Logistics expansion relies on technology support
The logistics industry has become a vital contributor to India’s economic strength. According to a report published by Ernst and Young, India is expected to reach US$26 trillion in GDP by the fiscal year 2048, and the country’s transport and logistics industry can play a key role in sustaining this rapid expansion.
India Business and Trade spoke with Mr. G.S Ravi, EVP & Group CIO, GATI Ltd on the drastic change in the landscape of the logistics industry in India coupled with the technological advancement in the allied sectors. The industry veteran also spoke on the collaboration with Tech Mahindra for the launch of GEM 2.0 and the possibility of collaborating with ONDC.
Photo Source: GATI Limited
IBT: You have been a part of Gati Limited for over 2 decades. How have you seen the company change the landscape of the logistics and supply chain industry in India?
G.S Ravi: I have spent 22 years in Gati now. Gati has been India’s pioneer in express distribution and supply chain. We cover 735 districts out of 739, we take care of 19,000+ PIN codes in the country and we handle every distribution need of our clients. We have cemented a formidable position as a preferred distribution and supply chain solutions provider. We also specialize in offering customized supply chain services across different industry verticals per se.
I have been associated with Gati as a CIO for 22 years now and the first big change which happened in Gati way back started in 2001. We launched a massive ERP product called GEMS 1.0 and it took almost two years to come into action. The concept was a first-of-its-kind ERP at that time and we were 7-8 years ahead of any of the competition at that point in time. When most of the world was on client-server architecture, we launched a completely web-based centralized solution on 3rd July 2003. At the time it was unique because we custom-developed a huge ERP which took 200+ man years of effort at the time for develop. We also launched Oracle Financials and Oracle CRM and it was completely centralized. For a company which worked out of some 250+ locations at that point in time, very remote locations, it was a big leap in those days.
During these 20 years, I would say the journey has been extremely exciting and satisfying because of the huge change in the landscape of the logistics industry in India itself, parallel with the number of tech changes in this country as well as the industry as a whole.
IBT: There is immense growth in e-commerce and global trade. How is Gati addressing the current challenges of last-mile delivery and cross-border logistics?
G.S Ravi: The entire industry landscape has changed. Not only in the logistics space but e-commerce has also come in. A lot of new-age tech companies have also come into the space of logistics. While in certain areas we were ten steps ahead, in some we might be a couple of steps ahead or in some we might be on par with what is happening in certain specific areas. But the most important thing is we were never behind in any of these areas to meet the requirement.
Since 2009, our company delivery personnel and pickup personnel have always been carrying mobile devices to capture the details. Probably we might have been the first company again in terms of retail customers, i.e., one-time or cash customers or small customers, not the large corporate. We have completely digitised our delivery mechanisms. We capture the details on the mobile device, we print using a mobile printer and the airway bill or a docket as we call in Gati, gets delivered to you as a PDF through your WhatsApp or mail.
Logistics expansion cannot happen without the proper support of tech. For any large e-commerce player both coming into India or a homegrown player, the first and foremost requirement is tech more than your delivery capabilities pickup capabilities or routing capabilities which is given if you call yourself a logistics player. The tech helps to seamlessly integrate with them and provide information to them at every stage of movement of the shipment.
IBT: Every sector is now taking benefits of AI, and ML. How has Gati Limited incorporated technology like RFID, RPN, and artificial intelligence into its operations?
G.S Ravi: Our vehicle tracking or the delivery personal tracking is IOT-based, it is sensor-based which we have been doing for more than a decade. So, across the country we would be in a position to monitor the movements of our vehicle and a lot of analytics we do, including the speed at which the vehicle is going, where it has stopped for more than a given time, if a particular route is impacted due to unforeseen reason guide them out to take alternately. All these sorts of things happen using my vehicle monitoring and tracking system.
