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Business News/ News / India/  Firms find logistics a challenge to delivery of products
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Firms find logistics a challenge to delivery of products

Even after workers return, it will be a mammoth task to educate them about hygiene practices

The domestic industry is staring at a shortage of truck drivers and loaders, with many having returned to their hometowns (Photo: Hindustan Times)Premium
The domestic industry is staring at a shortage of truck drivers and loaders, with many having returned to their hometowns (Photo: Hindustan Times)

NEW DELHI : Indian companies, which are grappling with the disruption in manufacturing caused by the nationwide lockdown, will have to contend with another big challenge for weeks and months, the delivery of products including food and medicines, industry officials said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated that the lockdown will be eased gradually from mid-April, but the domestic industry is staring at a huge shortage of truck drivers and loaders, with many workers having returned to their hometowns after the lockdown was announced.

“We think that about 40% of drivers are not available for trucks in the industry at present. This may not change dramatically. If people have crossed borders, it is virtually impossible to get them back," said Vineet Agarwal, senior vice-president, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

Workers, including drivers and loaders, are expected to come back only gradually, Agarwal, who is also the managing director of leading logistics company TCI, said in an interview.

“This is a developing situation," said Satish Meena, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. “The second thing to consider is the supply side, that many of these companies don’t have inventories and fast-moving consumer goods companies are working at 40% of capacity because they are not getting employees," he said. Restrictions on border movement are adding to the difficulties, Meena said.

Even after workers return, the fear of infections due to the covid-19 outbreak would likely involve a mammoth effort at rebuilding confidence and educating them about hygiene practices, including the use of sanitizers and face masks, besides the importance of washing hands frequently.

The foundation of the industry will have to be rebuilt through the use of things such as a pallet—a flat wooden container structure that can be used by forklifts—to minimize points of touch.

“Given the prevailing and dynamic situation, it is inevitable that some disruptions are likely to take place when a fine balance has to be maintained between delivery of essential products, even as norms, such as restricted movement and social distancing, is followed by the frontline warriors," said an ITC spokesperson.

“Inter-state and local truck movement has been severely impacted together with the challenge of shortage of manpower in factories. Localized solutions with help from communities around the factories are being explored and implemented. We believe it will take a few more days for the entire ecosystem and processes to be streamlined for movement of essential goods," he added.

ITC, which makes Aashirvaad atta (wheat flour), Sunfeast Biscuits and Savlon antiseptic liquid, soaps, and sanitizers, said it was trying to work with local authorities to ensure the continuity of services with a minimum number of people.

“While we have progressively obtained permissions in some states, availability of trucks continues to be the biggest challenge at the moment," the spokesperson added.

Online grocery chain Grofers said though it has now resumed operations in 100% of cities, it continues to cap fresh orders once it reaches maximum capacity for servicing them in a given location.

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Published: 04 Apr 2020, 12:20 AM IST
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