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View: Developing Employable Knowledge and Skills to Transform India’s Logistics Sector

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‘Out for delivery’– A term often heard during regular orders gives relief to the most anxious minds. However, behind these, lies a team that stands strong against the harshest conditions of the world. From a storm to even a pandemic, hardly is there a day when a logistics personnel is not seen to be working. Indeed, India could have not been where it is if it weren’t for brilliant minds to develop resilient supply chains that could operate even when the world stood still.

However, as times change, so do supply chain practices. With the growing advent of information and technology, gone are the days of paperwork trail and bookkeeping techniques. Supply chain resilience is now in the age of digital innovation. Educated and industrially trained experts are increasingly taking the lead to change the logistics landscape for many developing countries and the same is catching in India too.

The majority Workforce are ‘End Executives’

While it is true that the sector employs nearly 22 million people in India, a sizable number of them continue to be ‘end executives’ in last-mile delivery. With a manifest reluctance within the industry to invest in human capacity, a number of underlying issues continue to inhibit growth within the sector. Intense work environments, low compensation and minimal welfare benefits, have often been complained about to steer away interest to skill or up-skill themselves.Many choose to rather shift to another sector where they may find the comfort of growth and opportunities. In addition, since most of the ‘End Executives’ receive no technical education on logistics or supply chain resilience, graduating them to roles of a ‘planner,’ ‘developer’ and ‘manager’ happen rarely.

Need a pool of experts to smoothen the transition

No doubt, the sector needs academically and industrially sound enthusiasts who can address the underlying issues. The logistics sector, as defined by many academicians, stands on key crucial pillars of infrastructure, technology and human resource. With digital initiatives already underway, there is a need to create a pool of experts that can help smoothen the transition that the logistics sector is currently under. A possible direction is to look at the many young minds that this country may hold. Growing up in the 21st century has made them adapt quickly to the ever-changing tech atmosphere. Digital penetration into the logistics sector through Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Warehousing Automation now seems imperative to achieve the end goal of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and a 5 trillion economy.

Strategy to create employable knowledge and skills

Therefore, there is a need to develop a human resource strategy that would create a pool of employable knowledge and employable skills. A strategy featuring a quality mix of recruit, educate and ‘ready to be deployed’ within the sector’s industrial specification. The longer vision is to look at how these sets of knowledgeable minds can help adapt the country not just now, but in all the changing times to come in the next 15-20 years.However, it is the industry that needs to be at the front of hoisting the flag of change. May that be over collaborations or independent initiatives of its own, the industry needs to define its specific needs of knowledge, skills and techniques which would help harness the best of growing business opportunities.What the country needs is resilience that is driven by the minds and skills of a pool that is ready to change the sector. With PM GatiShakti creating various employment opportunities in the country, the Government is also considering bringing out the National Logistics Policy which should complement the ongoing developments.

Institutionalising logistics education

To facilitate the same, the government has identified more than 100 universities across all 36 States/UTs as a key juncture for technical and academic logistics education. These universities are being picked on the availability of faculty and knowledge capacity to initiate logistics – supply chain accredited courses to the public at large.They would further engage under various monitoring frameworks being developed by the Government, which would track how these courses translate the skills imparted to employment opportunities. By forming a pool of candidates that are sound in both theoretical and practical knowledge, the next approach would be to focus on various domains of specialisation.

This would directly help address the ongoing scarcity at managerial and innovative levels. The AICTE is also to develop and implement some of these various technical and specialisation courses with the help of premier institutions such as the IITs, NITs and IIMs.These collaborations would help promote existing courses in Logistics – Supply Chain Management through AICTE-approved institutions. 13 Qualification packs are also in the making for the ‘End mile executives’ who would now receive every appropriate knowledge that needs to be imparted in terms of technology and resiliency.These packs when availed by such executives would rather help the young pool of analysers and managers to quickly devise and implement their plans of transition.

The larger role of the private sector

Indeed, private industries have a much larger role to play in India’s target to achieve self-reliance. From infrastructure to services, private enterprises are now blooming under the government’s various schemes and initiatives. From the days of the public sector’s ‘training them young’ to the private sector’s only taking the ‘trained,’ the bloom of private industries has attracted many young talents in recent years. To fulfil these aspirations of a job, people have started growing conscious of the need to keep themselves well-read during these changing times.

However, to survive the growing interest in acquiring such knowledge, the sector must find a way that would shift these aspirations into the comfort of employment.The private sector, therefore, has a greater role in bringing about efficiency to India’s logistics sector. For the many who would now be graduating from these universities offering courses on logistics, finding and attracting the right talent is a must if they want to harness the best of India’s transforming logistics potential.Adequate investments by private enterprises into the education and training of these ‘logistics graduates’ should be one of the primary objectives to create this resiliency. Allocation of suitable resources, collaborations with academia on talent acquisition, retaining valuable experience that can become ‘path makers’ through up-skilling programs etc., are some of the many ways that they should regularise to initiate the first steps towards achieving this resiliency.

Creating avenues for upgradation

Maybe if the private sector were able to devise a suitable strategy, it would have at its disposal a pool of brilliant minds that will just need a push into the industry. The push through their own unique collaborations over courses on industrial needs and avenues of ‘all hands-on training’ should fill the gaps in many managerial and analytical positions. In time, when they embark on their own journey to transform Indian logistics, mitigating the various underlying issues would be a lot easier than before.Their attempt to give much relief to the ‘Last mile executives’ should give the latter some room to upgrade themselves for higher responsibilities in the organisation they work in and to become catalysts of transformation the sector is striving for.

Author : Dr Surendra Ahirwar serves as the Joint Secretary of the Logistics Division, DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Source: CNBC TV 18

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