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Blockchain Technology has been a promising game changer for Logistics – Sumit Sharma

GoBOLT is a tech logistics start up, operating in B2B surface transportation space in Long hauls & short haul operations. GoBOLT works on a Hybrid model on owned & market place Trucks. The key focus is on two pillars – Disintermediation on market place & Increased Asset Utilization both enabled through technology.

The company has introduced a concept of “Buyers” who are like Sourcing Managers/Supervisors to market place trucks. The Freight management system “Launch Pad” provides analytics; controls for better margins. GoBOLT is the first logistic company to leverage market place trucks for express e-commerce deliveries.

Sumit Sharma is one of the co-founders in GoBOLT, leading Finance, Compliance/Legal, Business Development and Marketing/Branding for the company. He began his career with Ernst & Young Pvt. Ltd. in 2008 as an associate consultant followed by JM Financials in 2015. With over 4 years of work experience with the finance industry giants, he came up with his own venture GoBOLT in September 2015.

In a conversation with IncubateIND, Sumit talks about the latest technology trends and its impacts on the future of logistics industry in India. Read On!

Tell us something about yourself and what does GoBOLT do?

GoBOLT is India’s leading tech logistics start-up operating in the B2B surface transportation space in long hauls & short haul operations. The unique innovative startup offers holistic transportation solutions to clients which include right vehicle and fleet composition selection, route/delivery planning, real-time tracking, reliable documentation & control, and high levels of service in express movements. GoBOLT works on a hybrid model utilizing owned & market place trucks. Its key focus is on two pillars – disintermediation within the market place & increased asset utilization enabled through technology. In fact, we have already disintermediated market place trucks on many north-western lanes by providing two-way loads or leveraging return trucks, thereby increasing returns by 3~5%.

With its vision of transforming the current landscape of logistics in the country, GoBOLT has emerged as one of the first companies in its domain to leverage market place trucks for express e-commerce deliveries. Also, by adopting benchmark practices and extensive use of technology, we aim at enhancing service levels and/or reducing costs/removing inefficiencies in the Indian logistics sector. We strive to achieve regular & efficient asset-rotation of all our vehicles and have managed to ensure 20-22 hours of driving time per day/vehicle in the following ways:

Benchmark Practices: 

  1. Double-Driver Model: Deploying two drivers on our express lane vehicles.
  2. Hub-Relay Model: Creating hubs at a quantum of 250-300 kms on the express lanes and shuttling a driver exclusively between 2 hubs.

Use of Technology:

  1. SaaS-based Customer platform & Fleet Management System
  2. Optimized Operations, Route planning & Vendor Management
  3. Leveraging real time & long term trends in logistics through big data

GoBOLT was started by Parag Aggarwal, Naitik Baghla and I and we have a combined industry experience of 20 years in Logistics, Supply Chain & financial sector.As one of the co-founders, I lead business development and the financial teams at GoBOLT. I completed my B.Tech from Delhi College of Engineering in 2008, and soon after started working at Ernst & Young in the Risk Advisory Service department. I also have an MBA in Finance from S.P. Jain, Mumbai. Right before venturing into entrepreneurship with GoBOLT, I worked at JM Financial where I looked after Origination of fixed income financial products.

Key features of GoBOLT which differentiates it from other players in the industry:

  1. GoBOLT provides holistic transportation solutions to clients from design to delivery which includes – Right vehicle selection, route/delivery planning, real time tracking, reliable documentation & control and high levels of service in express movements.
  2. The extremely professional conduct of the team and one-of-their-kind technological interventions in the transportation sector have enabled GoBOLT to engage with prestigious companies.
  3. All three founders of GoBOLT have a strong pedigree from premier technological institutions (IIT-Bombay, DCE) and business schools (SPJIMR) in India, with experience in logistics industry with FMCG majors.
  4. GoBOLT has empanelled ~500 transporters in North and West India, with a combined fleet size of 10,000+ trucks, operational on Intra-Delhi and within North Region lanes, North- West & North-South lanes.

What is the future of logistics industry in India?

India’s logistics industry is currently pegged to grow at 10% per annum according to the ICRA, and reach USD 215 billion in the next two years, according to the Economic Survey. While the sector’s current growth is largely based on catering to large urban agglomerations and tier 1 cities, the future growth for the industry is expected from India’s high-potential tier 2 and 3 cities. The survey also stated that the Indian logistics industry, which provides employment to more than 22 million people, has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8 per cent during the last five years.

Technological advancements like IoT and Artificial Intelligence are going to play the main role in transforming the current logistics space & will offer major opportunities for players in the industry to achieve higher efficiencies and lower operating costs.

How technology is changing the future of logistics?

The logistics sector has always been one of the most conventionally-run sectors and it has displayed a certain inertia when it comes to adoption of technology. However, with the recent boom in the application of technologies like IOT, Big Data and Data Analytics, this sector is on a path of complete transformation.

The evolution started with technologies like IOT (Internet of Things) enabling sensors and actuators to be embedded in the moving trucks, converting them into traceable devices which are always connected over wired and wireless networks. This has resulted in altogether new levels of cost optimizations, efficiency and operational control.

User-generated inputs via smart-phones and tablets can help truckers route around construction or congested areas. With each link connected to the cloud, there will be an unprecedented level of supply chain visibility. Firms have started using this technology for Fuel optimization, Operational Planning &Allocation based on Geospatial & status data, dynamic route management and control.

Similarly, Big Data & Data Analytics are playing a huge role in streamlining operations. The whole sequence of transactions and processes, right from a customer creating an order, to vehicle allocation and then executing the trip, generates huge volumes of data. And this data, can be analyzed to generate extremely useful insights. These insights help achieve unprecedented optimization of cost, asset utilization and increased efficiency. For instance, active use of predictive analysis (Big Data) may help the trucking companies to deliver their products on time during festive season sale through better planning and resource optimization. 

