Inclusion & AI: The Cornerstones of Evolution in Indian Logistics Sector

By: Zaiba Sarang, co-founder, iThink Logistics

Women are capable of performing and participating in every field. By demonstrating that women can excel in historically male-dominated fields, female leaders are setting an example for other women.

Zaiba Sarang, co-founder of iThink Logistics is one such leader who is spearheading the change in the male dominated logistics industry. iThink Logistics was established in 2017 by a group of five friends turned business partners. It is an end-to-end courier aggregator shipping platform with technology integration. This was a significant development for the e-commerce ecosystem since it made it possible for delivery and logistics networks to be more effective.

The firm serves more than 26,000 pin codes nationwide. Zaiba’s role includes an omni-corporeal oversight of the operations as part of her professional job within the business. Zaiba oversees the smooth operation of each department while keeping an eye on the organization's overall growth. Zaiba is the brand's face and stands in for the whole iThink crew.

She has a solid understanding of how technology operates because of the computer science degree she earned from Nagindas Khandwala College. A diploma in entrepreneurial studies from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, awarded under the Goldman Sachs Women's Executive Education Program, has helped her develop her business acumen. She received a degree from the Indian School of Commerce after completing the Goldman Sachs 10k Women Ambassador program.

She speaks to team Women Entrepreneur about women’s evolving role in the logistics industry and also takes us through the tech revolution that is underway in the Indian logistics sector.

What do you have to say regarding the changing perspective on women’s role in warehousing and logistics?

Historically, women's roles were restricted to packaging and sorting in warehouses. One reason for this shift is the growth due to technological integration such as WMS (warehousing management system) this has reduced the dependency heavily on male laborers for lifting and transporting items. Women have a unique perspective and skill set that can be highly beneficial in the logistics and warehousing sectors, such as attention to detail, strong communication skills, and a talent for collaboration and problem-solving. Another factor driving this change is a growing awareness of the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Companies are recognizing that a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do, but it also leads to better business outcomes. By hiring and promoting more women in logistics and warehousing, companies can tap into a larger talent pool, which can lead to greater innovation, increased productivity, and improved employee morale. Overall, the changing perspective on women's role in warehousing and logistics is a positive development that is good for both companies and society as a whole. By providing equal opportunities for women in these industries, we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce that benefits everyone.

In what ways has e-commerce increased the number of women employed in the supply chain sector?

Due to several factors, including increased demand for workers, remote work opportunities, tech-focused roles, and entrepreneurial opportunities. E-commerce has created a boom in the retail industry, leading to an increased demand for workers in supply chain and logistics roles, opening up more opportunities for women to enter and advance in these fields. Additionally, e-commerce has led to a rise in remote work opportunities, which can be particularly beneficial for women who may have caregiving responsibilities or face other barriers to traditional office-based jobs. Furthermore, the increasing reliance on technology in e-commerce has created more tech-focused roles in the supply chain sector, which can be highly appealing to women.

What has been the Government’s role and also the company’s role in ensuring the inclusion of women from a policy perspective (equal pay, safety, better working conditions, hygiene, etc.)?

When we hear the word "Logistics," we immediately think of male truck drivers, men carrying heavy loads, or men working on heavy machinery, don't we? It's something that has been ingrained in our minds since we were very young, but this is changing. Women are rising to take on more male-dominated roles. Women are working not only in senior and mid-level positions but also at operational levels. This generation of government and corporations has been very supportive of women taking on more gender-biased roles, and the success and empowerment of women will be directly proportional to the success of society.

In terms of the company's role in women's inclusion, we are showing young girls that women can be cofounders in one of the most male-dominated industries, and that there are roles for you to play other than what society expects you to take. We as a company are attempting to hire more women into our teams, but this does not imply that we are gender biassed; rather, we are more concerned with having the right person in the right place and at the right time. We anticipate having an equal male-female ratio shortly. We also understand that no matter how brave our women are, it doesn't mean we don't understand their struggles, which is why we have a 2-day menstrual leave policy when the rest of the world expects them to function normally; we want them to rest and rejuvenate for better productivity. We are also offering hybrid work opportunities for women so that they can pursue their careers and passion without having to give up their caregiving responsibilities.

