Parcel volumes grew by as much as 50 per cent over the past year in some countries as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted people to shop online for everyday staples. Arun Pradeep, Business Head of Travel, Transportation and Hospitality, Europe for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), discusses how the industry has adapted to these changes and how it’s harnessing technology for the future.
2020 has been an exceptional year; what now for the post and logistics industry?
At the onset of the pandemic, businesses were quick to focus on staff safety, reliable delivery and customer satisfaction. Now their focus is on keeping up with the new normal that the pandemic has brought about, such as the huge rise in online shopping.
Most operators already had digitalisation plans in place, but there is a new urgency to implement their plans faster. I think that investments are likely to focus on informed decision-making, intelligent automation and the creation of new business models.
What does the industry’s digital transformation roadmap look like, and how is TCS helping its customers?
The opportunity lies in relooking at the end-to-end customer journey − digital channels are going to be the most prominent means of reaching customers. We recently reimagined all digital channels of a postal organisation accounting for diverse customer personas across the country, and the results have been phenomenal.
We are now partnering with them to achieve their vision to be a digital leader. Working with an industry that is on the cusp of transformation is hugely exciting.
Can you give us some examples of your work transforming this industry?
At a broad level we are helping in five main areas: customer experience, intelligent operations, becoming an ecosystem player, creating new business models and sustainability, which is at core of every business today.
We are helping our customers reimagine the physical touch points to achieve digital customer experience; for one of our logistics customers, we are making operations intelligent and sustainable by leveraging technology for optimised last-mile delivery. Warehousing is another area where we are working closely with our customers to help them unlock synergies from the ecosystem.
What key innovations do you think will help propel the post/logistics industry forward?
First, no-touch sorting and efficient last-mile distribution. I believe that reimagining sorting using autonomous robots, as well as reimagining automation across software − and the way man and machine can interact − will have a tremendous impact on this industry. Secondly, creating a delivery ecosystem will also be a key differentiator.
A customer may order three parcels in one day and consolidating that delivery will be a huge benefit. And it is possible through a digitally transformed ecosystem that includes retailer, manufacturer and geographies. Lastly, this industry never really had to think about who ‘owned’ the customer; they were paid by other companies to ship goods.
But now, if a customer buys Gucci via Amazon, pays by Klarna and gets it delivered by PostNord, who owns the customer? The answer is the one with the right technology − cloud-first, service-oriented architecture and equipped with the right insights and advanced data-driven decisions.
What are the core principles that TCS follows for a successful relationship?
How to help our customers succeed in their mission is our key focus every day. We stand with customers during difficult times and use our contextual knowledge to do what is best for them. The partnerships we create are deep, and the understanding runs even deeper. It is one team whose only objective is to meet and exceed the business requirements.
How will the industry balance increasing demand with sustainability?
Sustainability is now an integral part of the operations of a business. We are working with customers where we are also committing to their sustainability goals and I believe this is a phenomenal way to bring the forces together to do something right.
While there are many initiatives − like green logistics, a circular economy − that companies embark upon, we are seeing a conscious effort by all our clients to put sustainability at the heart of their operations. Only a strongly data-driven organisation is going to win the first step in the game to make operations sustainable.
What now for PostNord?
Amazon entered Sweden in October 2020, a market where there are already many niche delivery players. How can IT innovation help PostNord in its journey to become a sustainable logistics business? TCS is working with this nearly 400-year-old company to incubate innovation in the organisation. If we can help PostNord meet the ambition of "making everyday life easier" and thereby making it the "favourite carrier of the Nordics", we would get a great sense of satisfaction.