How is Artificial Intelligence modifying the logistics industry?

The logistics industry has always been quite human resource-intensive, requiring manpower for handling most of the operations; but with the advent of AI, basic tasks can now be delegated to machines. AI, with the help of its two work horses Augmentation and Automation, has started re-shaping this industry.

Augmented reality (AR) is being used efficiently in warehouses for various operations, AR enables one to locate products easily and pack them. AR-enabled cameras can easily scan a product for damage, check its weight and ensure that it adheres to package shipping instructions. And when we talk about automation, it’s not just about automating some processes; the possibility is to create a system that is forever learning new tasks and will eventually be in a position to automatically execute the entire end-to-end operations with just one raise of a finger. Let’s look at some specific areas where AI is assisting the logistics industry:

  • Planning:
    A lot of data is generated while executing logistics operations and this big data is being worked upon by Machine Learning technology to create autonomous systems. These systems can perform various operational planning tasks like vehicle, route, fuel and resource planning on their own without human intervention.
  • Demand, Supply & Maintenance Prediction:
    Not just planning, Machine Learning can also help in forecasting many parameters both on the demand and supply side as well as vehicle maintenance. Machine Learning enabled preventive maintenance of vehicles can lead to minimized maintenance cost, high levels of QoS and even decentralization of vehicle maintenance. Similarly, predicting cyclic ties & market prices on the supply side, and the customer demand patterns has become a reality through the use of AI technologies.
  • Chatbots:
    AI enabled Chatbots can conduct basic conversations with clients and even with market vendors for procurement of vehicles. These Chatbots are even taking another step ahead by indulging in intelligent negotiations, not imaginable without human intervention so far.
  • Natural Language and Document Processing:
    Documentation is a key aspect in the logistics industry whether it is related to customer agreements, vehicle related documents (insurances, RCs, permits) or proof of deliveries. This cumbersome process of handling documentation can be simplified with technologies like natural language processing, image processing, which can read these documents and extract meaningful data.
  • Self-Driving vehicles:
    The utopian future of the logistics industry lies in self-driving vehicles. The day is not very distant when we would be seeing driverless trucks shifting the entire paradigm of the logistics industry.

How IoT logistics will revolutionize Supply Chain Management?

IoT is one of the first high-end technologies adopted by the logistics and supply chain management industry. With IoT logistics, tracking and tracing goods becomes faster, more accurate, predictive and secure; while analytics from a connected fleet can predict asset failure and schedule maintenance checks automatically. Following are some areas where IoT is transforming supply chain management:

  • Tracking & Monitoring Fleets:
    An IoT enabled vehicle can be continuously under a tab to see if the right truck reaches the origin point, stays on the assigned route, avoids unscheduled stoppages and reaches the destination on time ensuring very high levels of security and reliability. But there is more, one can geo-fence the customer locations or other en-route locations to trigger events when the vehicle reaches or leaves these locations leading to higher efficiency and automation.
  • Tracking & Monitoring Shipment:
    The tracking and monitoring can be further taken to another level wherein each and every shipment is tracked. The mechanism takes the pain away from cumbersome checks and tallies of various shipments moving to various locations via a number of intermittent stops.
  • IoT-enabled Warehouses:
    IoT used in warehouses is taking warehouse management to the next level of automation and control. The devices in warehouses can count and track the shipments right from the moment they enter the warehouse to the location of the shipment within the warehouse.  Misplaced materials lead to slower execution times, employee frustration, and, ultimately, customer dissatisfaction. All these problems are reduced to a minimum by using IoT.
  • ‘More than location’ for perishable goods:
    It’s not just the location that can be monitored using IoT but a whole lot of parameters like temperature, humidity levels etc. can be monitored live from a moving vehicle. Perishable goods that require specific controlled environmental conditions to maintain quality can be reliably moved using the new breed of IoT enabled vehicles and stored safely in IoT enabled warehouses under controlled conditions.

How Blockchain is a game changer for logistics and supply chain management?

Blockchain technology has definitely found its place in the logistics industry, solving a lot of issues around administrative efficiency and order tracking, in a way that it is being seen as a promising game changer for logistics and SCM. Although the decentralized digital ledger may be most commonly associated with crypto-currency, its applications very aptly fit into the logistics sector as well. Following are some areas where blockchain is changing the landscape of supply chain management:

  • Documentation:
    The logistics industry has always been plagued by documentation issues, leading to a number of disputes and inefficiencies. Blockchain offers a solution to this problem by allowing easy coordination of documents on a shared digital distributed ledger digitally, rendering extensive physical paperwork unnecessary.
  • Administrative Clearances:
    Administrative clearances create a major bottleneck in supply chain efficiency and the problem can be solved using smart contracts based on blockchain. Using smart contracts would make approvals and customs clearances quicker and more efficient, reducing processing times for goods at customs checkpoints.
  • Data transparency:
    Blockchain technology ensures stored records of data are accurate, tamper-proof, and verifiable. With blockchain technology, multiple parties need not maintain (reducing alteration possibilities) copies of their own datasets; instead every stakeholder receives controlled access to a shared dataset, creating a single source of the entire dataset. This leads to an environment where everyone working with this data is ensured that they’re using the most recent, accurate, and reliable dataset.
  • Efficient &Tamper-proof tracking:
    The demand for quicker deliveries has always seen an upward growth and same-day and one-hour delivery services are becoming more than a norm today. Traditional tracking technologies would not be able to scale to match this ever-growing trend. Blockchain technology ensures a scalable, immediate solution for order tracking and an unprecedented level of authentication of the delivered good ‘from farm to the table’.
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