What are the most recent AI technical advancements in the logistics sector?

In the US, there is a company called Postmates that was acquired by Uber. They have delivery robots on the streets that transport food. The robot has googly eyes and food is placed inside by the delivery person. You cannot access the contents without an OTP. Occasionally, the robot may fall into a ditch or be kicked off the road. In this case, there is an individual in a command center who monitors the robots through a camera. If any issues occur, the individual immediately notifies their assistant to go and check the robot. Additionally, they have an Xbox controller to reset the robot's location manually. This one individual manages up to 100 robots at a time. As an example, with this technology, instead of having 100 delivery personnel, you only need one individual and an assistant to manage 100 robots. From a cost standpoint, this is much cheaper than the traditional method of delivery.

How do you keep updated with the ever-evolving AI? 

Firstly, attending industry events, such as AI conferences and seminars, allows us to learn about the latest trends and best practices in AI. Networking with AI experts and thought leaders provides us with insights and perspectives that we may not have otherwise considered. Collaborating with other AI companies and experts also helps me stay updated with the latest tools and technologies in AI. Additionally, we encourage our team to engage in continuous learning, providing them with resources, training, and development opportunities to keep their skills updated. Lastly, leveraging AI in our own business allows us to gain practical experience and insights into the use of AI. By employing these strategies, we are better equipped to stay at the forefront of the ever-evolving AI landscape and provide innovative solutions to our customers.

What are the prospects of growth in AI-enabled courier Platforms in the next 2 years?

According to Gartner, supply chain organizations expect the level of machine automation in their supply chain processes to double in the next five years. Thus, there is a need for the industry to leverage the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in supply chains and logistics.

 1. Driverless delivery: Driverless delivery is done through self-driving vehicles powered by LIDAR technology. These vehicles run on electricity and reduce transportation costs, ultimately increasing productivity.

 2. Risk detection/fraud prevention: The system helps businesses detect risks and prevent fraud. This significantly reduces the risk to the driver and the goods.

 3. Route optimization: Using GPS technology, the system identifies the shortest and safest route to the customer’s location considering factors like traffic, number of stops, and vehicle capacity. This enables on-time deliveries and helps increase revenue.

 4. Accurate inventory management: It can ensure the right flow of items in and out of a warehouse. It also helps in preventing overstocking, inadequate stock, and unexpected stock-outs.

How AI can help MSMEs to choose the perfect Logistics partner for them?

 There are certain parameters such as price, delivery time, and pincode that MSMEs consider when choosing the perfect logistics partner. However, AI can go beyond these primary decision-making factors and evaluate additional parameters to recommend the best courier partner for your business. By using advanced algorithms and data analytics, AI can evaluate factors such as shipping volumes, delivery destinations, order values, and service quality to provide personalized recommendations for MSMEs. This can help businesses optimize their logistics operations, improve their delivery times, and ultimately enhance customer satisfaction.

How do you build and maintain relationships with your customers, and what role do customer feedback and satisfaction play in your business?

We are a software as a service (SAAS) company, and the most integral part of our business is providing an exceptional customer experience. We function as an extended logistics arm for all e-commerce sellers who ship with us. We have a dedicated account manager who plays a dynamic role in the lives of our customers. From technical issues to delivered shipments, our account manager ensures that there is a solution to any problem and that it is resolved quickly, so our customers can smoothly operate their businesses. Our customer support team periodically calls sellers to ask them about their experience and gather feedback. The feedback received by the customer support team is then shared with the product team. Based on this feedback, we can iterate our products and launch new features that meet the needs of our customers. Overall, we are committed to providing our customers with the best possible experience by offering personalized support and continuously improving our products.