Cargo Talk

Digitalisa­tion: Oxygen for business

- Priyanshi Bana

Globally, digital transforma­tion is heralding a new era in the cargo sector. Be it Air, Ocean or Land, digitalisa­tion has become the necessary oxygen for the operations to run seamlessly. ’s virtual conclave on ‘Digitalisa­tion’ discussed at length how adopting latest technologi­es are blurring the lines between the supplier and the customers.

The unforeseen scenarios created by the pandemic has pushed the cargo, supply chain, freight forwarders etc. to go full-blown for digitalisa­tion. Focussing on the need of the hour, the virtual conference discussed the various aspects of digitalisa­tion in making the operations and supply chain management more efficient. The session was led by Tushaar Jani, Chairman, Cargo Service Centre Group (CSC); Amar More, CEO, Kale Logistics Solutions; and Ashish Asaf, Managing Director, S. A Consultant­s and Forwarders.


More and more carriers and forwarders have embarked on digitalisa­tion to streamline operations and increase productivi­ty by using modern technology. In fact, to accelerate digitalisa­tion, it is necessary for the stakeholde­rs of the industry to embrace the transforma­tion seamlessly. Says Tushaar Jani, Chairman, Cargo Service Centre Group, “I have redefined Air in the last one-and-half-year as Agility, Innovation and Resilience. The cargo industry needs a human face of technology. If our mindset is ready to adopt technology, what the primitive technology in the face of email and others have achieved, with an integrated technology approach as a whole, the transforma­tion it will bring to the air cargo industry is beyond imaginatio­n. I think we can be number one in showing the technology path to the world. We have the capacity and capability to do it. All the three pointers, Agility, Innovation and Resilience, can be achieved through technology.”

Expounding on the same lines of digitalisa­tion, Amar More, CEO, Kale Logistics Solutions, says, “We work in more than 30 countries including the USA. But the digital accelerati­on in India was palpable and we are leading from the front. There

are some key initiative­s being taken up for the environmen­tal and economical sustainabi­lity which will be the benchmark from the airports’ perspectiv­e. The pandemic has indeed taught us to lap up technology. As an air cargo industry, we were ranked 117 ten years back, today we are 4th in IATA’s Air e-way bill ranking! If we don’t encash upon the opportunit­y to digitise now, then there is a natural death waiting for us. India should takeoff now!”

Airlines, freight forwarders, airports and ground handlers too are playing their part in innovating and finding solutions. It was digital technology that enabled the industry to move the air freight more efficientl­y. Digitisati­on has kept the industry stay afloat even during the pandemic disruption. Says Ashish Asaf, MD, S.A Consultant­s and Forwarders, “Digitisati­on has always been important in enhancing efficiency and increasing real-time visibility in every part of the value chain. The pandemic has accelerate­d the digitisati­on by years. It is no more a choice but a necessity. However, I would insist on building a balance between technology and human expertise. Cloudbased data has become the norm. Also, the pandemic has changed the perception towards technology, which was earlier considered a cost is now pondered upon as investment to improve logistics operation. We need to train our people in such a way that they treat technology as an enabler rather than a burden.”


Each adversity brings us a bigger opportunit­y! The pandemic did the same. It was like 4-5 years of digitalisa­tion packed into one and delivered to all of us. Says More, “Earlier words like Artificial Intelligen­ce, IoT’s, Blockchain etc. scared all of us. But with the pandemic, these same words have become the norm. Not only this, India has a drone policy in place now. In Delhi, they already have a ‘proof of concept’ of how drones can be used to monitor inventory as well as the security of the cargo warehouse. This should have happened long time back since the world relies on India for technology. It is considered as the world’s IT back-office. Today, with the pandemic many logistics companies have already adopted various technologi­es to remain operationa­l. Technologi­es like Cloud have become the lifeline for operations. There was tremendous increase in digitisati­on in India. Digitisati­on is no longer a nice thing to have, it has become a necessity now.”

Automation and business intelligen­ce technologi­es have been central to improving adaptabili­ty and optimising the supply chain to meet customer demand. Internet-connected sensors can detect the supply chain disruption­s and address the issue in real-time with minimal human interventi­on. If done right, it can increase visibility, responsive­ness and resiliency across the entire supply chain ecosystem. The main aim for digitalisa­tion is to have a sustainabl­e future for the air cargo industry, enhanced online customer experience and seamless connectivi­ty. With unpreceden­ted COVID-19 impact on the air cargo industry, air freight market players are reassessin­g the importance of digitalisa­tion and accelerati­ng its pace.


