We are looking at a lot of investment in logistics infra, says Elixia founder Mihir Ravani

The National Logistics Policy is putting the focus on improving the infrastructure of ports, railways and airports. Due to the evolution in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the supply chain and logistics sector will witness a boom in the coming years.

   
Logistics

Elixia realises this and is working on advanced supply chain solutions with the help of AI and ML to conquer the logistics market. SME Futures spoke to its founder Mihir Ravani to know about the path ahead.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

What is the Intelligent Delivery Orchestration Platform that you use for supply chain solutions? How does it facilitate supply chain solutions?

The Intelligent Delivery Orchestration Platform has actually come about after the quite a few evolutions and iterations that it has gone through, which have happened after we received feedback from our customers. When we launched it in 2016-2017, the first version of this product was different from what it is now because we started out with just a couple of customers and worked on the little feedback that we got. Even the name of the product has evolved quite a bit. And now what it currently does is exactly what its name suggests: it is a platform that orchestrates. Orchestration, from planning to allocation to execution to post-execution. We cover the entire life cycle of any logistics trip.

The surface transport leg of any sort of movement or delivery can be planned; it can be allocated to the right vendor or the right vehicle or the right rider depending on what the context is; it can be tracked; it will be visible to all the stakeholders; deliveries can be mapped; your go-for deliveries can be stored on the system and your billing process — whether it is customer billing or vendor billing – everything can be done through the magic of just this one system.

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Whether you look at it from the perspective of a transporter, a logistics manager, a manufacturer or a shipper, the same solution helps all these parties…executing one transaction from end-to-end.

What are the core problems that you face in this solution as regards to the supply chain? 

The focus of this solution is on the logistics part of the supply chain. Now, talking about the transportation part, the biggest problem that companies always face is visibility because generally, there are three or more stakeholders in every transaction, the vendor, the customer, and the actual operations team that is managing or coordinating these movements. Everybody, ideally, is never on the same page and the onus is always on the operations team to coordinate with the driver and to update everyone about what is happening. Visibility, hence, is always a very big challenge or problem.

The second is the billing part. What happens is that when you do freight billing, even though you have a contract with the transporter, whenever the transporter sends you a bill, you need to go back and study the contract…see what rate was agreed upon and then see whether the transporter has sent the bill according to that or not. There is a lot of manual intervention involved. What our system especially does in the planning part is that it directly helps to save costs. Our systems let you know how many vehicles you should be procuring, what type of vehicle you should be procuring and how you should be loading those vehicles so that it is optimised to the maximum possible capability. Even after that, the route which you take for the delivery is also optimised. It helps in deducing what one calls heavy vehicle utilization, which increases the utilization and reduces the cost.

You are targeting the $15 billion global logistics and supply chain market in the next two years. How do you plan to go about it?

The logistics market or the supply chain market is going to boom over the next few years as per the lots of reports that we have been seeing. The National Logistics Policy was launched very recently by the government which also aims at bringing in a lot of digitalization. I think that’s the crux of it. Even today, if you go to any large transporter, a lot of them will still be using excel sheets and registers to keep records and keep track of things. The moment we digitalize these records and information and put out all this data in a central repository, which is accessible to all the stakeholders, the process will become much smoother and much more efficient.

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From our perspective, we are looking at three things. The first being product development; we want to continuously keep evolving and improving our system.

The second thing that we are looking at is to leverage our existing customer base. And the third is new business development which could happen within India and abroad as well. We are not looking at ourselves just as an India-based company. While today the majority of our revenue does come from India, we already have customers outside India who are using our solution. We are, therefore, looking at markets like Latin America, the Middle East, North America, and Africa as well to expand. That is what we are going to try and do. Grow ourselves in a growing industry.

You also want to increase your customer base by 40 per cent by 2024. What is the roadmap that you intend to follow?

We are already at the stage of establishing our presence outside the Indian market. Currently, we are focused more on surface transport. We are looking to become a multi-model company where we provide visibility for multi-model logistics, whether it is for the air, rail, sea, or whatever mode of transport that you are using. We want to provide an end-to-end solution for that entire piece. 

The next step is going to include ocean visibility as part of our product portfolio, which will definitely boost our customer base because we can directly target import and export. We aim to give a one-stop solution within our system to our clients to track the visibility of their consignments from their plants to the location of their customers. We want to enter different markets and bring foreign clients on board. We know from our experience that the same solution can be used across industries and geographies with minimal changes.

How does one enhance one’s client base?

It is very important, at first, to have a very good existing relationship or a customer base with your existing customers because a lot of our business has been done through references and word of mouth. When our customers use our product, they see the value within it, and they recommend us to other customers. We get a lot of business in such cases because someone who has experienced our system and understands the value of it tries to ensure that wherever they go, they take us along. 

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Another thing is to generate awareness, for which we do a lot of online and digital content while reaching out to the right people, showing them what our product has and how we are better than the other companies in this arena. We also participate in events and exhibitions, showcasing our products wherever possible. We also participate in a lot of accelerator programmes with companies like Mahindra and Flipkart and get opportunities to work on projects.

Please tell us about your advanced technology-driven shipment delivery software solution.

We have all sorts of deliveries happening on our platform and we have various types of customer data coming into our systems. We run a lot of analytics with an algorithm to gather intelligence. The problem earlier was that there was no data, but the problem today is that there is too much data but not enough relevant information. We try to actually break this data down into bits of useful information that can give a lot of insight to a supply chain manager or a freight owner, who can use it as an actionable input to take business decisions.

Today, if I want to bring on board a new vendor, I will get to know his past performance. As a freight owner, if I want to add one more vehicle to my fleet, I’ll be able to see which vehicle is giving me the maximum return on investment. We try to provide these kind of data points to our customers by gathering intelligence from our system and by giving them relevant actionable insights, which could help them to take proper business decisions to grow along with enabling them to cut their costs. 

You have entered the telematics space as well. How do you want to consolidate your position in this area?

Telematics is the first product that we launched when we started in 2011 and we have just evolved from there. When we talk about telematics today, it is a lot more than just tracking. It is the data; it is the insights and the real-time notifications; there are different modes of tracking available now.

Today, if we order even food from a restaurant, we get to track it every second. We know exactly when the rider is going to ring our doorbell and deliver our food. Telematics has evolved beyond all this; we are talking about things like preventive alerts and preventive maintenance which are coming up. If the system predicts that something could go wrong, you avoid an incident.

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Telematics has definitely evolved. A lot of the companies at the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) level now have trackers installed. It is not just about location now; it is about a lot more information and the data that can come out of it, which can actually give insights about how your vehicle is moving and how you can make it more efficient. It is a part of the larger theme of our product, which is that we have to try and achieve maximum efficiency even from a tracking perspective so that it is not just a dot on the map and gives you a lot of information which can help you to plan your next shipment. 

How do you see the future of logistics in India?

The National Logistics Policy is a good starting point to ensure that all the stakeholders take this whole process very seriously in terms of bringing in more automation and digitalization. We are looking at a lot of investment going into the infrastructure related to logistics.  Ports, highways, and airports are gathering more momentum to ensure that the logistics are better, faster, and smoother. We have to ensure that our products keep evolving at the pace that the market demands.

We have a lot of things that are a part of our product roadmap. We are considering going multi-model through the ocean business and we want to start air and rail transport as well. There are also pilots happening with drones. Drones are being used for last-mile deliveries. Our idea is that whatever the mode of delivery, eventually you have to move your goods from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and our solution should be able to help you to do that, irrespective of the mode of transport that you are using and the part of the world you are using it in. That is what our vision is and that is what we are working on.