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Cheap labour has delayed the digitisation of Indian logistics, but forwarders are beginning to recognise the benefits of automation and its global opportunities.
At this week’s Fiata World Congress in Delhi, chief executive of Freight Systems David Philips said the country had made “tremendous” efforts in recent years, but more was needed.
“These tremendous efforts are showing obvious results, just look at India’s World Bank rating – it has never been higher,” he said.
“There are obvious developments across all modes of transport and, as far as disruptive technology’s concerned, the country’s electronics reputation helped with this.”
However, one forwarder told The Loadstar efforts at improving technologically were moving at a slower pace.
He said the use of paper was still prevalent, but admitted a move towards paperless supply chains was happening.
“E-commerce is playing a big part in moving systems away from paper to electronic documentation,” said the forwarder. “But with Indian chains controlled by three things – documentation, regulation and supply and demand – there is more work that can be done on this front.”
Mr Philips also said efforts to move towards certain technologies had been slower than necessary.
He said this was partly due to the wide availability of labour for tasks which more developed supply chains would automate.
“India has a more-than-adequate supply of manpower, which means we have been slower at adopting some technologies,” Mr Philips said. “But, as is the case for most businesses, we have margin pressures, and for this reason we have realised technology can help and are working towards this.”
Some feel India’s supply chain has also suffered from the global economy not recognising its potential as a logistics hub.
Partner at JBS Samir Shah said the country needed to be more vocal about what it could bring to the global supply chain, and shake off some of the stereotypes.
“We’ve already got past the idea of India being just a country of elephants and snakes,” said Mr Shah. “Now it is important to shake off the idea that all India does is IT; it is much more than this and has a strong service sector.”
Mr Shah said that despite the issues facing India, there had been “huge” changes in the past three to four years, which he said had been helped by “great leadership”. This, he added, had helped forwarders open their eyes to the potential posed by markets beyond those they traditionally looked to – namely Europe and the US.
“Even so, the Indian forwarding community is looking at the modern market and is scared and confused by what is required to operate in it,” said Mr Shah. “They are asking how they will survive up against so much technology – but I believe embracing these changes is pivotal.”