Interview – Right interventions needed to bring India’s logistics industry back to normal after lockdown

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The Great Lockdown broke supply chains and severely impacted movement of goods across India, hitting logistics business hard. However, as Rajnish Kumar, Promoter Director of Pristine Group of Companies told indoasiancommodities.com, the situation was beginning to improve as customer confidence returned even though there was still some distance to be covered before the it fully normalised.

How has the logistics sector been impacted by the nationwide lockdown to contain the pandemic? 

During the initial phases of Lockdown the logistics sector was impacted primarily because of two reasons –

There was lack of demand as factories were not functional, which led to a decrease in the requirement of raw material and production of finished goods. This was also evident from the way import containers were lying uncleared at several ICDs across the country.

Availability of drivers was an issue faced by the logistics sector as existing drivers went back to their villages and due to social stigma were not ready to return.

However, in subsequent phases, with the relaxation in lockdowns, the factories were restarted, creating the demand for the movement of goods. The bigger issue was the availability of drivers which required constant guidance and counselling, maintenance of social distancing norms, regular sanitization, and monitoring the health of the drivers. These steps helped in winning the trust of drivers and regularisation of the logistics sector.

Rajnish Kumar, Promoter Director, Pristine Group

What is the way to recovery?

Covid-19 has led to several issues which can be categorised into mainly two heads – global and local. While global issues will take its own time, local issues can be dealt with immediately through the right policy interventions. During initial phases of lockdown, Indian Railways came up with a series of policy interventions, which helped the rail logistics service providers in rolling the wheel during the lockdown.

However, these interventions have been rolled back and they should be brought back to support the logistics sector till the time global issues are in control.

How has Pristine fared in the last 6 months on the business front? 

While the last six months has been a roller coaster, however, Pristine has done well because of its business continuity plan in place. We realised that this is the time when our customers need our best services and experience. Pristine, being involved in providing essential services, has remained fully operational even during the initial lockdown, and operated normally without any disruption. This has led to increased confidence of the customers and increased traffic at all our terminals.

What has been the company’s achievements/ milestones over the years? 

Pristine has been a front runner in providing logistics services at all its location. It has not only provided regular terminal services but has also provided innovative solutions such as Dwarf Containers.

How is Pristine placed vis-a-vis other firms in the same space? 

Pristine believed in having a network of terminals so that it can reap the benefits from the synergy of having terminals at  different locations in the country. Even during the initial years, Pristine had focused on building multiple terminals. Currently, Pristine operates from five terminals, spread across North and East India. This has not only helped in having efficient services but have also de-risked Pristine from volume fluctuations.

Another important strategy adopted by Pristine was to be present in the entire logistics services spectrum. Pristine is the only cargo agnostic company to provide end-to-end solution to its customers.

What are the company’s future plans?

Pristine has recently won a project to operate Nepal’s only rail-based terminal. In addition to this, Pristine is looking to expand its terminal strength by acquiring good assets both greenfield and brownfield across the Indian sub-continent.

Since Pristine has crude-edible oil storage and transportation facilities did the lockdown see any demand contraction in this sector? 

We store and transport crude-edible palm oil which has multiple uses, and therefore, did not see any reduction in demand.

In terms of cold storage facilities, do you face any challenges?  What are the growth opportunities in this space? 

There is a dearth of modern multi-commodity cold storage in the country, and there are huge opportunities for modern cold storage. As per estimates, around 16 percent of fruits and vegetables produced in India are wasted, primarily because of weak cold chain infrastructure.

However, it is not just the cold storage facilities that need to be upgraded but also the backward and forward linkages have to be made more robust. The bottleneck in the entire supply chain between producers and consumers is leading to demand that is not met for the consumers.

Shampa Bahadur has been a business journalist for more than two decades. She has written for Business India, PTI Media TransAsia and India Infrastructure Publication Ltd among others. She has also written coffee table books. She can be reached at shampa@indoasiancommodities.in

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