural customers, especially the rural women.

They believe that a woman is the most trustworthy, opportunistic service provider in the village. She can go into any house; she can have any conversation. Thus, she can become a very valuable asset in the entire system.

They also believe in a shared value principle. Like all the stakeholders in this system, from the suppliers, the field staff, the Sahelis and finally, the consumers — should all have an economic impact. Any product or service that they introduce, ensures that they track whether their rural customer is able to save money, make money or have a better life. That’s a very strong philosophy that they’ve always built on.

The Impact on Growth in the Rural Scenario in this Pandemic

Everything revolves around social commerce today. E-Commerce is based on online social data, that is curated from specific data points along the way. Frontier Markets has taken this concept and customised it in their own way and have modified the supply chain according to the demands of the rural consumers.

So, the influencers here are the Sahelis and they have strategic tools to assist the rural consumer, collect data points and help product companies assess the demand. It is a hybrid solution for social commerce — ideal for rural India.

“We understood our value very differently last year when the pandemic started; we realized that as a rural access company, our role in the ecosystem was going to be more critical than ever on a job creation perspective, on an essential delivery’s perspective, supply chain perspective, scale perspective and insights perspective. That’s really what encouraged us to grow. Even though the pandemic would have told most companies to slow down, we actually ramped up in a very significant way.

When it comes to pandemic response, we’re critically positioned to continuously help protect the rural customers. So, we’re looking forward to enabling jobs. We’re looking forward to continuing to bridge that essential delivery gap. Now, we will also play a significant role when it comes to health care and get involved in health education, insurance deliveries; Covid crisis response.”

The creativity and the tailor-made strategies make this women-led platform — Frontier Markets, one of the most robust end-to-end commerce platforms that provide products and services delivered at consumers’ doorsteps in villages and helps brands fulfil and curate their products in a marketplace easily.

How Machine Learning Can Help Save Overflowing Landfills #MeetTheCohort

Today, an increasing number of businesses are taking a technology-first approach to run their businesses and are looking to transform digitally — back end to front end, but the fashion industry’s back end is still run the same way it has been for decades.

The global retail fashion market is worth trillion dollars, with just under half of that being spent in China and the USA. The world produced 150 billion garments in 2018 alone, of which 50 billion garments or one-third remained unsold! A greater cause for concern is that the $3 trillion Global Fashion & Apparel industry is the second most polluting industry after oil, contributing to water pollution, air pollution and solid waste pollution.

With technologies helping in demand sensing, retail challenges across the industry can be reduced and ample potential and value in the fashion industry can be unleashed. It’s time for fashion businesses to adopt technology and redefine quickly.

Supply Chain Labs with Stylumia is trying to tackle some challenges that lie in the fashion industry — fashion trend forecasting, demand forecasting and prediction systems. Stylumia is an AI-led fashion intelligence start-up founded by former Myntra COO, Ganesh Subramanian in December 2015 with the goal of reducing waste in the fashion and lifestyle industries. Through its suite of proprietary solutions powered by ML-based prediction algorithms and demand science, the startup serves over 100 customers in India, the United States, Europe, Hong Kong, and Japan, ranging from Fortune 100 to small and medium fashion and lifestyle brands/retailers, as opposed to the intuitive fashion prediction and forecasting systems available in the market globally.

Stylumia uses machine learning to improve product assortments, optimize inventory management, and provide consumer-driven fashion forecasts, resulting in revenue growth, inventory reduction, and increased profitability of 30–50 per cent in under a year for its customers, with a 10x return on investment.

This is the time to expand and strengthen your online business.”

Stylumia sees an opportunity to help fashion firms, manufacturers, and exporters scale their digital businesses through the start-up’s top three products: Stylumia MIT (market intelligence tool) Stylumia FIT (fashion intelligence tool) and Stylumia Apollo (fashion predictor bot), which assist in forecasting fashion trends and predict demand in the constantly changing fashion business from the design and creation stage to the pre-season commit level to in-season demand and store distribution inventory with 80 per cent accuracy — helping clients scale their e-commerce businesses on a 360-degree basis.

A startup on the mission to help farmers increase their income

Rajendra Lora is a farmer’s son who has seen the struggles and challenges faced by a farming family. He is driven by the mission of helping farmers increase their income and help them manage their businesses better. As Rajendra puts it “I am not helping them earn more. What I am giving them extra is their own money, which is lost due to inefficiencies of the country”.

Agriculture is the primary source of 70% of Indian households. And more than 80% of these farming families are small or marginal, facing the maximum challenges and are most vulnerable.

To remedy this and address the pain points in a regular Indian farmer’s life, Rajendra Lora, along with his wife Chandrakanta Sahu, founded FreshoKartz in 2016. Coming from an agricultural background themselves, Rajendra and Chandrakanta have been able to build a strong value proposition that is practical to execute in the Indian rural landscape.

