Ram Swaminathan leads Mahindra Logistics’ tech-driven supply chain revolution

Rampraveen Swaminathan, MD and CEO of Mahindra Logistics Ltd, emphasizes how technology integration has boosted cost-effectiveness and market agility, allowing the company to stay competitive in today's rapidly changing business landscape

The landscape of tech-enabled logistics solutions is replete with challenges that demand innovative solutions and a proactive approach. Simultaneously, the opportunities presented by these technologies have the potential to revolutionise supply chain operations, enhance customer experiences, and drive overall industry growth.

In an exclusive interview with ET Edge Insights, Rampraveen Swaminathan, MD and CEO of Mahindra Logistics Ltd, discusses, among many other topics, the key trends in supply chain management, the significance of technology integration, leadership, and work-life balance.

Interview excerpts

What, according to you, are the key trends driving the supply chain management sector, and how do you envision the future shaping up with regards to these trends?
In the aftermath of the pandemic and amid the global shifts of the past two to three years, uncertainty has increased. Many B2B enterprises, such as ours, have shifted from a “cost to serve” mindset to a “cost to win” mindset, revealing an underlying trend. This shift is propelled by three key factors. Firstly, demand has intensified, driven by robust growth in tier two and tier three cities, dispersing customers widely. Second, customer behaviour has rendered demand increasingly omnichannel, spanning online, modern trade, and general trade, necessitating enterprises to adapt their supply chains to shifting sands across these channels. A third influential driver is a government-led infrastructure surge encompassing physical infrastructure expansion like roads, and direct freight corridors, and digital assets like ONDC, akin to UPI’s transformative impact in the financial services industry.

Lastly, sustainability has gained prominence, with ‘E’ emerging as a significant consideration alongside ‘S’ and ‘G.’ In a response to that, customers are seeking integrated services by buying from a single organisation or person which then takes responsibility of integrating the services and managing the underlying risk. Technology has become all pervasive. Machine learning, AI, and automation technologies, have all tailored to industry needs. It depends on the industry to decide how to use this technology to their advantage, to deliver those needs. Companies are investing a lot more in terms of infrastructure, enhancing quality to meet evolving demands.

Could you share an example highlighting the positive contributions made by Mahindra Logistics to supply chain operations?
Our strategic focus centres on two main aspects. Firstly, we have significantly expanded our service portfolio, becoming a comprehensive one-stop solution. This entails contract logistics, freight operations, B2B express services, cross-border logistics, and final mile delivery. This expansion positions us as a versatile partner catering to diverse client needs. Secondly, we’ve harnessed technology for better service integration, enhancing supply chain efficiency. For instance, optimising truck delivery times reduces warehouse inventory. This integration not only boosts cost-effectiveness but also market agility, which we render important from our business perspective. We have also achieved a milestone with one of the nation’s largest electric vehicle-based services. We have more than 1400 vehicles across 19 cities, and what’s unique about it is that we’ve looked at sustainability as par for the course.

Additionally, our significant investment in communities and inclusiveness bolsters formal employment. Over 25,000 third-party associates, probably 30-40% as first-time job entrants, contribute to a vital multiplier effect, further magnified by our driver network. So, that’s been a big investment by us as well to try and see how we can shore up the level of the time.

Being the captain of this ship, the one stop shop, as you said, and doing so many things requires a lot of skills and in-time decisions. As a leader, what key attributes do you consider vital for successfully driving these complex operations?
Broadening the perspective beyond personal opinions, the transition from a generalist to a specialist is a challenging endeavour I aim to undertake. To delve into the crucial skills, the first key attribute lies in cultivating a purpose-driven approach focused on impact. This encompasses a clear sense of direction paired with an inclination to drive transformative actions. Secondly, an unwavering commitment to execution stands as a cornerstone, because we are a fragmented delivery model. The third one is learning and understanding industry, which I think is in continuous change.

Leaders must exhibit the capacity to learn and swiftly adapt to the continuous shifts. The cultivation of teams and their growth hinge on empathetic leadership, constituting a fundamental aspect not limited to supply chains. You are only as good as your team. Last but not the least, cultivating extracurricular interests is important. Every leader should have something which allows them to find balance in their lives. I think that’s true again for every industry, but it is especially true in our industry.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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