Connect India is a last mile distribution service provider promoted by Mr. LR Sridhar, a veteran with over 35 years in the field of innovative logistics solutions. It was formally launched on August 21st 2015. The company was established with a vision to bridge urban and rural India as well as rural India to world, and link communities, producers and customers across the length and breadth of the country. The company recently concluded a successful six month pilot in Punjab in association with Amazon to create a rural delivery outreach.
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A Dream to ‘Connect India’
LR Sridhar is one of India’s logistics veterans. He has been designing and implementing logistics and supply chains since 1981.
Starting his career with Express Logistics in the early 80s, he has the credentials of being one of the key people in building networks and organizations like SKYPAK, Overnight Express and Corporate Couriers JV of TNT Express Worldwide and AFL.
Before launching his own initiative in Consulting and Training- Milestone Consulting Group, in September 2011, he was the Group Managing Director of the Chennai based, South Asia’s largest bulk and container cargo Conglomerate Sical Logistics Limited since 2006. Mr. Sridhar was driving the strategic vision, business development and human resources at the company. He was also the whole time Director of Sical Distriparks Limited and was on the Board of subsidiary companies of the Sical Group.
After having been associated with Welspun Group as the Advisor – Logistics & SCM, he started his own consulting and recruiting company in 2012- Mile Academy- focusing on logistics and supply chain Industry and in the last two years has helped many logistics professionals and companies identify the right talent and organization.
LR Sridhar, popularly known as LRS in the industry, launched Connect India e-commerce Services Private Limited, a common distribution platform for Last Mile Delivery (LMD) for e-commerce and other corporate houses. The company aims to provide Logistics Pipeline to villages as small as with 5000 population and connect rural India to urban India and India to the World through international partnerships.
LRS has seen Indian logistics industry growing ever since its inception to present day. He has given around 40 years of his life to industry to see it grow like a baby- from a new-born offspring to an independent self-reliant youth. “However the industry is still far from professionalism and lacks organization” says Sridhar.
Building on that, commencement of e-commerce in India suddenly enhanced demand for package courier, supply chain and logistics. Indian logistics market was not prepared for such huge demand of manpower. So, this ultimately turned e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart to come up with their own delivery services. While this was transforming the Indian logistics system on one hand, meanwhile Sridhar bumped into Vijay Mahajan, an Indian social entrepreneur and well-known personality in MicroFinance space. He is also the Founder and CEO of the BASIX- a Social Enterprise Group engaged in livelihood promotion of low-income households in over 20 states in India and six developing countries. Sridhar took a tour with Vijay to the work he was doing. He came across small-scale entrepreneurs who have organized under umbrella of Common Service Centre to deliver digital services to rural India. Sridhar pondered if digital service can be brought to rural India then why last mile logistics services can’t be?
At same time, Modi government was in action and was propagating the idea of ‘Make in India’. Therefore, Sridhar decided to come up with last mile delivery platform which will act as a pipeline to connect all the entrepreneurs. The idea was to establish a connection between rural entrepreneurs and make them act as last mile delivery agents. The entrepreneurs in every village will become delivery partners. In august 2015, Sridhar founded the platform Connect India to make his dream of ‘Connect India’ come true and also bridge the existing gap in the logistics industry.
The mission to Connect India
Sridhar led Connect India is a last mile distribution service provider. It was formally launched on August 21st 2015. The company was established with a vision to bridge urban and rural India as well as rural India to world, and link communities, producers and customers across the length and breadth of the country.
The company fetched its shape from dream of connecting the country- to be present in every pin code in association with entrepreneurs and also bring path breaking ‘one by one’ kilometer services in metro and tier-one cities. The aim is to cover 26,000 pincodes in two years and 50,000-60,000 distribution outlets. The ultimate aim is to create entrepreneurs in the process by utilizing already existing potential. Sridhar explains this ideology by comparing this situation to a typical retailer in a city where he already has his own space, computer support system and manpower to deliver in neighborhood. Now consider a situation, where this retailer receives 40-50 extra delivery packets, to be delivered in his locality, after associating with the platform, he can make more revenue with same facilities. With the same concept to bring in practice, The Company recently concluded a successful six month pilot in Punjab in association with Amazon to create a rural delivery outreach. “The pilot was a big hit. We did it in 14 pincodes and the company was delivering 200-250 packages every day. That also created demand for more manpower and the delivery partners across the villages had to hire to meet the demand- and thus was served our idea of creating entrepreneurs and opportunities for everyone with the process. And this is the operating model of Connect India” Sridhar explains.
The company is also doing reverse logistics with its delivery vans which travels to villages. However, the model is effective only if there is scalability and partnerships. Hence, The Company decided to tie up with CSC SPV- an organization which is promoted by all the banks and Government of India. Over a period of around 9 years, they have set-up around hundred and twenty-five thousand Common Service Centers. They book railway tickets, settlements of electricity bills and distribute Aadhar Cards etc. These CSCs act as last mile delivery point for Connect India, also known as Connect India Centers (CICs).
After the whole model was conceived by November 2014, Connect India started to pitch for funding. In April 2015, Venture Capitalist Aavishkaar funded Connect India worth 32 crore. They launched their services in August and since then they have enrolled more than 2,000 pincodes and 4,000 CICs and are delivering around 10,000 shipments everyday. They plan to cover 8,000 pincodes and 10,000 CICs everyday by December which would enable Connect India to handle around hundred thousand shipments. This is one of the fastest growths exhibited by any organization in the logistics industry.
Sridhar says that the biggest challenge to growth of Connect India is opening of a new connect center. You have to promise people to keep it active and alive and win their trust. He adds that however, it is not going to persist for long as Connect India grows and more and more people become aware of the Connect India model, there will be no difficulty posed to activation of a new centre.
Scalability and necessity to maintain a continuous contact with all the parties involved in the process creates a minimal hindrance to growth. Moreover, creating viable vehicle routes are critical challenges to implementation of Connect India model.
The logistics industry has another major challenge to counteract before it- Cash on delivery (COD). Connect India has beautifully tackled this challenge by devising its own Wallet Management System (WMS) where all the COD transactions happen digitally. There is no flow of hard cash at the upper level of the process and this makes it much simpler.
The Path Ahead
The company has many initiatives in pipeline to create jobs and train these job aspirants to be independent entrepreneurs. Connect India recently conducted an exercise in UP where they brought together around 200 women self-help groups and e-commerce companies like eBay and Snapdeal to display the talents and opportunities lying with rural India.
Connect India will also extend its services beyond the e-commerce industry for last mile and first mile services, by aggregating multiple services for its Connect India Centers (CICs) under the STEMS (Single Terminal with Multiple Services) model. CICs will also provide services such as Cash on Delivery and Aided Commerce, Domestic and International Courier Services, Banking and e-Governance Services, Secured Documents Delivery among others ensuring economic sustainability to the centers.
“People say that with technology, workers lose their job. But here we are creating more and more opportunities for everyone to thrive with technological advancement. Without logistics nothing can move and we have realized that. We want to connect the 600 million rural populations and the ultimate goal is to make their livelihood better’ Sridhar concludes.
(Disclaimer: Picture Credits: Connect India)