Focused approach: Freshokartz is currently focused on helping farmers buy Agri inputs more efficiently.

An average small & mid-sized farmer buys Agri inputs worth Rs.1 lacs a year, and equipment worth Rs.1 lac over a three year period. These purchases are riddled with issues — the retailers are far away from the farmers’ village, thus requiring the farmer to make the long journey on a working day to buy these inputs like seeds, fertilizers, etc. These frequent trips cost the farmer a lot of money.

Moreover, the quality of the seeds is unpredictable and availability too is erratic. Additionally, there is a 10% — 30% price fluctuation due to a lack of transparency.

In this scenario, Freshokartz offers farmers a strong value proposition and makes their agri-input purchases very efficient.

  • Door-step delivery on the same day
  • Wider choice
  • Predictability of quality and supply
  • Easy return policy

To help farmers make better-informed decisions, Freshokarz also provides farmers advice on what to grow, when to grow, how much fertilizer to use, etc. It also makes it easier for farmers to obtain financial assistance or insurance through its partners.

Freshokartz uses agronomists and contact centers to assist farmers with soil-based crop and fertilizer recommendations.

Unique business model

Freshokartz has built a comprehensive tech platform and app via which they deliver these services to farmers. However, knowing that most farmers may not be familiar with using a tech platform, Freshokartz has created a unique model of Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs). These VLEs, called Saarthis, are Freshokatrz’ representatives who help farmers buy the inputs they need and provide them with the advice.

Encouraging traction with inspiring long-term plans

Freshokartz currently serves 10,000 farmers across 100 villages via 100 VLEs. They are currently focused on Rajasthan and will continue to do so this year.

As the community of farmers connected with Freshokartz grows, it plans to help farmers also sell their products better by connecting them to buyers that can offer better rates, and support them with logistics and warehousing support to make the selling process more efficient.

In 3 years’ time, Freshokartz aims to serve a million farmers via 100,000 VLEs.

Supply Chain Labs is excited to support Freshokartz in their journey where they have dedicated themselves to reengineering and reinventing Indian agriculture to support Indian farmers and boost their productivity with products, agri-specialists, and education platforms.

A startup redefining intra-city logistics for perishables

Every year, nearly 70 million tonnes of food is wasted in India. This is largely because the cold supply chain for perishables is inadequate and broken. While large brands like Starbucks and KFCs of India have well-organised logistics services, smaller businesses do not. This area is extremely unorganised, with all kinds of vehicles, from vans to scooters, being used in the delivery of food cartons. In order to be able to save costs, hygiene is sacrificed, and jugaad logistical practices are employed.

Many small and medium-sized food and beverage businesses require assistance with everyday food logistics. In the absence of such services, they are not able to replenish stock often, as they are unable to service sales outlets frequently enough in a day. (How often have you noticed that the pastry in a bakery is stale by evening because the manufacturer delivers it only once in the morning?)

With the growth of cloud kitchens, artisanal brands, and an explosion of retail points (like modern trade stores, dark stores, and DC hubs), the need for efficient intra-city logistics for perishables is even more accentuated.

That’s where Just Deliveries (JD) comes in. JD is a startup focused on intra-city logistics for perishables. By offering a shared cold logistics service, JD is able to help brands put fresher stock of perishable items on store shelves and food-service outlets.

Just Deliveries aggregates service providers like delivery vans and ensures compliance with SLAs like temperature control, hygiene, cleanliness, punctuality, etc. Moreover, JD optimises capacity utilisation by sharing the van with several brands. As a result, JD is able to offer cost-effective, efficient, and timely service to brands. The tech platform and app provide visibility to all stakeholders and synchronise processes amongst them.

“At Just Deliveries, our goal is to assist brand owners with the cumbersome logistics process, allowing them to focus their energy entirely on scaling their geographical presence and core business,’’ said Mansi Mahansaria, Founder, Just Deliveries.

Supply Chain Labs is excited to support Just Deliveries in providing last-mile inter-city logistics for perishables. By providing more efficient and more frequent milk runs, it allows brands of perishable products to service retail outlets more frequently, thus helping keep fresher stock on shelves.

“Services like JD not only prevent food wastage but also directly impact the profitability of brands of perishable goods through lower returns of expired products and increased sales points. Can a brand selling paneer, for example, deliver fresh stock to 500 retailers every day by itself? By taking care of the entire logistics piece, JD is also enabling more individuals to become food entrepreneurs and enabling existing food entrepreneurs to expand much faster than they would otherwise be able to do on their own.

It is also a very large market. According to Redseer, food services is a $65 billion market opportunity in India, growing at 9% per annum and likely to reach $110 billion by 2025. Within the food services market of $65 billion, online delivery accounts for a market size of $4.2 billion, growing at 6–7%,” Prajakt Raut, Managing Partner, Supply Chain Labs.

