Ekart, the logistics arm of Flipkart Ltd, will start a consumer-facing courier service called Ekart Courier next week, a senior company executive said. The new service will compete with traditional businesses such as DTDC and Bluedart among others. This is the latest initiative from Ekart to evolve into an end-to-end logistics service provider. The company has already thrown open its logistics services to e-commerce firms such as Jabong and Paytm (One97 Communications Pvt. Ltd), Mint reported on 5 April.

“If you look at Ekart, we want to be the most transformative supply chain service provider in India. One of the most important aspects of transporting personal goods is being a service the consumer identifies with. How do you ensure reliability is the question," said Amitesh Jha, vice-president at Ekart.

The courier service, which will be launched in Bengaluru on 24 May, will be scaled up to at least 10 cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata among others in the next two months, as the company eyes 5-10% of the market share in the intra- and inter-city courier segment by the end of the current fiscal.

Mint reported on 1 February that Ekart was piloting a customer-to-customer courier service while a full fledged roll out was due in the next two months.

The company will launch separate desktop and mobile websites for the consumer facing service.

At least 15 start-ups including Pickrr, Shipsy, Parcelled, DaakNinja, ShipTickr and Pigen have emerged in the last 18 months, who offer to pick up a parcel, pack, ship and track it till it lands at its destination, effectively working as courier aggregators.

On demand home pick-up of parcels for retail customers is not a service aggressively promoted by the traditional courier service providers, who focus more on business establishments for driving volumes.

The consumer-facing business, however, is not taking giant strides, prompting the start-ups to tap into first-mile logistics for small and medium enterprises, transporting goods from the merchant to a customer or the warehouses of e-commerce companies. Some of them have also started handling reverse pick-ups for e-commerce companies, Mint reported on 23 September.

“If you do not have end-to-end service capabilities, it is very difficult to deliver. People think if you solve one piece of the problem, you have solved all the problems that consumers are facing. That is not the case. It is actually the end-to-end service that matters," Ekart’s Jha said.

Ekart’s logistics service for third-party etailers compete with well-funded e-commerce-focused logistics firms such as Delhivery (SSN Logistics Pvt. Ltd), Ecom Express Pvt. Ltd and Dotzot, the e-commerce focused arm of DTDC Express Ltd. Traditional logistics companies such as Gati Ltd, Blue Dart Express Ltd, Safexpress Pvt. Ltd and Drive India Enterprise Solutions Ltd are all adding e-commerce verticals to their existing lines of businesses.

Logistics and supply chain has become a key focus for all e-commerce companies as sound infrastructure helps in reducing delivery cost and ensure faster delivery, which in turn helps e-commerce firms win over customers.

Flipkart’s rivals Amazon (Amazon Seller Services Pvt. Ltd) and Snapdeal (Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd) are not sitting idle.

The logistics footprint of Amazon India grew three times to more than 2,100 cities and towns in 2015 and the company added eight warehouses last year, increasing its count to 21. It has the maximum number of warehouses and largest storage space among e-commerce firms in India, ahead of Flipkart, which has 17. Snapdeal has bought a large stake in specialty logistics firm GoJavas to improve its speed of order deliveries. The e-commerce company has infused about 237 crore into GoJavas for a 42% stake, Mint reported on 2 October.

Ekart is controlled by an entity called Instakart Services Pvt. Ltd. Last September, Flipkart bought back its logistics business from WS Retail Services Pvt. Ltd via Instakart. Since incorporation of Instakart, Flipkart has infused about 800 crore into the entity.

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