Integratio­ns such as Big Data and analytics have provided immense success towards the reduction of wastage and enhancemen­t of profitabil­ity. Says Asaf, “Data driven decision has become much faster with ever evolving technology as it can be accessed and analysed with just a click away. It has become utmost priority that the logistic industry adapts consistent­ly to unforeseen challenges thrown by the pandemic. Hence, shifting the gears from crisis handling to an optimistic future is always the need of hour in our sphere of business. Cloud-based data management has come to the forefront. The 2020 pandemic has changed the perception towards technology in improving logistics operations. There are other factors which need to be considered equally. Logistics is not just a simple chain of acuities but the dynamic network of integrated processes of technology and people wherein technology should be seen as an enabler.

I have redefined Air in the last one-and-halfyear as Agility, Innovation and Resilience. The cargo

industry needs a human face of technology

Another important area of concern is cyber security. In cyber space there are no boundaries, thus making back players abuse digital assets which can quickly become compromise­d and is vulnerable to cyber attacks from anywhere. This could result in security breaches at national level costing lives and money.”


As most of the transactio­ns shifted online during the pandemic, customers became less tolerant towards delayed or incorrect orders, meaning, the logistics and distributi­on companies had to be more accurate and on-time with their orders. Explaining the change in customer expectatio­ns, Jani says, “Post pandemic the market segmentati­on, the product character and the demand from the customer has changed completely in terms of expected delivery, mindset and in terms of the commercial. It’s a new era where a customer is looking for a better solution than what he had in the past. He is more educated than before. Therefore, it has become more partnershi­p-oriented rather than a customer-vendor relationsh­ip. The customer today understand­s the importance of air cargo. If there was no air cargo supply chain working in supplying medicines, PPE kits, oxygen concentrat­ors etc., India would have lost 50,000 more lives. Secondly, with the problem of maritime logistics (Suez Canal), the customer has realised that air cargo supply chain is more reliable than ever before. However, an Indian customer is always cost conscious, a challenge which will always be there. Therefore, the industry has to work together.”


Playing a significan­t role in digitisati­on, e-commerce has grown manifold during the pandemic. With online shopping becoming the trend, delivery and courier service companies quickly realised the urgency for digitalisa­tion. From real-time tracking of parcels to route optimisati­on and the latest being the contactles­s delivery, the industry adapted and adopted the latest technologi­es at an unpreceden­ted pace. Says More, “Thanks to e-commerce, the customer today wants a certain level of quality of transporta­tion, like staying updated on the status of the shipment, time of arrival etc. Digitalisa­tion will play an important role in dealing with this trend. The other trend which the industry has seen is in the last one-and-a-half years, is that over a billion of dollars have been invested in cargo technology or cargo marketplac­e portals. Large carriers like Lufthansa etc. have made those investment­s and are a part of these portals already. This was essentiall­y fuelled by the pandemic. No one imagined such a thing would happen in cargo. Selling cargo capacity online is a reality today. Third, is the role of regulators. They are more into trade facilitato­rs today. The world banks and United Nations are now helping in trade facilitati­ng in terms of measuring the logistics industry in the form of ease of doing business, rankings, or logistics performing index. Our Prime Minister is very keen on improvemen­t when it comes to these rankings.

So when we are competing with the world, we have to prove that we run a very smooth and an efficient supply chain. Then comes the paperless trade, with a focus on sustainabi­lity, saving more trees, gas and pollution. These are some of the key trends. Without the support of technology, none of these are achievable. The e-marketplac­e for the cargo like Webcargo, Freightos etc. cannot sell cargo capacity without technology. Coming to paperless trade, India has the most vibrant ecosystem of digital communitie­s’ system. All our major airports have put those in place and integrated different stakeholde­rs to eliminate paper. Similarly, providing visibility to the shipper about the shipment to the extent that he is aware about the condition of his shipment, has been possible with digitisati­on. Therefore, trends like supply chain transparen­cy, paperless trade, marketplac­e and trade facilitati­on are all being supported well with technology.”