Fellowship are Like Fitness Camps: Startups Gain the Right Insights & Resources to Reach Their Goals

Yes. You read the title right, startup Fellowships are like fitness camps.

Fitness camps do not help you fix everything with respect to your fitness in a single camp. They give you great insights into fitness and help you put together a plan that works and one that matches your unique needs and circumstances. Similarly, Fellowships equip startups with the right insights and new perspectives, access to key resources, mentors and domain experts and steer you towards the right direction but they cannot wave a magic wand to fix everything through a single programme. It is, then, about how startups leverage their learnings at the Fellowship to forge ahead.

India’s One-of-a-Kind Fellowship Enabling the Creation of Extraordinary Impact at Scale

Supply Chain Labs by Lumis Partners is the first-ever acceleration programme in India for startups in the supply chain industry. It is the first-ever Fellowship aimed at fuelling the growth of early-stage startups that have high growth potential.

Supply Chain Labs is an acceleration programme with a vision to solve global problems and create extraordinary value at scale to all stakeholders. This is a one-of-a-kind programme in India that is providing the chosen cohort of startups with access to the best in class resources and Lumis Partners’ global networks, a knowledge-building opportunity at MIT Zaragoza in Spain and tailored mentoring and handholding support to sharpen their solutions/ products, develop strategic edges and realize their full potential. The interventions for each startup in the cohort are defined based on deep-dive reviews into each of the startups.

What makes Supply Chain Labs a Unique Fellowship?

Excellent Mentor Connect

Taking the fitness analogy further, mentors are much like fitness coaches – they can guide startups, provide tips and tailored handholding support, hold the mirror to their business, ask the tough questions and push the startup to realize their full potential or get them to take a step back to get their foundation right. It is the responsibility of the startup to put in the effort and work with discipline and diligence to unlock their full potential and accelerate their growth process.

Supply Chain Labs has been providing startups with impactful and tailored mentoring and handholding support to help them change things around. Each startup is provided with access to excellent mentors – CXOs as anchor mentors and a wider network of subject matter experts. The mentors have helped them strengthen the basics of business, focus/ refocus and fine-tune, introspect on the business models or the product itself, shift their approach to a product-focused one, gearing up for the next phase of growth, etc.

“In our experience thus far, we see that quality consistency is one of the key expectations of fruits and vegetables supply chain, which is non-existent in the Mandi system that exists today. Our discussion with our mentor, Mr. Girish Shivani from Yournest, strengthened our belief and validated this with other supply chains as well. Moving to a product-focused approach for select produce that solves for consistency is the approach we’re moving forward with.” – Crofarm

“The one thing that has truly changed is that we have taken out time to introspect on our business based on the sessions from experienced entrepreneurs, domain experts and mentors. This augurs extremely well for us as it allows us to prepare better for our next phase of growth.” – Xpedize

“Being part of the SCL Programme has changed a few things for us but the one most impactful change has been getting our business model refined. Thanks to the amazing mentors that Lumis has connected us with.” – Smartstorey

Learning and knowledge-building

Startups have been provided with ample and highly curated opportunities for learning and knowledge building. Through the academic programme at MIT Zaragoza s, the startups have been exposed to new perspectives and approaches in the supply chain space and an understanding product use cases outside India. Through the carefully curated workshops, sessions, etc. by domain experts, industry leaders and mentors, the startups have been exposed to perspectives from the field and insights on what’s happening in the world.

“One major change happening to us is that we have started learning more about our product use cases outside India and started formulating a go to market strategy for expanding outside the country. With the visit to ZLC and interaction with the professors there, we have been able to understand what are the challenges in SC functions globally, what are the emerging technologies to solve these challenges on a global scale and how we can enhance our product scope to include the same.” – Quifers

“One major change happening to us is that we have started focusing on our solution with a product-driven approach, more than a service-oriented one. Already taken measures and we are on it.
More importantly, academics helped us to understand two things:
a. How SC functions globally
b. How vast is SC as compared to what we are doing”
– Elixia

Improved visibility for their solutions/ products in the market

SCL has enabled the cohort of early-stage startups to gain greater visibility in the market. Their products/ solutions have started to gain greater attention and traction.

“I’d say it’s visibility and quality networking. Before SCL, we were focused on getting our product-market fit in place. We never really looked at marketing. But now with SCL, our visibility has improved. We have people reaching out to us on LinkedIn to understand what we do.” – Rezofin

Quality networking

Startups have been provided access to the best-in-class resources in the startup ecosystem and Lumis’ global networks which have been immensely beneficial to them.

