Supply Chain Challenges of Essential Food Items during COVID19 in India

COVID19 has reset the world order and new world order is booting. Since the new world order is booting, old world order is stuck in the throat of everyone; from the governments to businesses to common people.


Though I, like everyone know that every aspect of human life, businesses and governance is affected by this pandemic, I was curious to know how exactly it is impacting supply of essential items in India, which remain opened throughout this lockdown as it should have been. I talked to couple of my friends who have been leading the team selling essentials for their organizations and I am presenting their challenges as they are. They had some “Time to Survive (inventory in hand to cover the sudden eventuality)” but “Time to Recover (get into smooth operation mode with every function of supply chain working properly and optimally)” is still a long shot, despite some of the challenges I think might have been solved.


Here are the challenges they are facing in supplying staples and other essential items:


1)Logistics and Load factor: For smaller organizations or areas where order loads are small, Full Container Load (FCL) are not possible, transporters normally club the orders and deliver at destinations. Though Less than Container Load (LCL) is comparatively costly and less safe, Hundredweight freight method solves the purpose. During this period, as many small businesses remained closed, for small orders, LCL remained an impossible task and so, transporters increased the freight charges to cover the cost and incentive.


2)Credit: Credit helps in creating more liquidity, surplus fund, more customer engagement and increased risk taking appetite. But in this extremely challenging time, everyone’s risk appetite has decreased and wants to protect his/her fund liquidity. This has resulted in disappearance of credit from the market.


3)Stocks: Even for essentials, arranging stock has become challenge due to many factors and it has led to prices of many items increasing a lot. So, prices have become unrealistic as of now and whoever has the stock, charges more for it.


4)Timing Restrictions: Since timing restrictions are there in APMC market yard in metros like Mumbai, picking up and loading the stock itself takes time and in turn, supply is getting crippled. Problem gets even more complicated due to different timing restrictions for retail counters in different areas.


5)Labour challenges: Due to lockdown, there is huge shortfall in supply of labourers. To meet the demand of market, traders are trying to achieve the same throughput from workforce available, which is an impossible feat and can’t sustain for long. For migrant labourers, day and night work is resulting into heavy fatigue which can’t be repaired by money and they just want to leave for their hometown. This problem will only increase once interstate movement of labourers starts freely. A leading online grocer had to cancel around 20000 orders between Rs.30-35 Crore. There is no dearth of orders but there is scarcity of manpower to service those orders.


6)Lack of clarity about government notifications and nature of products at ground zero: Administrative staff i.e police and local administration at ground zero don’t have complete knowledge of food supply chain and so everyone is reading the same rule differently. Since no one wants to get caught at wrong foot during this pandemic, this challenge makes matter more complicated.


You are invited to add more challenges which are hampering the smooth operation of supply chain of essential items and what should be done in future if similar challenges arise? Automation, credibility based inter-trader credit system, AI based robotics, auto-driven transportation vehicles, delivery using drones are part of solution or they will complicate the employment problem of the country?


You will find following blogs on Covid19 useful:

1) Sanjiva Jha Founder CEO BroadArk Technologies on Reigniting the economy

2) Sanjiva Jha Founder CEO BroadArk Technologies on Covid19 Impact


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