The ERP itself was launched 20+ years back which means we have enough and more good quality data and that pays for a lot of things to do such as analytics machine learning and AI. We have a fairly decent-sized team who work on many ML, and AI cases. We cover areas of predictive modelling. I am not going to get into all the areas, but primarily in the area of predictive modeling for forecasting and then some prescriptive modelling with a little bit of usage of predictive modeling in terms of route optimization. We do some amount of deep learning and AI solutions. For example, when I deliver a proof of delivery, the minute my person delivers a shipment he takes an image of that proof of delivery. Because in B2B we still need a rubber stamp on the piece of paper saying it got delivered. The image of the company seal is taken and we use lot of ML and AI to look at the image, interpret a lot of information, if it is valid or invalid, convert the content into it etc. We have been using significantly in all these key areas of predictive, prescriptive, deep learning of analytics, AML and AI as well.
IBT: How is predictive modeling or predictive analysis assisting your company in increasing operational efficiency?
G.S Ravi: Our business is seasonal. During the festival season, there can be a huge spike which is happening and it directly depends upon various industries, various holidays, various seasons etc. This obviously can be handled well with tools like load forecasting which tells us what is the load expected or the movement expected between Hub A to HUB B or a particular delivery location. This forecasting model of ours helps us to plan well in advance and plan better not only for my last-mile delivery partner but my mid-mile deliveries as well and for planning our vehicles accordingly.
IBT: How is Gati Limited gearing up to this year’s expectations or the delivery goals? Also, post covid what kind of surge have you seen during the festive season in terms of supply chain and logistics?
G.S Ravi: I will split my response into two parts. One, Gati of course is extremely well prepared to handle the surges. A few critical reasons for it are: Gati has been in this business for three decades now which simply means two things. First, we have a lot of solid data from the last two decades which helps us to forecast and plan. Added to that, we have the biggest advantage i.e. the human capital or the expertise. With this experience, we know how to scale all the resources which includes people and infrastructure. Both of these things are backed by technology scaling up per se. GEMS, even 1.0 is fully capable of scaling up to meet the requirements. I only want to bring one critical component to your attention. While Gati has been focusing on B2C earlier to a large extent, in the last couple of years we were not too focused on B2C. We are more focused on B2B business. Of course, COVID-19 was a setback for every industry in the country. Post that we have seen a good increase in volumes of all businesses, both in terms of B2B and B2C.
IBT: Gati has partnered with Tech Mahindra for the launch of Gem 2.0. How is it different from Gati 1.0?
G.S Ravi: The Gem 2.0 is going to be a state of the art. It will be built on microservices architecture. It is going to be modular. The focus is customer first, cloud first, mobile first and completely integrated wherever it is required with machine learning and AI. It is completely intertwined within the entire GEMS 2.0. The latest version will be completely proactive, event-based workflow and rules-driven. GEMS stands for Gati Enterprise Management System. It is rebuilding the entire application from scratch, right from pre-pickup, pickup, first mile, last mile, mid-mile, end route, customer contract, and invoicing, all these modules are getting rebuilt. One other key objective of GEMS 2.0 is not only to be an express logistics and supply chain company but to become one integrated logistics end-to-end service provider in this space.
IBT: ONDC is expected to revolutionize the digital landscape of the e-commerce sector. What are your thoughts on ONDC shaping the e-commerce landscape and how is Gati going to be a part of this movement?
G.S Ravi: You rightly said ONDC is transforming India’s digital commerce landscape. As of now, the focus of ONDC has been on B2C and I think it is well established in that space. In the B2B, Gati is having a discussion, even ONDC is having a discussion with Gati and I am sure they might be having with other vendors also in terms of integrating the solution. At least for Gati, we are in the process of integrating and interfacing with ONDC. That is a work in progress as of now. I am sure once it gets completed the integration and interface with ONDC. Like the B2C space, the B2B space will also get established and will make a significant impact.
Mr. G.S. Ravi Kumar is an IT leader with over 30 years of demonstrated experience in strategizing, planning, developing and implementing cutting-edge information technology solutions to address business opportunities. He has worked extensively in service & manufacturing industries in senior roles. Before joining Gati Limited, he headed the Indian IT operations for a multinational, SHV Energy India Ltd., the world’s largest LPG Company. He has been associated with Gati Limited as Chief Information Officer for over 19 years.