“The network has been the biggest change for us. Our plans to go global has come a step closer to reality after meeting the mentors and stakeholders in SCL.” – FreightBro

“It has been quite an experience so far, interacting with folks who are trying to solve similar problems. The mentor sessions were great and the journey to ZLC has given us time to reflect upon what’s happening around the globe in the field of Supply Chain Management. Time to implement and scale!” – Superprocure

Meaningful Corporate and Investor Connects

Wide gaps and inefficiencies exist in the supply chain industry in India. The main reason for this being the lack of awareness among corporates about next-gen, grassroots innovations happening in the supply chain startups in the length and breadth of the country. To effectively bridge these gaps, raise awareness about these innovative solutions among corporate houses and potential in India, Supply Chain Labs organized curated Corporate and Investor Connects.

“Things have changed for us since SCL. And the most important being the visibility that we are getting now! We have had the privilege of showcasing our solutions to corporate leaders and potential investors.” – Odwen

Peer Learning

Contrary to the popular belief that startups are constantly competing with each other and that early-stage startups do not have much to share, we have observed at the Supply Chain Labs that there is a great deal of peer learning happening between our startups. This is mainly because they are all early-stage startups operating in the same domain. It further helps that they all generating revenues with a number of paying clients.

“Plus, through SCL and the various sessions that SCL organizes, we have had the opportunity to network with some of the brightest minds in the startup ecosystem. It’s great when you get personal feedback from people who have been in the same journey as you and have come out on the other side stronger and wiser. We are stoked to see how things proceed from here.” – Rezofin

9 High-Growth-Potential Startups to Kick-Off Their Acceleration Journey with Supply Chain Labs

India’s first-ever and first-of-its-kind acceleration programme for supply chain startups, Supply Chain Labs by Lumis Partners, is all set to commence on September 1, 2019 with its fantastic final cohort of 9 early-stage, high-growth-potential supply chain startups with cutting-edge solutions to supply chain challenges of global relevance.

This holistic 2-month programme is offered by Lumis Partners, an operating investment firm and a global leader in the logistics and supply chain management space that is committed to bridging the gaps in the supply chain industry, building a resilient and robust ecosystem and thereby, driving the industry towards unparalleled growth and efficiency.

Supply Chain Labs has had overwhelming support from the corporate houses, industry leaders and global investors right from its inception and the Programme has strategic partnerships with MIT (academic partner), Yes Bank (corporate innovation partner) and AWS (technology partner).

The Selection Phase

Having received a remarkable response from supply chain startups from across India, the process of shortlisting the Top 15 out of 600+ applicants for the Grand Jury Session involved rigorous and thorough scrutiny and assessment spread across 4 stages. The fantastic final cohort of 9 high-potential supply chain startups was selected at the Grand Jury Session on August 13, 2019 by a distinguished jury comprising of experienced investors, corporate leaders and industry stalwarts.

The first-ever batch of Supply Chain Labs includes

  • Xpedize Ventures Private Limited is a comprehensive tech-enabled platform for Supply Chain Finance that eliminates inefficiencies and delivers profitability for buyers and sellers.

  • SuperProcure – TruckHall Pvt Ltd is a cohesive and unique platform to enable businesses of all kinds and sizes to simplify vehicle procurement, trip management and logistics and thereby, reduce their logistics budgets.

  • FreightBro is a unique and cohesive freight forwarding platform that enables freight forwards to remove inefficiencies, procure the right prices and boost sales.

  • Quifers’ logistics management software is enabling businesses to transform their logistics with effective delivery planning, route optimization, fleet utilization, tracking, etc.

  • Odwen – Udghata Technology Private Limited is India’s first DIY warehousing management system that is making warehousing simple, efficient, secure and affordable.

  • Rezo Technologies Private Limited is a Supply Chain Finance platform that leverages automation to securely and efficiently connect corporate buyers with suppliers helping them discount or finance invoices at cheaper prices.

  • Crofarm AgroProducts is a creating zero-wastage agricultural supply chain that helps farmers get the right price for their produce and consumers get the best-quality and fresh agri-products delivered at their doorstep.

  • Smartstorey is a one-stop-shop for home and lifestyle solutions that enables customers to source construction and home interior requirements (from building materials to carpets) from anywhere across the country.

  • Elixia Tech is empowering businesses across industries with smart, comprehensive and customized data-enabled solutions for transportation, logistics and supply chain management.

“It is very exciting to see the drive and innovation presently in India. Supply Chain and logistics solutions of global quality and depth are coming out strong. There are definitely some really valuable companies in the making here” – Victor Martinez-Angles, Senior Partner at Lumis

The Acceleration Phase

The 2-month acceleration phase will include tailored handholding support to each of the 9 startups to enable them to refine their solutions/ products, think and act global, develop competitive advantages and build a solid foundation for accelerated growth.

Knowledge and capacity building are key parts of the Programme. The startups will be part of a 1-week programme at MIT’s Zaragoza Logistics Centre (ZLC), Spain to gain exposure to critical concepts and international best practices in the field. The startups will also be part of a series of incisive business, domain and commercial workshops led by mentors, investors, and corporates.

