Alagu Balaraman, Partner and Managing Director of Indian Operations at CGN Global, highlights the critical drivers of change in logistics. He warns the industry to stay ahead of the curve so not to lose out on the opportunities.
There is a view that the world of transport is simple and has remained unchanged for many years. This is certainly not the case today. It would be both interesting and educational to see what is driving these changes and how companies can best use new opportunities. In this article, we will focus on the trends in the regions of Africa, India and the Middle East. Most of the references will be from the same geographies.
Looking at demand for transport services, we see some critical drivers. Some interesting and significant areas are (a) economic development, (b) a leap frogging of customer demand fuelled by e-commerce and (c) shifting patterns of food consumption.
Economic development leading to accelerated logistics growth
Recently, turmoil in global trade policy and protectionism has resulted in increasing tariff barriers being imposed across the major trading partners of the US and China. This has led to a flight of capital out of emerging markets, giving the impression that all is not well in economies. However, that is not reflective of economic growth in these markets as a whole. Both domestic and trade within the regions is doing quite well.
Looking at some large growing emerging markets, we find that some countries are maintaining a relatively healthy growth rate. In cases like India (8.2% in 2018) and Ethiopia (10.2%) it is actually a high rate of growth. The UAE is going through a period of slow growth but is forecasted to pick up beyond 3% pa once again. This level of growth will lead to increased consumption, both in consumer and industrial markets. In the case of lower income countries there will be shifts in patterns of food consumption (addressed later in this article) and the nature of goods being purchased as disposable incomes rise. This in turn will alter the demand networks within countries and in ports dealing with exports and imports.
As an indicator, the projected GDP growth for India is 8% per annum or more. In turn, the projected growth in the logistics market of 12.9% CAGR. This is not surprising.
“As growth increases, production and exchange of goods and raw materials will increase leading to a significantly increased growth rate in logistics.”
This will call for an overall increase in volumes to be shipped, leading to increased demand for infrastructure, skills and supporting technologies.
E-commerce changing the nature of demand
Technology has been making a significant impact in changing how we lead our lives and how we do our work. It is not surprising that it has also changed the way in which we consume goods and the profile of goods being consumed. The idea that an individual can search for, order and receive a single product means that people can access goods faster and cheaper than traditional retail networks can be built. This has fuelled disproportionate growth in the express logistics area.
“Correspondingly, the e-commerce logistics industry in India is forecasted to grow at a much faster rate than even the logistics industry, at approximately 36%.”
This is almost 3 times faster than the overall logistics market growth in the country. Why is this and what is the difference in the pattern of demand in logistics?
Firstly, the growth is happening due to the growth in the industry. Consumers who have a high disposable income but are not located in urban centres are now able to order goods. To capture this market, e-commerce players are looking for faster and more economical ways to do small unit delivery. So, while traditional industry looks to minimise the tonne/km cost of transport, e-commerce companies are more interested in speed of delivery and safe handling of the product.
They are penetrating geographies further away from large population centres and are using technology to plan, track and transact. This is a different type of logistics customer from the traditional industrial customers and, in turn, this places new demands on the infrastructure, processes and skill levels of the people in the logistics space.
“This is clearly evidenced by the fact that logistics companies are being asked to handle last mile delivery, which can account for as much half the total logistics cost.”