HUL Gets a Feel of Ama­zon’s Drone-de­liv­ery Plan, Vir­tu­ally

About 100 Hindustan Unilever ex­ec­u­tives from Ban­ga­lore took part in the ses­sion

The Economic Times - - Companies - OUR BUREAU

Soon af­ter Ama­zon chief ex­ec­u­tive Jeff Be­zos said in April the on­line re­tailer was test­ing drones as pos­si­ble de­liv­ery ve­hi­cles, the US-based com­pany held a video-con­fer­ence with Unilever ex­ec­u­tives out­lin­ing its plans for the un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs), among other things. A Hindustan Unilever ex­ec­u­tive who at­tended the video chat said about 100 HUL ex­ec­u­tives from Ban­ga­lore took part in the ses­sion. “It was more of a web vir­tual ses­sion from Ama­zon of­fice in US to all global cen­tres,” said the ex­ec­u­tive, who did not wish to be iden­ti­fied. “People joined in, lis­tened and saw the demon­stra­tion.” The Ama­zon head­quar­ters in United States and Hindustan Unilever of­fice in In­dia did not com­ment to email en­quiries sent by ET. Ama­zon has been work­ing on Prime Air in its next gen­er­a­tion R&D lab and the CEO un­veiled the first model to the world late last year. The goal is to deliver pack­ages in 30 min­utes or less us­ing un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles, Ama­zon had said. In his an­nual let­ter to share­hold­ers, Be­zos said that the Prime Air team is test­ing the fifth and sixth gen­er­a­tion aerial ve­hi­cles, and was in the de­sign phase for the eighth and ninth gen­er­a­tion pro­to­types. The ex­ec­u­tive said the com­pany had ex­plored and un­der­stood the con­cept but was not keen on adop­tion any­time soon. Unilever, which op­er­ates in over 150 coun­tries, has strong ties with Ama­zon. “We have a ded­i­cated ecom­merce team that works closely with Ama­zon to sell our prod­ucts. It’s a very well in­te­grated struc­ture with Ama­zon,” said the ex­ec­u­tive quoted above. Hindustan Unilever does not sell via Ama­zon in In­dia, but that might change soon, the ex­ec­u­tive said. Ama­zon is not the only com­pany to have thought of drones for de­liv­er­ies. US-based Mat­ter­net is look­ing to use small UAVs to trans­port pack­ages weigh­ing not more than 2kg. The com­pany has car­ried out test runs in Haiti and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, where it de­liv­ers vac­cines us­ing this method, and a pi­lot is planned for Le­sotho in Africa later this year. An­other com­pany, called Qui Qui is al­ready launch­ing de­liv­ery of medicines in Mis­sion district in San Fran­cisco.

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