Digital technology will play a major role in reduction of carbon footprint
Published on : Saturday 01-01-2022
Apurva Mankad, CEO and Founder, WebXpress.
How was the year 2021 for business in general, your segment in particular?
The year 2021 started with a lot of hope, but the second wave of Covid-19 paid to incipient recovery. But post June 2021, the economy rebounded with surprising vigour. The festival season recorded bumper sales across segments – except for auto sector due to chip shortages. As the year ends, we again have shadow of Omicron variant of Covid-19 threatening economic recovery across the world. Thus, 2021 has been a roller coaster year for the industry and the logistics sector gets directly affected immediately.
Pandemic has made logistics industry flexible and ready to absorb shocks. The long-term outlook for logistics remains very positive, this has ensured continued investment in warehousing and transport infrastructure.
Did the concessions made by the government in terms of exemptions, extensions and other policy initiatives help? What more could have been done?
India had to understandably prioritise support to weaker sections of society. Thus, support from government to logistics sector was limited to deferring of EMIs, fitness certificate, and other compliances.
In fact, the price of fuel increased from Rs 66 in January 2020 to Rs 90 by December 2021 – that is almost by 50%. Fuels taxes in India are one of the highest. The good part is that Government is spending to construct better roads, expressways and improve overall infrastructure.
While central government is very supportive of logistics industry, more can be done by individual states. States can reduce red tape, recognise logistics as industry (many states have done so), remove bottlenecks in state level infrastructure, etc.
The pandemic, according to experts, acted as a catalyst for digital transformation. What was the transformation in your company?
Logistics is a traditional industry and slow to change. But even before pandemic, Logistics industry was forced to change thanks to demonetisation, followed by GST and the enforcement of Fasttag (Automated Toll Payments) and E-way Bills (Electronic Gate Pass linked to GST Invoices).
Pandemic was the last straw on back of proverbial camel. Industry adopted digital tools such as Zoom, invested into Cloud software, tracking technology and online payments.
We are a technology company providing solutions to logistics industry – and like most technology companies, we adapted to the new reality of work from home easily.
But biggest change for us is in customer interface. We are now able to deploy most of our solutions remotely – where once customer expected an onsite team. We are also able to qualify prospect remotely and conduct almost 90% of presales activities online.
Most companies have continued to work in hybrid mode even after lockdown was lifted. Thus, even now most of our interaction with customers is online. This has helped us to reach out to many more customers and improve productivity of our team.
Climate change and sustainability are matters of serious concern. How sustainable are the business practices followed by the company?
Due to its sheer size, India is world’s third largest emitter of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) with 2.2 Gigatons behind China (9.3 GT) and USA (4.3 GT). At the same time our emissions are lowest on a per capita basis at (1.6 tonne) as compared to China at 7 tonnes and USA at mammoth 15 tonnes.
India’s population is young and aspirational – this will mean ever more emissions for decades to come. The balance between growth and sustainability will always be a challenging one in India.
Transportation accounts for 17% of GHG world-wide and is thus major target for reduction. The good news is that there is massive appetite and acceptance of green technologies in India and governments at state and centre level even general population and business all very committed to meet climate goals.
As discussed above, India has some of the highest taxes on fossil fuels – in a way acting as a big carbon tax on industry and logistics.
Digital technology will play a major role in reduction of carbon footprint, especially in logistics.
WebXpress has developed Carbon Calculators and Emission Dashboards to measure carbon emission at every journey level and even at a shipment level.
We also help companies reduce fuel consumption using load planning and route planning tools. This helps to optimise number of vehicles and distance to be covered for executing delivery tasks.
The company addresses the needs of both the domestic as well as global market. What is the report card in this respect?
WebXpress is already deployed for customers in over 10 countries. In 2021, we continued to add customers in Emerging Markets in SE Asia, Middle East, and Africa.
The pandemic surely affected our ability to travel and establish us in more markets. But we now look forward to a major push in Emerging markets around the world in next 2 years.
What is the outlook for 2022? What are the new developments to look forward to?
We added over 50% more customers in 2021 as compared to 2019 – year before pandemic. In 2022, we are looking to add 2X to 3X customers on our SaaS platform.
We are also adding many functionalities- especially leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools.
For example, our new WhatsApp Bot can understand customer requirements and offer a tracking or a proof of delivery. Field team can use WhatsApp Bot to update vehicle arrival details or delivery information.
We are also working to offer Intelligent Insights using Control Tower technology. Here, customers will get prediction of delays in their network, any deviations such as over speeding, route deviation etc.
We are also launching a ‘Marketplace’ where our customers can ‘trade’ capacities to ensure fuller loads and profitable movements. Shippers can use a Mobile App to book a cargo online and get best quotation from multiple logistics companies. We are also trying to tie up with companies offering Electric Fleet and marry them to demand from customers. This will help logistics companies reduce their carbon footprint at the same time optimise use of available EV assets.
Founded in 2004, WebXpress is a Global Transportation and Logistics SaaS provider, headquartered in Mumbai. WebXpress serves over 100 leading supply chain companies and 10,000 users. It is a globally proven solution with deployment in 8 countries in SE Asia, Middle East, and Africa. WebXpress essentially has two lines of offerings - Transportation as a service and LogiCloud: Supply chain visibility platform. WebXpress is founded by Apurva Mankad, Founder & CEO. WebXpress is a cloud-native digital logistics platform. Some of their customers are leading names such as Linfox, Agility, Madura, Toll Logistics, Snowman, Future Supply Chains, DTDC, Coldex among others.