Through the Supply Chain Labs programme, each of the startups will get access to Lumis’ global network of partners, investors, mentors and other best-in-class resources with opportunities to showcase products/ solutions to a curated set of corporates and pitch to potential investors.

The collaboration with the startups does not end with the 2-month acceleration phase. There will be a continued interaction phase spanning 4 months where the startups will continue to receive mentoring and support from Lumis. The graduated startups will be alumni for life with access to the Lumis’ senior leadership for support and guidance.

The next batch for the Supply Chain Labs Programme will be announced in 2020. For any further information, visit https://supplychainlabs.in/.

India’s First-Ever Supply Chain Fellowship Programme Concludes the Selection Phase with the Grand Jury Session

Supply Chain Labs is an Acceleration Programme by Lumis Partners with MIT as the academic partner, Yes Bank as the corporate innovation partner and AWS as the technology partner for Early-Stage Supply Chain Startups with High Growth Potential.

India’s first-ever Acceleration Programme aimed at revolutionising the supply chain space in India, Supply Chain Labs by Lumis Partners, is all set to kick-off on September 1, 2019. Supply Chain Labs is a first-of-its-kind acceleration programme in India that aims to bring next-gen business models and cutting-edge supply chain solutions to truly transform the efficiency, productivity and profitability for all stakeholders and to bridge the wide gaps that exist in investments in grassroots solutions that solve complex, global SC challenges.

Right from the announcement of the initiative, Supply Chain Labs has received a remarkable response from the SC startups from across the country with over 600 of them applying to be part of the programme. The programme has also received massive support from big corporations, industry leaders and seasoned investors from across the globe.

The Top 15

After a rigorous process of scrutiny and thorough analysis of the applications and ideas spread across 4 stages, 15 startups were shortlisted for the Grand Jury Session on August 13, 2019. The Top 15 startups belong to a wide range of different sub-segments of the supply chain industry and not just traditionally over-invested sub-segments of the industry.

  • Crofarm AgroProducts is a creating zero-wastage agricultural supply chain that helps farmers get the right price for their produce and consumers get the best-quality and fresh agri-products delivered at their doorstep.
  • Elixia Tech is empowering businesses across industries with smart, comprehensive and customized data-enabled solutions for transportation, logistics and supply chain management.
  • Decker Logistics Pvt Ltd’s ValueShipr solution is enabling the development of an organized and transparent Logistics Ecosystem for all associated stakeholders and creating tremendous value.
  • Quifers’ logistics management software is enabling businesses to transform their logistics with effective delivery planning, route optimization, fleet utilization, tracking, etc.
  • Smartstorey is a one-stop-shop for home and lifestyle solutions that enables customers to source construction and home interior requirements (from building materials to carpets) from anywhere across the country.
  • FreightBro is a unique and cohesive freight forwarding platform that enables freight forwards to remove inefficiencies, procure the right prices and boost sales.
  • Odwen – Udghata Technology Private Limited is India’s first DIY warehousing management system that is making warehousing simple, efficient, secure and affordable.
  • Adapt Ideations Pvt Ltd is a B2B platform leveraging IoT, Blockchain and other futuristic technologies to deliver smart and customized supply chain solutions.
  • Rezofin Technologies Private Limited is an SC Finance platform that leverages automation to securely and efficiently connect corporate buyers with suppliers helping them discount or finance invoices at cheaper prices.
  • SuperProcure – TruckHall Pvt Ltd is a cohesive and unique platform to enable businesses of all kinds and sizes to simplify vehicle procurement, trip management and logistics and thereby, reduce their logistics budgets.
  • Shiplyst Systems Private Limited is a hassle-free and comprehensive platform for businesses to get and compare quotes from multiple freight-forwarders for ocean shipments and effectively manage shipments.
  • Xpedize Ventures Private Limited is a comprehensive tech-enabled platform for SC Finance that eliminates inefficiencies and delivers profitability for buyers and sellers.
  • Thar Shipping Lines LLP (PortExcel) is an efficient, hassle-free and end-to-end logistics (air and sea) management platform that provides real-time visibility to shipment.
  • Logistimo India Private Limited is an open-source, inclusive value chain platform to fulfill healthcare delivery needs and ensure health equity of the rural population.
  • Planet Express Innovations Pvt Ltd is a simple and powerful shipping tool that reduces time and effort by 50% for businesses looking to make a global impact.

The Grand Jury Session

At the Grand Jury Session, each of the Top 15 startups did a 6-minute pitch to the jury followed by a 3-minute Q&A round. The final cohort of startups was decided based on the complexity of the problem that the startups are solving, their uniqueness, commercial traction, how they will benefit from the acceleration programme, their vision and growth potential.

