We Need To Turnaround The Image Of Sector By Investing In Training: Jothi Menon, Director-HR, Spoton

In an interview with Jothi Menon, Director – HR & Service Quality, Spoton, talks about skill gap and initiatives taken by Spoton Logistics to be part of progressive government schemes.


What is your assessment of the growth of India’s express logistics industry over the next few years in terms of headcount? What are the key skill gaps and likely shortage of skilled personnel in the transportation and logistics industry to 2024? 

The Indian logistics sector is expected to grow phenomenally over the next few years and reach a size of $215 billion by 2020. As per IBEF logistics market reports, logistics is expected to employ 40 million professionals by 2020. In 2017, we had just 22 million logistics professionals in India.  There is a huge gap in skilled logistics professionals.

We don’t have Logistics as a skill in India as it’s not considered an attractive industry. But, there is an immense demand for professionals with specialized skills such as data analytics, data management, project mapping, and warehouse management systems. Also, the use of technologies like automation, digitization, IoT and Blockchain has created the need for personnel with technologically advanced skills.

Logistics skills Council has been doing some training programs to address the absence of institutionalized skill development environments and showcasing logistics as an attractive career option. Spoton is working towards supporting them.

What are the estimated demand-supply gaps in terms of output vis-à-vis capacity of education and training institutes that are giving rise to the existing shortfall in the availability of skilled personnel in the sector?

There is a high demand for trained logistics professionals but there is an absence of tailored logistics courses in the country. There are few MBA courses on supply chain or an aspect of supply chain but they aren’t holistic. The gap between demand and supply is quite vast. To fill this gap it’s going to take 3-5 years.

In-house training does take place in most big logistic firms but that isn’t sufficient. This is leading to poaching of talent between organizations and price wars.

 There are very few formal training institutions for driver training and practically none for operational training on associated areas like loading/unloading supervisory, proper handling practices etc. The result has been that in the current scenario, there exist gaps in core technical skills of the existing set of personnel.

Mahindra Logistics has recently trained 10,000 drivers across India as part of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). What are the initiatives taken by Spoton Logistics to be part of such progressive government schemes?

As discussed earlier, Spoton has started working with the Logistics skill council in logistics manpower development. We aren’t just focussing on the truck drivers but on those who work in logistics space as per say.

For Ex: Logistics Skill Council (LSC) is starting graduate programs on logistics. They have partnered with colleges across the country and have enrolled students into these courses. BA Logistics is 6 months on campus and 6 months off-campus (wherein the students get to work with a logistics firm like Spoton). At the end of 3 years, (graduate course) we would have trained resources, who have a career in logistics.

LSC has been doing a great job in skilling the logistics professionals and we want to be associated with them longer. We are also looking at other aspects of skilling with LSC so that we can work alongside them. Today the industry is quite nascent. These programs will help students better understand the industry and its opportunities. It would be nice if more universities and colleges partner with logistics skill council or start logistics courses.

We have hired few people from PSG college and a couple of other colleges to join Spoton from December 2019. It’s called the Spoton Apprenticeship Program. We plan to integrate such practises into our organisation.

We are also launching a Graduate Trainee Program, from December, for our new joinees for 6 months, wherein they have in house classroom training, on the job training at various levels. 

Is there a correlation between the availability of skilled logistics professionals and logistics costs?
Availability of skilled workers is very low as logistics, is considered as an operational function rather than strategic. Availability of skilled manpower can improve the logistics performance significantly leading to a reduction in logistics cost, logistics time, and making the system more reliable and safe.

We need to turnaround the image of the sector by investing in training, making it more organized, granting it the status of an industry (recently Indian government has done it), so that skilled professionals will be readily available to make the system more consistent and secure. 

Non-availability of the skilled workforce leads to improper handling of products, rash driving, losses, and different people for each activity rather than multitasking, etc. Skilled workforce has a positive relationship with a reduction in cost, reduction in time, improvement in reliability, flexibility, and safety of a logistics system.

Logistics processes are dotted with uncertainties at every step, especially in a country like India with sub-par physical infrastructure. How does Spoton Logistics orient your domain/classroom training to help your operations team solve for real-world practical situations?

We are aware of the issues we face in our country such as bad roads, connectivity etc. we try and overcome these issues, we support our teams.

We aren’t just located in the main metros, but even in upcountry and remote locations to service our customers. So we make it a practice to hire people from those locations who are aware and equipped to handle the local issues and challenges. Our challenge at times is to set higher goals for the regional offices so that we can all achieve the organisation's goals. We do have extensive training (L&D focus) for the local managers and employees so that they have a better understanding of what is expected of them and whom to reach during crisis or doubts.

Ex: Data cards and Sims are provided to avoid connectivity issues; IT resources are available 24/7 to resolve issues. 

During Chennai floods, we were able to recoup faster, inform and service our clients better thanks to our business continuity plan wherein a team was flown to the location consisting of a service head, HR person and IT person to support the local team and handle the situation better.

Have you estimated the incremental productivity gains delivered by your IT systems and applications to your operations staff/fleet over the last few years/quarters? Does the return on IT investments match your expectations? 

Yes, they do. Our IT investments have been substantial. We have had productivity gains. A lot of the times we are able to estimate it as we do time and motion study before implementing any IT change to understand the minutes taken to do a particular task. This helps to understand the amount of time saved. The resources are accordingly assigned for the project/work.

Ex: Earlier we used to use 2 devices for piece level tracking, scan in one device and check for receipt and details on the tab. Integrated scanners were introduced recently, which helped us with a productivity gain of 10-15% as it does the work of scanner and tab on one device. So the time taken to check while loading and unloading have come down considerably. 

Our IT investments and productivity is continuous. 

We need skilled people to help us grow as the logistics industry is going through rapid evolution in the logistics management processes and operations with technological change and changing customer requirements. 

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