In his first media interaction, Balfour Manuel, the new CEO of domestic air express major Blue Dart explains company’s future strategy to make a decisive mark in the B2C segment. Excerpts of an exclusive conversation with Ritwik Sinha…
My own understanding is: you have been entrusted with the responsibility of spearheading Blue Dart at a very crucial juncture when the broader mandate is to build major strength in B2C business. In your reckoning, how challenging is this objective?
India is an exciting place to do business. Yet operating in the country, an economy with a GDP that is growing at 7% and 1.3 billion people, is challenging. The express logistics industry that we operate in is fast changing with competitors that are hyper active and customers that are extremely demanding. Blue Dart has been servicing the country since 1983 and has primarily been a B2B business, because a large share of its revenue comes from that segment. The B2C component is growing exponentially which can largely be attributed to the growth of the e-commerce industry, we were always in play in the segment delivery at home for Banks, Financial Services and Insurance.
Infrastructure – both air and ground, remains a challenge and more so as shipments from tier II, III and IV markets keep increasing. Return to Origin (RTO) percentages for the industry is amongst the highest in the world. Blue Dart has managed to keep these at the lowest for all service providers. Another big challenge has been Cash on Delivery (COD) for the e-commerce industry, the collection, remittance, etc. from far flung locations to the e-commerce company has had its own challenges. COD has been a major enabler for the e-commerce penetration into tier II, III & IV markets and Blue Dart has been the facilitator and the pioneers to introduce this system for the industry in addition to several other customer centric value added products and services.
Last year, BD had initiated a major expansion programme vis-a-vis postal code coverage. How would you explain the outcome of that programme? Have you become number two company after India Post in terms of postal coverage network in the country?
In 2018, the company embarked on several initiatives that aim to bring long term benefits to customers. A transformation process has been initiated to win in every market – metros, tier I, II, III & IV by providing superior consumer convenience, introducing unique products, delivering the best-in-class services and maintaining the reach advantage. Technology and Automation are the pivots of this strategy.
One of the initiatives introduced is Deliver Any Where Now (DAWN) – with the focus to aggressively expand our reach and deliver to every Indian home. As part of the expansion, we are making extensive investments in infrastructure, additional manpower and enabled revolutionised technology and automation to drive business intelligence and create value for our customers and stakeholders.
Through DAWN, the goal is to further strengthen Blue Dart’s leadership position in the Express Logistics industry in India for B2B and B2C. To date, Blue Dart services 14,400+ pin codes across the country.
How do you envisage your e-commerce vertical growing in the near run?
E-commerce has greatly transformed the way we do business in India. This industry has become the frontrunner of the economy, especially the Indian start-up ecosystem. The growth is being driven by the proliferation of the internet connectivity, smart phones and the propensity to spend in the tier II, III and IV towns.
Blue Dart, part of DHL eCommerce Solutions, has been servicing the e-commerce industry ever since its emergence in India. Over the years, Blue Dart has serviced all leading e-commerce players through its best-in-class, highly differentiated, last-mile delivery offering and value-added services and is the preferred logistics service provider for the industry. We have experienced excellent volume growth in the year and are confident of continuing the trend.
Some innovative offerings by Blue Dart: First to introduce Cash-on-Delivery (COD) as a payment option, Convenience to pay by credit or debit card through Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) and 15 mobile wallet options, Extensive reach, Superior transit time, Late pick-up/early delivery, SMS pre-alerts and robust technology, Dedicated fleet of 6 Boeing 757s, Parcel Lockers and Mobile Service Centres.
Some restrictions have been imposed on the leading e-commerce firms in the recent past. To what extent it has impacted your e-com shipment volume?
Despite several restrictions and challenges that the industry continues to face, it has only brought a positive impact on our business and growth in shipment volumes. During the year ended March 31, 2018, across B2B and B2C, Blue Dart handled over 195.89 million domestic shipments, 0.92 million international shipments and over 696,961 tonnes of documents and parcels across the nation and 220 countries and territories worldwide, with a steady growth year on year.
Will you be putting up more capacity in the near run (on the air freight side especially)?
On 18th June 2018, we launched our state-of-the-art aviation hub in Chennai, located at the Blue Dart Aviation Terminal, Old International Airport, Meenambakkam, Chennai, and similarly on 7th February 2019, at Terminal 1 (Domestic) at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai. Both facilities are equipped with air and land side access, to enable speedy transfer of express shipments between the aircraft and the express surface transportation system.
We continue to strengthen its focus on product innovation, reach expansion, transit time improvements, small town activation etc.. The strategy is in place and we are geared to increasing our market share and dominance through sector focus, emerging markets and SMEs.
Blue Dart will also continue to deliver unparalleled value proposition to its stakeholders and remain a Provider of Choice to leading industry verticals such as Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), Automotives, Consumer Durables, Electricals, Life Sciences & Healthcare, E-commerce etc.
All our decisions are taken with the customer’s needs and wants in focus. We work closely with each of them to co-create solutions that offer added value to their business. As customers grow, we will continue to invest in resources, infrastructure and technology in line with their requirements, of growing their businesses, facilitating trade and making them successful.