“During the pandemic, the logistics sector has been critical in ensuring timely supply of oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, and vaccines to hospitals and people in need,” says, Mr. Ramesh Venkat, Head – Industry Partnerships and Alliances – Logistics Skill Council (LSC).
The logistics sector has played an extremely important role in keeping the wheels of the economy moving. The logistics sector involves packaging, movement, storage, and flow of goods domestically and outside international borders. The sector played a critical role in facilitating trade and commerce and helped businesses get their products to customers.
From supplying essentials to households, industries, etc. to supplying oxygen cylinders to hospitals and healthcare centres, the logistics industry has been playing a pivotal role. To know and understand the challenges of the logistics industry, the role of Logistics Skills Council (LSC), the need for a skilled workforce, training, etc., we conversed with Mr. Ramesh Venkat, Head – Industry Partnerships and Alliances – Logistics Skill Council.
Note: These are few excerpts from our conversation. You can watch the full video interview on our YouTube channel, for which the link is given below.
Q: How is the logistics industry coping with the challenges of the supply chain with the COVID-19 disruption?
A: There are many challenges in logistics post-pandemic, especially with the supply of vaccines and oxygen which is the need of the hour. There are 12 sub-sectors in logistics. Logistics interacts with these sub-sectors in terms of skilling, placements, and apprenticeships.
The sub-sectors are:
- Warehouse and Transportation
- Courier and Express service
- ICDs’ and CFS operations
- Air Cargo
- Export and Imports
- Supply Chain
- Rail Logistics
- Liquid Logistics
- Cold Chain
- Inland Waterways
During the pandemic, one of the challenges is transportation. Training drivers is a challenge. But, during the pandemic, vaccine distribution has become a critical challenge where fraternities come forward ramping up and meeting a lot of supply challenges in the country.
We see drivers as the frontline warriors today, but are neglected and not being vaccinated. So, while supplying these, they go as COVID-19 negative and come back as COVID-19 positive.
We are trying our best, collectively with manufacturers, transporting services to supply oxygen. Another challenge faced by the drivers while transporting the vaccine or oxygen is that there is no food on the highway. Also, due to political anguish, trucks are getting hijacked.
Post-pandemic, there is a good remark about logistics. As it is one of the only four sectors that are currently running. The other sectors which are able to run their operations during the current times are agriculture, health and pharma and IT (Information Technology), and e-commerce.
E-commerce is a big boon to the logistics industry. But the challenge is the delivery, as there are no resources to deliver the products at the confined places.
If you look at the first wave i.e., a year ago, we could get our orders on the same day but now it’s taking around 25 days. This means there are a lot of challenges for getting skilled persons to deliver.
Q: How is the LSC trying to ramp up things in this current situation?
A: The situation world is facing is unprecedented. Under the aegis of the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), along with NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation), LSC has been front-ending this joint initiative. We have partnered with the Indian Chemical Council and transporters in building transportation capacity building for transporting liquid cryogenic oxygen.
There are 1200 tanker vehicles deployed currently to carry Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) pan India. We need two drivers for a smooth supply where there is no delay. So, the drivers of LMO are required to be trained but are in huge paucity.
They should be HMV (Heavy Motor Vehicle) license qualified and should have a lot of technical skills. Fast driving or at the deep curves, the tanker would roll over. Given these challenges, we need to create a bench of at least 2,400 drivers. So, end-to-end activities are being digitized collectively by stakeholders and we are ramping up to skill the drivers.
Q: What are some of the other job roles that are extremely important and require skilling?
A: NSDC has created a virtual portal where we bridge the demand and supply. It is called ASEEM portal (Aatmanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping) and logistics is on top of the charts. More than 5.1 lakh qualified trained workers who applied for jobs from the ASEEM platform from various e-commerce, logistics companies and from the 12 sub-sectors under logistics.
The top demand for jobs is Courier Delivery Executive which is also known as the last-mile logistics. The next job role is that of a Warehouse Picker.
When infrastructure goes up, logistics are automatically proportionate to having a skilled workforce. Hence, the job role of Warehouse Picker has been authorized. Along with last-mile logistics, job roles like Courier Institutional Sales Executive and Warehouse Management are in demand.
Q: As the classroom training got affected, what initiatives have you taken to adopt blended learning to continue training programmes?
The impact of learning has gone virtual since post-pandemic. So, blended learning has been adopted during the lockdown. Because of the pandemic, there’s been a lot of flexibility and empathy coming in and people are gradually shifting to electric vehicles. So, that is another place where we have been asked to skill as that requires lot of knowledge on charging. Therefore, all the training which is used to be classroom pedagogy is moved into digitized mode.
Q: Is there an overlap of skilling between the logistics sector and the automotive sector?
A: There are men and machines in both automotive and logistics. Four years ago, GOI has got the LSC to Automotive Sector together in the Society of Indian Automobiles Manufacturers Forum (SIAM). We created content for Heavy Commercial Vehicle Driver and have been skilling them through various government-funded programmes.
During the lockdown, people are shifting to electric vehicles. There is a humongous need to train men and women. There is also a lot of gender diversity initiatives taking place. Mahindra and Mahindra have also taken six transgenders in their warehouse in Chennai. The benchmark is not gender but productivity.
Q: Don’t you think that the Sector Skill Council should propose for work-integrated learning while they are pursuing degree courses like BBA?
A: We have embraced what MSDE and NSDC have been guiding us with. Skilling is our core competence. Key focus areas for Logistics are skilling, placements, and industry-academia partnerships.
We were the first in our country to launch BBA in Logistics programme. It is a blended programme with six semesters. The three semesters are apprenticed, where the students learn and earn. Students will have hands-on experience on warehouses with COVID-19 appropriate behavior. We are also in the verge of launching MS data analytics in Supply Chain and Logistics in engineering colleges.
Also read: Logistics Industry: Skills, Training and Careers – https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/skill2jobs-logistics-industry-skills-training-and-careers/
Q: What would be your advice to training partners connected to logistics and e-commerce?
A: There is a huge need for reskilling and upskilling. There is a National Workforce Strategy is being developed to address how to bring academic intervention into skilling programmes and training.
It is time for youngsters to embrace advancements in technology and know that what used to work decades ago does not work today. With the ongoing automation and technology playing in, they need to be skilled.
This can help our country to become skilling capital in technology. Industry and academia have started to adapt, acknowledge and identify things like apprenticeships now in a fast-track mode.
We have our own online learning platform where we skill train thousands of people. We also have an entrepreneurship vertical in LSC through which we are in touch with startups and promoting entrepreneurship in the logistics sector.