The distinguished jury consisted of members of the investor community, industry leaders, domain experts, corporates, seasoned entrepreneurs and the core committee members of Lumis Partners. The jury has years of experience in the SC space and knows the supply chain industry inside out. This was visible in the Q&A session as they asked super domain-specific questions to each of the startups to get deeper insights into their solutions and analyse the possible growth outcomes.

The Distinguished Jury included:

Overall, the Grand Jury Session was a huge success and a momentous occasion for the supply chain industry in India. The seasoned jury finalized the fantastic final cohort of 9 high-potential, early-stage supply chain startups for the Supply Chain Labs Programme that is all set to kick off on September 1, 2019.

The final cohort of 9 startups selected for the SCL Programme are:

  1. Xpedize Ventures Private Limited

  2. SuperProcure – TruckHall Pvt Ltd

  3. FreightBro

  4. Quifers

  5. Odwen – Udghata Technology Private Limited

  6. Rezo Technologies Private Limited

  7. Crofarm AgroProducts

  8. Smartstorey

  9. Elixia Tech

Supply Chain Labs congratulates the top 9 startups and welcomes them onboard for a long-term collaboration.

For further information on the Supply Chain Labs Programme, visit https://supplychainlabs.in/.

The Criticality of Digital Transformation and Innovations in The Supply Chains of Large Organizations

Large organizations with mass consumption products are heavily reliant on the effectiveness and efficiency of the supply chain for their profitability and growth. For achieving such efficiency and effectiveness, there needs to be massive digital transformation and redesigning of the supply chain of large organizations.

We interviewed one of the SCL mentors, Suman Bose, to understand his perspectives on the criticality of the supply chain in the product life-cycle, the innovation status of large organizations about the supply chain and what the future of business holds. Suman Bose is an executive advisor to boards and CEOs on strategy and digital transformation. He is the former MD and CEO of Siemens Industry Software – India and has over 20 years of experience in business development.

Here are the key takeaways from the interview.

Key challenges and opportunities in reimagining the supply chain of large organizations

One of the major difficulties in reimagining the supply change and digitally transforming is

“the direct impact it may have on thousands of jobs, often leading to severe backlash from employees and pressure from labor unions.”

Digital transformation of the supply chain enables organizations to thrive, rather than survive in the long run. So, it is key that big companies look at solutions from smaller startups and mid-sized partners to reimagine the way they carry out SC tasks while finding effective ways to address the challenges.

Impact of supply chain innovations on the product life-cycle

Processes expedited through new automation-based business models:

Suman Bose explained the implication of new automation-based business models with the example of truckers in India.

Suppose a truck driver has to deliver a package from Ludhiana to Chennai and the estimated cost of the delivery is Rs. 40,000. The truck drivers cannot approach banks to raise working capital loans to fund this delivery as they usually do not have the requisite documents. Additionally, small delivery orders do not fit into the asset criteria even if banks can fund certain working capital loans based on asset criteria. To get funds for making the delivery, the truck drivers end up approaching money lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates and only provide the sum after deducting the interest amount. So, the truck driver starts with a disadvantage. To add to his troubles, the clients always delay payments, putting them in a vicious circle of debts and working capital deficits.

“This problem is being solved by an automation-based business model wherein the software/ tech solution fills the gaps in the loan process. When a purchase order is received, it automatically gets the requisite forms filled, collects necessary documents and send it to the bank. The bank scans the documents and approves the loan at a micro-finance interest rate/SME business rate.”

Automation, therefore, expedites the process and makes it efficient.

Technological innovations are enabling information gaps to be filled:

The traditional models and supply chain processes are ridden with inefficiencies, hefty costs and bottlenecks that permeate from severe information silos, poor visibility and heavy leakages.

“Technological innovations from supply chain startups are revolutionizing even small aspects of the supply chain. They are enabling better integration of systems, seamless information flow (breaking silos and filling information gaps), creation of unique identification systems and end-to-end visibility which are, in turn, immensely impacting the quality and process efficiency.”

Suman Bose explained this with the help of the example of a supply chain startup in Punjab that solving the twin problems of the excessive use of subsidized fertilizers and pesticides and resulting losses to the government. Distributors get fertilizer subsidies on a per kg basis and so they sold excessive amounts to farmers by fudging the data. Farmers, in turn, excessively used these and caused soil quality degradation and water pollution. So, the startup engages in soil testing at a satellite level and ground level, estimating the quantity and quality of pesticides and fertilizers that are to be used on that particular piece of land. By linking this with the Government data, it helped prevent fudging of data (as one can fudge the ground level tests but cannot fudge the satellite level tests) and saving the Government from losses and leakages.

Mass customization and frugality will be made possible

Frugality comes from greater visibility – tying up the loose ends of existing information while not losing business lucrativeness.