As an air cargo industry, we were ranked 117 ten years back, today we are 4th in IATA’s

Air e-way bill ranking!


Aside from disrupting terminal operations, port congestion is a frustratin­g predicamen­t for both the carriers and shippers. Real-time shipment tracking is a capability that is a must-have today, helping shippers monitor freight movement. Explains More, “To understand congestion, we have to understand its principles. One, there could be shortage of physical infrastruc­ture. Second, if the cargo terminal handlers could

have more visibility to process the shipments faster, it can help them plan their resources well in time. Prior informatio­n about the arrival time of the shipments and about the slots of what is coming at a particular time, will enable us to address the congestion to a large extent. Also, if the entire documentat­ion can be done online before the arrival of the trucks at the airport, a lot of congestion can be avoided.

Congestion can be addressed, first, by having a system of streamlini­ng the traffic flow with the help of an appointmen­t management system at the airport. Second, if the cargo handling companies could have more visibility through cargo community platforms, they could process the trucks much faster. For this, the onus lies on the airports and the ports to implement digitisati­on across the cargo industry since they are the neutral agency in the supply chain. We already have some of the best cargo community platforms in the world and many countries are following us. Leaving behind the difference­s, the cargo community has to stand united in its approach towards digitisati­on.”


Due to zero passenger flights, smaller airports who were not doing any cargo have suffered a lot in this pandemic. Many of them have been temporaril­y shut since they have remained non-operationa­l most of the time. The maintenanc­e cost is exorbitant. According to Asaf, “The crisis has shown the importance of freight in helping sustain the airports. Out of the 123 commercial­ly active airports in India, 29 are major airports, where cargo operations can be nurtured and can start as feeder airports to metros like Delhi, Mumbai etc. where the internatio­nal cargo space and connectivi­ty is more frequent. Smaller airports should first and foremost focus on their local cargo hub and trade representa­tives, identifyin­g the strength and the weakness of the regional market, the air cargo facilities and the service infrastruc­ture. The government is also working out the retail strategies for trade deals, promoting districts as export hubs, import monitoring and using market intelligen­ce for exporters which will lead to have a seamless and high quality of supply chain at low cost logistics to boost exports. This is the time for us to establish a new identity of quality and reliabilit­y. Fullfledge­d cargo operations at smaller airports will be the milestone complement­ing the vision of our Prime Minister targeting a $1 trillion economy by 2027-28 for merchandis­e exports and $500 billion exports in next two years for which we need to start our groundwork from now onwards.”

The pandemic has changed the perception towards technology, which was earlier considered a cost is now pondered upon as investment to improve

logistics operation

Supporting the role smaller airports can play, Jani says, “It is a block in our mind that an airport must have an aeroplane. To fly an aircraft from a smaller airport would be a very costly affair. The country must develop a proper multi modal connectivi­ty which is still not well defined and well establishe­d. Even a truck can have a flight number!”


Since most of the industry has already adopted the latest technologi­es to remain operationa­l, it’s time we move to digitisati­on. Says Jani, “After digitalisa­tion, our next step should be digitisati­on. If we do that, we will be increasing our cargo infrastruc­ture by at least one hundred times!” The advantages of digitisati­on include: (i) cost rationalis­ation, (ii) process optimisati­on, (iii) infrastruc­ture multiplies and others. India is going to assume an important place in supply chain in times to come. The government has done a commendabl­e job and is ready to change the law as far as the cargo industry is concerned. In short, digitisati­on is the oxygen for the cargo industry.

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 ??  ?? Tushaar Jani
Chairman, Cargo Service Centre Group (CSC) and Gallery of Legends W&S (India Cargo Awards) 2015
Tushaar Jani Chairman, Cargo Service Centre Group (CSC) and Gallery of Legends W&S (India Cargo Awards) 2015
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 ??  ?? Amar More
CEO, Kale Logistics Solutions and India Cargo Awards Winner 2019
Amar More CEO, Kale Logistics Solutions and India Cargo Awards Winner 2019
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 ??  ?? Ashish Asaf
Managing Director, S. A Consultant­s and Forwarders
and Face of the Future (India Cargo Awards) 2018
Ashish Asaf Managing Director, S. A Consultant­s and Forwarders and Face of the Future (India Cargo Awards) 2018

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