The month of March brings with it, extended hours of work, extra work load and a lot more on one’s plate. How do Safexpress partners cope? With perfect ease, we find out.
His eyes on the road, hands firmly behind the wheel, his last job at a French garment company was the last thing on his mind, he says with a chuckle. Rahul Sharma, a business partner with Safexpress in Manesar, Haryana, like several other business partners, was focused on what is most crucial for a logistics partner, timely pickup.
“I still remember it was 2014 and I had just joined my father who had been working with Safexpress since 2007. The financial year was closing and we had lots of pickups lined up. We had one driver back then and he reported ill. There was task to be completed so I got behind the wheel and made sure we did so on time,” he shares.
Looking back, it is easy to understand how that one little trip helped create a lasting mark on the customer who Sharma still works with. “What matters the most in our business is staying true to the time committed. A promise is a promise and we value each promise that we make,” he says.
As the financial year draws to a close, the pressure on every organisation increases. The story is no different for the 1800 plus business partners of Safexpress spread across the country. But with advance planning, smooth operating procedures and little tweaks in place, it all becomes worth the rush. We spoke to some business partners of Safexpress and found out what they do to handle the March rush.
Think on your feet
One of the things all the partners swear by is thinking out of the box, be ready to fire-fight and think on their feet.
Like Sathish Kumar, based out of Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu says, “One has to be ready to think out of the box, go that extra mile to make sure things are smoothly done”.
Because extra pressure, he says wittingly, is also a great opportunity do more business, more volumes, look at the future prospects, and ride the high.
What Rahul Sharma did is just one of the many things Safexpress partners do to make sure the extra workload in March is well taken care of. Doing paperwork, filling-in for drivers, working late nights, taking calls meant for staff, making sure the staff is well-fed and well-rested, are things every associate has done and been doing to make sure work doesn’t stop, not at any cost.
Jagdeesh Singh, a partner in Varanasi since 2001, says it is always a good idea to ideate with a team and come up with solutions for some unforeseen situations which more often than not crop up during our day-to-day engagements with work.
Augmenting the first mile
One of the many things Japanese are well known for is their good planning. Planning every small detail to help them be masters at what they do. Our logistics industry might be not where the Japanese are but it is definitely one industry that has grown by leaps and bounds. One of the big reasons being the infusion of young blood.
Like Rubal Jain Managing Director, Safexpress says, traditional understanding of logistics and distribution has been that of a highly informal and labour-intensive industry and this is not without reasons. More than 90% of the sector is still very informal and just about shaping up toward integration.
“There are two different facets of planning. While the first involves smart deployment of available resources, the other involves building resources to meet the evolving needs smartly. While the first denotes the beginning of formality, the second is about efficiency and economy in operations.”
“For a rather long time, resource deployment has been the story in day-to-day operation in our field with building on the resources being only incrementally seen. This obviously has stunted the potential expansion and formalisation. For us at Safexpress, capacity building has been at the core of our growth strategy. By capability building we mean optimising resources – warehouses, hubs, trucks, manpower, and technology – that can withstand the pulls and pressures arising over time.”
He continues, “Over the last few years, we have realised that a big share of capacity built over the years have resulted in increasing more number of warehouses and vehicles in their service which in essence means, middle and the last leg of operations. This is where predictive forecasting came to the rescue.”
Predictive forecasting in logistics and distribution sector is a fraught job. IT, however, can help understand it a lot better. Resources whether long-haul vehicles or those employed in last leg of operations, availability of trained staff and drivers, etc., and hub-spaces are created keeping the first mile load in mind. It also means that first mile fleet cannot run by contracting out. In absence of that when there is an unexpected surge, all legs of operation are disturbed creating disequilibrium in operations structures and leaving in its’ wake unhappy customers.
“Having experienced this as recently as early this financial year, Safexpress added hundreds of vehicles to augment its first mile operation and build the strength in remaining legs accordingly. There is now a substantial addition in fleet size in first leg which has subsequently resulted in more vehicles on trunk routes and for last leg and our strength now looks more primed, even more agile.”
Planning never goes waste
With experience and forecasting, planning and execution becomes a breeze. The idea is simple: forecasting help us see the gaps, to connect smaller dots and to look at the bigger picture.
Like Rahul Sharma says, “Booking associates, paper handlers, drivers, storage space, and most importantly, vehicles to manage the sudden surge; everything needs to be looked at and planned for minutely to have the desired result of timely delivery.”
One the prerequisites for good work in the logistics line, says Sanjay Berwal, one of our associates in Kheda, Gujarat, is planning in detail and well in advance.
“Pre-planning is a must in our business and we have always stuck to it. Having extra tonnage space, extra drivers, has helped us deal with the pressures that come with financial year closing. Of course, a golden rule to remember is to be flexible and understand that planning also needs to be dynamic and change according to the need of the hour.”
Business Partners, for example, start speaking to their customers well before the financial year closing pressure begins. This helps in having a full measure of the challenges and understand nature and size of orders, plan in advance and work accordingly.
Jagdeesh Singh agrees as much. “The pressure for financial year closing starts building up by December. It has been a pattern well understood by now. So, we have to plan and pre-empt everything in advance to make sure everything goes smoothly. Be it adding vehicles to the existing fleet, getting 3-4 extra drivers and helpers, or extra help in terms of trained staff.”
A little care and trust
Care can go a long way in relationship building. In fact, it is the very bedrock for trust and longevity. At least that is what B. Giridhar in Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu swears by and he has never been disappointed.
Giridhar has laid emphasis on staff welfare since he began his journey in 2009 and his learning curve has been a dream run.
Of course, there were initial hiccups like what happens in any new business venture but the focus on staff has always helped him to be on the top of things, he says.
Giridhar has always given his staff Mediclaim, insurance and dividend. “I also give them bonus thrice a year – Diwali, Pongal and May Day. Besides this, I also pay them for extra hours and good sales. That look of happiness on their face is so special. It tells me that I am on the right path.”
All this he says, help him with his business. “It is a very simple equation; we take care of them and they take care of us. I see immense efficiency and don’t have retention issues,” he says with a smile of satisfaction. In fact, Giridhar also encourages his staff to study.
One is a post graduate, one a BSc degree holder, another one has done his MA and one is pursuing masters in physical education. Another one who wasn’t keen to study after 10th was encouraged to an ITI degree.
B. Giridhar clearly values them and they value him and his work. “Business has been growing steadily and now financial year ending pressures are nothing we fret at all.”
And the bonding we find, is being focused upon everywhere. From staff to customers and vendors. Like Rahul Sharma points it, “Agreed financial year closing is extra pressure but it is also that time to build extra trust, extra reliability and extra bonding.”
Amit Kumar Jha, based out of Bhagalpur, Bihar says that their eyes are firmly on financial year closing targets, they continue with their market visits, increase dialogue with existing customers and put in extra effort to get new ones. “Ours is a pure retail market and relationship building is crucial.”
All these things help in trust building, one of the most surest ways of retaining customers. Like Sathish Kumar likes to explain it, building trust takes time but once you have established it, more often than not, it stays. “Safexpress operates on trust. Take for example the simple fact that in rainy season when most other logistics players are not sure of timey deliveries, even customers know, if you send your goods through Safexpress they would be delivered on time. That trust has been built over years because of quality in service and small gestures of solidarity.” Because what matters ultimately in business is doing well and doing it right.
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