“In the near future, tech innovations will make it possible to integrate the 360-degree view of consumption data into the supply chain and thereby, into manufacturing and procurement of products. This is nothing but mass customization. And mass customization is what a frugal economy will be all about.”

Transformation of the logistics space with the birth of new-age supply chain startups

We constantly keep hearing how the multitude of changes in the supply chain space has led to the coming in of more organized players as well as startups with new business models, resulting in large scale transformation on the service provider- and corporate-side.

Ashutosh Mayank, VP at Lumis Partners interviewed one of the SCL mentors, Neeraj Bansal, to get his perspective on the logistics space and how and why it has transformed the way it has in the past 5 years. Neeraj Bansal is a digital transformation leader with over 20 years of experience in helping leading organizations take the digital transformation path.

Here are the key takeaways from the interview.

On-ground changes that have happened in the last 5 years in the supply chain space

The biggest challenges in the supply chain industry in the past decades have been reliability, speed and efficiency of the service. With the accelerated growth of e-commerce, food delivery, cab services and other service providers who are giving same-day and next-day delivery, clear benchmarks have been set. This has ushered in a behavioural shift in how customers expect goods across industries to be delivered which, in turn, has put indirect pressure on all brands to fulfil the service at the same speed even if they are not an e-commerce or grocery delivery chain.

“The result, as I see it, is that there is no more a difference between logistics and customer experiences. In fact, logistics defines what the customer experience is going to be. With this awakening happening in more companies, we will see bigger and much faster transformations happening in them. The companies that are laggards in this regard will either be forgotten or will be relegated to the last or least preferred positions.”

The second fundamental change is the bringing in of technology into the supply chain space. According to Neeraj, supply chain is one of the most underinvested industries in terms of technology.

“The initial pull and benchmarks are set by the large organized players who were the first to adopt technology to deliver efficiently. The tough competition from these larger players to the regional and/or smaller players have, in turn, forced them to look for technological solutions to survive and stay relevant.”

In cases where they could not build solutions themselves owing to a lack of expertise or resources, they started looking towards third parties such as software solution providers.

There are also regulatory changes; the major ones being GST implementation and e-way billing. Earlier, there was scope to play around depending upon the tax structures in different states. For instance, the mobile phone industry set up warehouses in places where the taxes were lowest. With the differential tax structures gone, now these players are looking at rationalizing their warehouses, infrastructure, etc. Building a GST infrastructure has taken time, but it is definitely beneficial, and its full impact will be seen in the next 3-5 years.

Changes in corporate engagement with supply chain startups

“According to me, startups are agile, fast, nimble, driven to do more and technology driven. Today, larger organizations find it indispensable to absorb these attributes too and this has resulted in a growing understanding and appreciation of the great ideas and technological innovations startups bring and that it is good to engage with these startups and absorb their innovations to stay ahead of the game.”

Another issue is that large organizations which have been running traditional businesses do not have the capability to build anything on the tech front.

“With logistics now getting disrupted, the only way for such organizations to hold their ground and make their offerings competitive is to partner with these small startups and provide them with the necessary backup. So, it is a need-based association as well. It is a very positive change happening in the kind of corporate engagement with startups.”

Increasing willingness amongst large corporates to look at innovations on the ground rather than looking at their own requirements

The traditional industry that used to work with single ERPs where large consulting firms worked on multi-year projects and integration teams built on top of these platforms in a never-ending process is becoming obsolete now. The fundamental change is that everything is moving to the cloud now, where it is easy to manage, share, etc. and on which large infrastructure investments are not needed. With the shift to the cloud, it is easy for multiple partners and niche players to come in and collaborate to build/ operate your solution.

Even though large organizations are good when you are looking at enterprise-scale systems, there hasn’t been much innovation happening in these large organizations in the logistics space. On the other hand,

“a lot of these startups have taken the solution-oriented approach rather than a platform-driven approach. They leverage analytics, IoT, AI, ML, etc. which are not the forte of traditional companies. With most companies looking for solutions rather than wanting to integrate with legacy systems through platforms, startups have naturally become the go-to option for corporates rather than the large service providers and ERP companies.”

New happenings in the trucking space

The transportation industry is so big in India that whatever effort is being taken is still a drop in the ocean. Currently, there are large organized players entering the market trying to use technology to streamline their operations and the efficiency, speed, etc. of the services delivered necessitated by the needs of the business – the customers who want to deliver at the same speed to their end-customers.

The whole value chain is seeing innovations at the moment, but these are happening in buckets with some focusing on the first mile, some on the last-mile, some on warehousing and so on. There are only a few players trying to innovate the whole value chain.

From the brand perspective, they do not see the first mile, last mile, warehousing, etc. as different things. They want one integrated solution where the logistics between the pickup from the brand to the delivery to the end-customer should be “predictably boring”.

