Indian enterprise.
Global synergies.

Make in India needs a unified transportation policy & top-class logistics network

Prof. Sundaravalli Narayanaswami, IIM Ahmedabad, believes that India needs a national standard for smart and intelligent logistics – developed and commissioned through the state. Furthermore, the country should develop a good vendor base that can develop interoperable, cohesive and bespoke solutions as well as trained manpower to cater to the growing needs.

Sundaravalli Narayanaswami

IBT: What can be done to facilitate the digitization of logistics networks? What technologies can India leverage to attain this objective?

Prof S. Narayanaswami: One must realize that digitalization is not a magic wand that shall eradicate all our problems. The base requirement is that our transport systems and logistics networks need a lot of internal strengthening in alignment to the newer policies to support our overall national missions and objectives. For example, Make in India would be meaningful, if and only if we are able to support the mission through a robust transport network and logistic platform that could transform the manufacturing potential to social advantage and economic growth.

To achieve this, we need rapid infrastructure development and significant improvements in throughputs through reduced administrative hassles. We need to see phenomenal positive economic outcomes through exports and imports; digitalization is an enabling mechanism for a rapid transformation. I certainly recommend adoption of Industry 4.0 and block chain technology implementation in Indian logistics sector.

IBT: What advantages will this have for manufacturers? How will it enhance the ease of doing business in the country & enhance the sector’s contribution to GDP?

Prof S Narayanaswami: I am not sure, if our logistics sector has fully leveraged and adapted itself to the new GST regime. GST is an unprecedented taxation reform that perhaps mandates few more revisions at state level and considerable process modifications at each organizational level, to fully exploit the benefits. A full-fledged logistic network combined with modern infrastructure should help organizations to do more business and better quality services. I would presume Government norms ensure ease of doing business in India.

If through our initiatives such as Make in India, we aspire to enhance the National GDP, a unified transportation policy and top-class logistic network are required. Manufacturers should consider reconfiguration of their supply chain and identify the right logistic service providers to work with them as co-partners in business. Collectively, they should explore innovative means of utilising various state run schemes such as e-Marketplace and develop their own smart solutions to become more productive; and that should improve the National GDP.

IBT:  Does India have the necessary ecosystem to digitize its logistics network? What is your take on the draft National Logistics Policy that the government is working on?

Prof S Narayanaswami: India certainly leads the World in IT and ITeS. Therefore, I would think that India can certainly develop systemic solutions for logistic services both for national and international usage. As mentioned earlier, block-chain technology is one that Indian IT companies should explore and develop good logistics solutions.

The draft National Logistics Policy (NLP) looks ambitious and promising; I hope due considerations are made for pragmatism and contextual challenges. Specific observations are:

(1) Details on how the NLP proposes to enhance exim trade would help.

(2) Much is discussed about multi-modal transportation; a unified transport policy is highly due for India. Currently each mode under a separate ministry competes with the other for a market share, which is counterproductive towards a balanced multi-modal transport.

(3) There are four demand categories based on urban, non-urban, freight and commuter traffic. What is in stake for each through NLP is not very clear.

(4) Training and capacity building is one focus area for India. There is much expectation from the National Rail and Transport Institute (under MoR) which is just in infancy. It is high time that the country has its own world class, dedicated logistics, transportation and supply chain management and training Institute.

(5) NLP policy could also spell out specific directives and norms on Intelligent Transportation Systems, at the national level.

IBT: What are the major impediments to the digitization of logistics? How can these be overcome?

Prof S Narayanaswami: As mentioned, I firmly believe that digitization is an enabler; processes need to be robust and agile, a priori. Particular to digitization, we need a national standard for smart and intelligent logistics – developed and commissioned through the state. We need a good vendor base that can develop interoperable, cohesive and bespoke solutions. Finally we need trained manpower to cater to the growing needs. Ministry, corporates, research and academia should work together towards these and come out with realistic, (contextually) relevant and resilient systems and solutions.

IBT: Which global best practices can be successfully embraced by digital supply networks? What can Indian manufacturers learn from them?

Sundaravalli Narayanaswami: It is unlikely that a global best practice is so generic, that one can buy, plug-in and start using as a model. Even so, adoption of a best practice shall only make us the second best. I believe in developing innovative systems based on our specific challenges and needs. Both manufacturing and logistics organizations should work towards consolidation of their supply chain network, in collaboration with global players and target for significant growth in domestic and global trade. Rapid turn-around, transparency, fair deals with minimum documentation, sustainable operations with environmental considerations are differentiators in the sector. The focus should shift from customer centricity to stakeholder centricity. Creativity, innovation and contextual relevance are key to this objective.


Prof Sundaravalli Narayanaswami has earned her PhD in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from IIT Bombay, after a Masters in Computer Science. Her teaching interests are in Intelligent Transportation systems, Operations Research in public systems, Operations Management, Urban transportation, in addition to Management Information systems and Knowledge Management. Most of her research in the past and present are in transportation operations and knowledge management that involve applications of ICT and OR tools in real-life problems of large impact.

Dr Sundaravalli started her career in IT services marketing and she soon moved to a production profile in an electronics equipment manufacturing industry. Her academic career began later and she has taught at various programs in Mumbai University and at Institutes under the UAE Federal education ministry in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. She has also taught in many Executive development programs while at UAE. She publishes and reviews regularly for scholarly editorials and presents her research findings among peers, both in India and abroad.

Dr Sundaravalli is a life member of several professional associations and holds a Fellowship from the British Computer Society. She also serves on the Editorial board of the Annals of Management Science. Her major consultancy assignments are with Government organizations in process analysis and policy decisions related to operations, technology and management.

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