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Supply Chain

Covid-19 is an opportunity that Indian SMEs must grab: GS1 India CEO

April 25, 2020: Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic is a grave humanitarian crisis that the world has ever faced and it has disrupted the economic activities around the globe beyond any comparison. The Indian logistics sector is one of the most affected and the nationwide lockdown has crippled the supply chain like never before.

Ravi Mathur, chief executive officer, GS1 India
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Ravi Mathur, chief executive officer, GS1 India

April 25, 2020: Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic is a grave humanitarian crisis that the world has ever faced and it has disrupted the economic activities around the globe beyond any comparison. The Indian logistics sector is one of the most affected and the nationwide lockdown has crippled the supply chain like never before.

Common sense would tell us that every single economic activity and every single business sector will be affected. The chief executive officer of the supply chain standards organization, GS1 India, Ravi Mathur says that GS1 India feels an added responsibility and is committed to helping India industry in these difficult times by enabling them to streamline their supply chains. He claims that the supply chain disruptions faced due to Covid-19 can be eased out for retailers and Indian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), with the adoption of global standards.

"There is a logistics issue across the country right now to get the essentials or for even the biggest brands to move their commodities from the manufacturing units to retailers. The Covid-19 pandemic has left last-mile delivery companies are feeling strained and in a desperate need for a digital platform that could bring together suppliers on one end and delivery companies on the other, who could evaluate and make a decision about these products," he said.

In other words, GS1 India, its RFIDs, barcodes and the data repository DataKart could be at the centre of it.

Opportunity 1: Local proximity of SMEs could boost last-mile delivery
The first lockdown of 21 days and the extended one to May 3 has certainly affected the inter-state and intra-state movement of goods through any part of the country. Even for the essentials and for the big brands to move commodities that people desperately need and to provide the last-mile delivery has become a nightmare.

In the same time, India has so many small brands and potential small manufactures present across the country who could jump in and fill the need gap around their logistically reachable localities.

"Retailers are now looking for essential supplies from SMEs which are logistically located much closer to their places which doesn't require inter-state movement of goods or big trucks to move them. GS1 is offering a repository service - DataKart, where small manufactures could update their product information on one side and on the other side the retailers and the e-commerce companies could access the data to figure out the availability of a product. This platform already has 13 million retail products from 17,000 suppliers around the country, “said Mathur.

"This platform is live for more than 4 four years now, however, during the Covid-19 situation, it has become gained further relevance when retailers are looking for new suppliers and complete product information in a seamless manner," he added.

Opportunity 2: Connecting small PPE manufacturers with e-commerce
As Covid-19 pandemic entered India, people were swift to buy more personal protection kits like masks, sanitizers, gloves, etc. And soon many places in the country reported shortages and many small manufactures sprang up in order to make some quick money. However, the quality of these products remains questionable.

If we could segregate between the good and bad manufacturers, with authentic/unauthentic products, the e-commerce companies could source from the same and use their logistics ability to move them.

"This is a potentially great opportunity for retailers and online marketplaces to access credible information directly from manufacturers, validated and authenticated before it has been made available to consumers. Also, brand owners can help them authenticate their products. Those who are making quality products may not shy away from DataKart as it provides a way to differentiate between those who are genuine and pretentious", said Mathur

Opportunity 3: Visibility could aid unclogging supply chain
The great Indian lockdown has made the cargoes stuck in warehouses, airports, seaports and even on the roadsides. This has created a huge backlog and further disturbing the supply chain. If companies including the SMEs could adhere to the digital norms and share the data about their products moving, this will improve visibility and allow people to understand where the cargoes are stuck and act accordingly.

Mathur commented "It is not yet implemented, but such a facility would give visibility to the whole distribution chain. If companies are using barcoded labels on their cartons with data shared about them, for instance, FSSAI License number, other important information, it will help in effective tracking and tracing of the product units in the supply chain."

"If you are able to do effective tracking of all the cartons in the country, then you know what is wrong with the distribution supply chain. If it is implemented, in a crisis situation like this, we would know how much material is stuck and at which facility. The SMEs must come forward and adopt the globally standardized barcodes provided by GS1 India and sail through the trying times, seamlessly, "he added.

Libin Chacko Kurian

Libin Chacko Kurian

Principal Correspondent at STAT Media Group, he has six years of experience in business journalism covering food & beverage, nutraceuticals and now logistics. His current passion is to understand the nuances of global supply chains and their current turmoil. Outside work, he is also interested in philosophy, history, birding and travelling. Mail him: libin@statmediagroup.com


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