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INTERVIEW

“Our goal is to revolutionise freight in India”
Monday, 15 August, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
The global supply chains have been pushed to the brink over the last two years, revealing the shortcomings of a complicated system that is impacting not only our daily lives but also the global economy.  Freightfox, a tech-first logistics partner for manufacturing enterprises, focussed on creating value in the Indian B2B logistics space. They provide a Collaborative-Logistics-as-a-Service (CLaaS) capability, which is a first of its kind mobility offering in India. Nitish Rai, CEO and founder, FreightFox, talks about the company's profile and more in an email interview with Ashwani Maindola. Excerpts:

Describe your company and its products/offers for the food and beverage Industry.
FreightFox is a tech-first, data led logistics platform, for manufacturing enterprises, focussed on creating value in the Indian B2B logistics space. Our goal is to revolutionise freight in India by utilising data and technology to augment manufacturers’ capability to do effective on-ground transport operations that will boost the economy. Some of the largest manufacturing companies in India have chosen FreightFox as their exclusive partner to speed up the digitisation of logistics. The company is aiming to deliver first of a kind index-based (responsive) freight contracts through its cutting-edge end-to-end logistics procurement and orchestration platform.

The company’s solutions are powered by our proprietary data driven algorithms and predictions engine that deploys advanced machine learning, location intelligence etc. to deliver credible and actionable inputs for responsive decision-making.

For the food and beverages industry, in particular, there are many issues related to freight movement that we seek to solve. There are strict compliances, very tight time windows, extensive documentation required, breakage or spillage issues, government regulations to follow, and also lesser numbers in terms of transporters willing to carry goods in this segment due to FSSAI requirements and higher inherent risks. In such a situation, companies need logistics strategies that are accurate and can extract market freight data in a timely manner. We offer this visibility to clients so they are empowered to make the smartest decisions, when it comes to transporting food and beverage products across India.

What are the key challenges faced and initiatives undertaken by FreightFox to address the supply chain delays with respect to the specific needs and requirements of the food and beverage industry?
Food and beverage supply chains are time and quality critical. The disruptions caused by the pandemic led to supply and demand shocks that exposed a critical need for visibility in the supply chain. Additionally, there is an even greater demand for efficiency and capacity building due to growing material and labour prices, which is where digitisation may provide a long-term competitive edge.

In this situation, we offer domain expertise, a smart, data-driven SaaS platform, and first-of-its-kind mobility solutions. The company can help its clients find the best combination of transporters and fleets for their needs while also spotting new potential for optimisation due to its unique platform that provides customised prices and granular visibility into routes and spends. In the long term, we hope to accomplish the same for clients all around the world, ensuring that supply chain connections are always strong, durable, and flexible enough to meet changing needs.

For the food and beverage industry, issues of traceability, high cost due to shorter transit times, and even growing food regulations can be solved by its platform. Since companies can track their freight at every point in the transit process using the platform, issues of transparency and access are resolved. Additionally, optimised costs through the platform also ensure that delays are not caused due to lack of information or data on pricing, labour and other extraneous factors.

Lack of appropriate cold chain infrastructure at right costs hinders the speedy and timely movement of perishables resulting in huge amounts of fruits, vegetables etc. ending up as waste. This problem is further aggravated on account of the seasonal factors where a sudden surge in the transportation capacity demand kicks-in and sky rockets the pricing for that instantaneous time. Penetration of multi-modal formats of movement is still unexplored.

On the other hand, beverage logistics is highly sensitive to the target market, consumer concentration and environmental factors creating crests and troughs of supply - stressing the logistics capacity to expand and shrink at a very fast rate with little time window, translating into accelerated placement and planning failures.

How closer collaboration is a key to navigate the disruption, please elaborate?

One of the key linking pins missing in the supply chains, and especially critical for the food and beverage industry, is collaboration. Logistics is a common problem and industries need to understand and imbibe the fact that the seasonality, constantly changing market and demand profiles of products, collaborating on the network and infrastructure synergy will not only result in higher throughput and utilisation of capacities yielding lower costs, but also helps plan and counter balance the market disruption at aggregate level.

We will very often find that one organisation is struggling to find the capacities due to instant demand surges and another food company has an underutilised cold warehouse where spare capacity is available. Isolated operation without thinking of collaboration and coopetition ends up bleeding the ecosystem affecting competitiveness and scalability. There are many more examples and possibilities of radical collaboration which can truly bring transformation with data and technology enabling such collaborative transactions at ease and on a large scale.

How is your company addressing dislocated cycles, high transportation costs and surges in demand with respect to the food and beverage industry?
Dislocated and distributed operations create an adverse domino effect on the food and beverage supply chains and this happens due to information opaqueness, latency and visibility issues. In a time and quality critical supply chain, it is extremely important to have robust planning and risk management. An example of this is - for a trader, if they bought a bulk agri commodity in west India based on a mandi price arbitrage in north India, and imagine the transportation planning failure/delay made the commodity land with delay, the prices may have completely gone upside down by then and hence pose a very high risk to the value chain and their stakeholders. Certain logistics is, certain revenue.

Our solution helps in addressing precisely these problems of dislocated cycles, transport costs, and even out surges in demand as and when they arise.

The best route for each given shipment and the ideal fleet size are precisely predicted by us using cutting-edge algorithms and millions of transport data points. We employ real-time price information to ensure that customers pay the best price for any route and reduce unforeseen transportation expenses.

With rising costs of crude oil, freight movement has also become more expensive, particularly in the food and beverages industry. Our mission is to provide optimised freight movement that makes the best use of a company’s resources to deliver freight strategies that are optimal and cost-efficient. Our tracking solutions also keep clients updated on the location of their goods at all times, and provide intelligence on the correct pool of national and regional level fleet operators for the most seamless freight experience.

Outlook for 2022 for the company and how policy interventions are helping companies like yours?
We are on a mission to be the flag bearer of taking India to become the 3rd largest economy in the world. This can only be accomplished through bolstering the nation's manufacturing industry, and we are working to solve the transportation system's weak points in this regard. Consumers are switching from purchasing items to purchasing "products as a service" nowadays and in today's changing industry, personalisation is the key differentiator. To be compatible with this, the logistics and supply chains must be completely redefined. In order to stay current and maintain their competitive advantage, businesses, even established ones, need to experiment more with data and technological advancements.

Last but not least, ESG (Environmental Social Governance) will be a priority in the coming decades, and logistics will be crucial in assisting businesses of the future as they shift toward people, profit, and planet.

Government policy interventions through the launch of the ULIP platform in August, 22 and the LDB platform, will democratise access to data and create visibility of the freight market like never before. This would open up business opportunities for everyone in the logistics ecosystem, including for us.
 
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