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'We Operated Every Single Day of Lockdown': Blue Dart Express

Blue Dart Express says it always had a first mover advantage in the air and ground express logistics industry in India thereby being acknowledged as the trade facilitator for the nation. Ketan Kulkarni, CMO & Head – Business Development, Blue Dart talks about how it played an active role in the nation’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic by partnering with the ‘Lifeline Udan’ initiative and by transporting essential supplies to several State Governments, Municipalities, Pharmaceutical companies, Hospitals and other Research institutions.

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Air and ground logistics services became extremely crucial in maintaining the supply of all essential items once the nationwide lockdown was enforced from March 25, 2020. Blue Dart Express has been at the forefront of transporting the essentials via air and on ground adopting the latest digital technologies, contact-less delivery initiatives and the Application programming interface (API) based solutions for its customers all through the ongoing pandemic. Ketan Kulkarni, CMO & Head – Business Development, Blue Dart explains how the company went about this extremely essential services amidst all the challenges.  

Tell us about Blue Darts various initiatives during the lockdown to support the government 
With our ‘First In Last Out’ policy, Blue Dart has always been the first responder during a disaster or crisis on the nation. We played an active role in the nation’s fight against the COVID- 19 Pandemic by partnering with the Government of India’s ‘Lifeline Udan’ initiative. We transported essential supplies to several State Governments, Municipalities, Pharmaceutical companies, Hospitals and other Research institutions. Flights also included international destinations such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dhaka and Yangon.

We operated every single day of the lockdown, working round the clock – our pilots flying aircrafts in the air, our hub operating 24x7 and our couriers on the nation’s streets delivering essential and non-essential items in a door – to – door framework. We transported medical and pharmaceutical supplies including ventilators, PPE, testing kits, reagents, enzymes, respirators, surgical masks, goggles and gloves, amongst other critical material.

As a socially responsible corporate, our outreach towards communities was also enhanced and individuals with co-morbid tendencies were supported by flying special food for paralytic children, medicines for senior citizens, pharmaceuticals for cancer-affected children and healthcare workers, temperature-controlled movement of COVID-19 testing kits and samples to maintain their efficacy etc.

Please expand on the Contact Less Delivery and safety precautions adopted by Blue Dart 
We were the first to move out with our Contact Less Delivery service – a super facility that protects the health and safety of our employees and customers by following the strictest health and safety standards and procedures designed to minimize or eliminate contact during the delivery of shipments. This has been designed and developed adhering to the Health Ministry’s protocol on following stringent social distancing norms and zero physical contact to prevent further escalation of the pandemic. The CLD now has become an imperative element in our award-winning Door-to-Door Express service offering.

Digital payments on our handheld scanners have also become Contact Less. Over 17 digital wallets, numerous Credit and Debit cards, Net Banking facilities, UPI (BHIM) and the Bharat QR code have been enabled offering customers a seamless secure digitized ecosystem.

A secondary advantage of our Contact Less Delivery service is the minimization of waste associated with the use of paper as well as an increase in efficiency owing to the fact that all payments and procedures, including the NPA offered for customer feedback at the end of the process, remains digitized.

Over 70,000+ hours of training has been conducted for our Blue Darters on digitization, health and safety. Internal communication has also been heightened for various aspects that frontliners should be aware of in tackling the pandemic on a personal and professional front.

To ensure safety of our frontliners, we have installed temperature monitoring equipment across all our operational centers in addition to issuing safety gear. We are also extensively fumigating all our facilities including retail counters, which are high customer traffic areas. All Blue Darters have been mandated to download the ‘Aarogya Setu’ application to keep themselves updated and safe.

What were the challenges faced by the organization during the pandemic? 

A taskforce and working group was constituted on day one of the pandemic and engaged on calls every day which continues even today. The group met to sort out the bottle neck, speed bumps and challenges across geographies. There were challenges, but we were strong. Many organizations are interested in understanding how Blue Dart did it so well. I think it has been the DNA and something that we have been working on over the years – the tap simply needed to be turned on to make the impossible, possible.

At Blue Dart, we are working on a 2-pronged strategy to prepare the logistics infrastructure in being future ready and ensuring both lines operate smoothly – essential supplies to fight COVID-19 and all other non-essential supplies. We have deployed analytical tools to provide both immediate assessment and long-term ability to continually evaluate the emerging situation.

The pandemic has given us a chance to strengthen the supply chain by leveraging the power of emerging technologies that can help our customers ensure business continuity amidst disruption and uncertainty. I believe it is technology and digitized innovations that will be the key takeaway in a post pandemic world. The ability to adapt and continue ‘business as normal’, in the event of another pandemic or disaster is something we have to normalize.

How technology has been a boon during these times? 
Being an immensely customer-centric organization, enhancing customer experience, especially during these challenging times, remains our primary focus. In order to do this, an indigenous network modelling system has been developed and implemented which has enabled Blue Dart to dynamically respond to changes in network schedules and recommend fast and reliable network routes linking shipment origins with destinations. Application programming interface (API) based solutions for our customers have been enhanced for exchanging manifest at detailed levels to ensure an automated and seamless supply chain, from pre-pick up till post-delivery (inclusive of collections).

To provide customers with a superior experience, we use technology enabled mobility solutions for administering specialized pickup of product returns, which also include quality control checks, product image verification and close coordination for timely pickups.

At Blue Dart, our core values include a ‘Right 1st Time’ principal wherein we strive to remain error-free and bring great value to our service quality offerings. We therefore strengthened our offerings such as customized solutions built for our customers to manage Tamper-proof Packaging checking and secure delivery to the specific recipient with OTP confirmation. A Control Tower has been built for proactive ‘Track & Trace’ of shipment movement within the network. Teams operating using this real time solution's, can control nationwide activity, which involves First Mile, Network connection and Last mile delivery. A personalized tracking tool for recipient shipments has been enabled on a unique URL link, which allows tracking, plotting delivery landmarks, visual display of the courier on the map as well as the option to provide NPA feedback on the service.

Blue Dart’s website has been revamped to engage with customers for additional touch-points like exception handling with alternate instructions, dashboards for greater visibility on performance & billing information. A shift to micro-services based architecture for its core systems with an underlying AI based engine has been made to drive agility in meeting business requirements with speed and also ensuring smarter and more efficient ways of working.

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