“It should be as simple as water coming out of the tap instantly when you turn it on. You do not consider the supply chain, the source or the internal plumbing while turning the tap; it is so predictable. Logistics too must come to that stage that you are able to integrate everything on the back end so that it becomes predictably boring and easy for the end customer. That is when we would have solved the logistics problem!”

AI-Enabled Supply Chain Transformation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a fictional element or a science of the distant future wherein robots and humanoids rule our world; it is here and enabling revolutionary transformations across industries.

The supply chain industry, experts believe, will benefit massively from this AI-led transformation. The industry is already leveraging AI-enabled technology to drive higher revenues and achieve improved efficiency. In India, it is expected that this transformation will see the industry valuation double in the next 2 years.

The supply chain, involving a highly interconnected and interdependent set of tasks, is a trade where even minor errors have multiplier effects on costs, revenues and business outcomes. AI, powered with Machine Learning (ML), predictive analytics, automation and so on, has the ability to process the voluminous supply chain data from disparate sources and equip business leaders with actionable insights and forecasts in real-time. Such insights enable quick decision-making and real-time change adaptation to streamline/ reinvent functions and processes, minimize leakages and losses and develop a strong strategic edge.

The AI-powered solutions enable organizations to gain exceptional agility, precision, effectiveness, efficiency and end-to-end visibility in the supply chain if the right models and solutions are identified and applied.

AI-enabled supply chain transformation: Where are we?

Globally, there are diverse, cutting-edge innovations in the application of AI in the supply chain. Some of the path-breaking AI-enabled transformations include:

  • Contextual intelligence provided by technology such as Intelligent Robotic Sorting, AI-powered Visual Inspection, etc. which are transforming warehouse management, shipping, tracking, logistics, packaging and so on.

  • Supervised learning, unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning technologies are facilitating real-time decision-making, enhanced fraud detection, predictive insights, etc.

  • AI-led automation in the form of self-driving forklifts, automated sorting, self-managing intelligent inventory systems, autonomous/ driverless ground vehicles, etc. are revolutionizing warehousing, logistics, distribution, inventory management, etc.

  • Intelligent software solutions are enabling better supplier selection, product design, audits, evaluations, production planning, B2B sourcing, etc.

One of the leading innovators bringing sophistication and next-gen models in the supply chain space at the global level is Amazon. This e-commerce giant has revolutionized its business models, transformed customer experiences, forecasted demand with greater precision continuously reduced the delivery time and reigned supreme in e-commerce owing to its extensive use of technology including AI, ML, automation and IoT among others.

In India and across the globe, supply chain startups have been playing a key role in revolutionizing the space with their AI-led innovations, cutting-edge solutions and next-gen models. Some notable Indian supply chain startups that are consistently raising investments from Indian and global investors for their revolutionary solutions are:

  • Delhivery : Offers technology-driven logistics services such as last-mile delivery, third-party and transit warehousing, reverse logistics, shipping, etc.

  • Fareye : Offers an automation software and mobile platform to uncomplicate last-mile delivery issues.

  • Rivigo, Trukky.com, LogiNext, Blackbuck, 4tigo, etc.: Offer smart logistics solutions including trucking, tuck hiring, real-time tracking, delivery planning, etc. to B2B and B2C customers.

  • Shipsy and FourKites : offer predictive supply chain platforms to ensure real-time visibility to their B2B clients.

There is growing awareness amongst organizations about the criticality of intelligent and efficient supply chain management and optimization to their overall business outcomes and long-term sustainability. Despite this realization, studies show that only 30-40% of Indian businesses are leveraging AI-enabled tech solutions in their supply chain activities while others still use traditional, linear models. Two main causes are – their lack of talent and resources for in-house innovations and their lack of awareness of grassroots innovations by startups.

Successful Corporate-Startup Collaboration: How Locus enabled Blue Dart to minimize last-mile inefficiencies?

The logistics giant, Blue Dart, faced a big challenge – the manual sorting of packages was inefficient and time-consuming, especially during peak times and when time-bound deliveries were required. As a company that strives to optimize operational efficiencies, Blue Dart partnered with Locus (a supply chain startup) to deploy its proprietary, automated shipment sorting and rider allocation solution – IntelliSort. This smart solution immensely reduced the time spent on sorting and enabled the company to send shipments out faster. The savings on manual drudgery and the increased accuracy in route mapping translated into higher cost-savings and better outcomes for Blue Dart.

The way forward

The above case study highlights how immensely corporates benefit when they collaborate with startups that offer cutting-edge, next-gen, intelligent solutions. Such collaborations will be the way forward for improved efficiency and transformative business results. Certain sub-segments like e-commerce logistics, 3PL, trucking, etc. are popular and heavily funded while other, equally critical sub-segments such 4PL, warehousing, maritime logistics, etc. with revolutionary AI-enabled innovations are severely underfunded. It is important to bridge these gaps if the supply chain industry is to forge ahead.