Furniture logistics finally finds its legs
Faced with mounting logistics challenges, furniture e-commerce companies let specialised carriers strengthen its logistics infrastructure to make shipping of complex and bulky product successful.
With the changing consumer’s behaviour and their lifestyle, internet furniture is not at an unheard thing nowadays. E-commerce has given a big boom to this vertical as well. Being one of the bulky and odd-sized products, furniture comes under a complex category in terms of its movement. Hence, CARGOTALK chose to highlight the logistical challenges that e-furniture companies face and its solutions from the industry experts.
Ankit Sirohi, Vice President – Operations, Mebelkart listed few hassles that furniture logistics brings at every stage: • Storage: High cost in per cent of market retail price (MRP) as most of the Indian made furniture cannot be dismantled. Packaging: A non-standard size introduces a need to customise the packaging for each and every Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). Damages: Furniture is prone to damages while loading/ unloading in line haul, first and last mile. Shipping Costs: Due to high volumetric weight, furniture shipping cost constitutes to almost 15 per cent of MRP. • •
Kaustab Chakraborty, VP Operations, Urban Ladder, says, “When we launched, we started pan India operations and worked with 3PL teams to deliver furniture across the country. However, in Bangalore we set up our own delivery team. Soon we realised that customer complaints about product damage were increasing in other cities but customers in Bangalore were very satisfied with the product quality and service.”
“A category like furniture needs special care during transit and assembly and installation are critical post delivery services. We decided to take the tough call of rolling back from all other cities and re-launching only with our trained delivery and logistics teams due to unavailability of a reliable 3PL provider. Today, we deliver to 19 cities across India and this number is expected to grow soon,” he added.
Ashish Shah, COO, Pepperfry, shares, “A large part of our business lies in organising the unorganised furniture market. We are bridging the supply gap in the country by bringing the work of small artisans and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) online. With a strong ecosystem of small manufacturers, skilled craftsmen - artisans & SMEs and merchants spread across traditional origin centers across the country we have established a strong supply network.”
He adds, “Almost all the items sold on Pepperfry first arrive at one of our mother hubs in Mumbai and Gurugram for quality check before being packed and shipped through our own delivery network or 3PL partners.” “To resolve logistical issues as well as to save money we rely on a hub-and-spoke model. Our furniture moves from the points of origin to the fulfillment centres to our mother hubs via long distance hauling contracts. We move full truckloads of 32feet containers, carrying at least 80 items at a time. It is then delivered to our customers through our own last mile delivery network of more than 400 trucks covering 500+ cities with the capability of delivering more than 1,00,000 pieces per month. This has also helped us bring down the delivery cost,” informs Shah.
In terms of delivery, Chakraborty says, “Our focus is to ensure that customers have a seamless customers’ experience. For example, carrying furniture manually particularly in high-rise buildings was a huge challenge and this resulted in damaged goods. Hence, we created a staircase climber engineered by our in-house team. This battery operated device carries up to 150 kgs with minimal manual intervention.”
“The logistics infrastructure in India for shipping of large item is significantly under-developed. Hence, Pepperfry spent initial years of operations in strengthening its logistics and infrastructure,” explains Shah.
Sirohi, says, “Our focus is on making two different supply models; shipping nationally the knocked-down furniture that can be dismantled with partnerships and sourcing locally to serve a specific region for products that cannot be dismantled. National shipping helps us with strong network of assemblers and carpenters throughout the country. Sourcing locally reduces our costs of logistics.”
Chakraborty shares, “More than 85 per cent of the market is unorganised and bringing standardisation to the segment is critical. Our primary focus is on understanding consumer preferences, investing in highquality furniture and setting standards for the industry.”
“There is a big difference between the costs when shipped long distance and locally,” Sirohi adds.
A non-standard size introduces a need to customise the packaging for each and every Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) More than 85 per cent of the market is unorganised and bringing standardisation to the segment is important
Talking about the role of technology provider in tackling last mile delivery challenges, Shah, says, “For large item storage and goods movement, technology helps us in managing and distributing items especially in the management of our last mile delivery network.”
We are bridging the supply gap in the country by bringing the work of small artisans and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) online
“We have a seamless integration of technology with procurement to deliver end-to-end services from order placement to post sales. We are able to track the movement of our trucks in transit while our network of 250+ carpenters in various cities are connected with the customer’s requirement. FarEye’s mobility solution for our last mile delivery enabled us to get real time status updates about fulfillment, proof of attempt and condition of the product,” he concludes.