Locus, a machine learning start-up, is helping companies across sectors automate their intra-city scheduled and on-demand delivery, thereby ushering a new paradigm in logistics solutions. Nishith Rastogi, Co-Founder and CEO, Locus, talks about the differentiators that his company offers, the challenges it seeks to address and changing trends in pharma logistics, in an interview with Lakshmipriya Nair Excerpts
As a logistics solutions company, how are you different from your counterparts? What are the three major differentiators that you have brought to the table?
Locus is a highly intelligent platform that focusses on decision making. We are not just a software developer but a squad with an ability of solving complicated operational challenges on ground. It is the first automatic dispatch engine to work on the ground and scale as per the industry’s wants.
Our routing technology is easily adaptable to several verticals and use cases, right from moving people to packages. From cement to FMCG and the pharma industry where time is of essence, our platform can easily be scaled for cross-industry disruption.
Locus’ planning engine concocts highly optimised routing while it envisages constraints like time, volume, etc., taking into account several variables, including real-time gridlock conditions.
What are the most pressing challenges that you seek to overcome in the logistics arena through your solutions?
Let’s categorise these challenges to decipher them better. Productivity vs time is a major challenge that needs to be addressed in logistics. The key current issue is underutilisation of space and resources. Dependency on human resources makes the entire operation sub-optimal. Inefficient logistics leads to increase in overhead and resource costs, which is an alarming sign. The product margins get squeezed and this can make organisations non-competitive in the market.
We must aim to impress the consumers during the last mile delivery to help create customer loyalty. Customer experience is a key lever for Locus.
There is a huge reliance on humans for decision making (the question that the operations head always asks is – Manoj kahaan hai?) and hence issues with consistency are very big. Analytics and reporting day-to-day operations remain unanswered. Locus helps in addressing these challenges.
Why is automation the need of the hour in logistics?
Let’s take the planning process as an example. Even now, a large number of traditional companies use excel sheets and paper-pen to plan their routes. Also, in order to keep up with customer requirements, the approach they use is to deploy an over-supply of resources.
One small change in the direction of automation holds the potential to reduce costs and dependence on labour as well as make operations quick and accurate, regardless of the volume being processed.
The era of ‘one size fits all’ type of service has ended. Nowadays, logistics solutions must be tailored to suit each customer. Full transparency of orders, visibility from raw material stage to final goods sale, and reverse logistics have almost become standards in this space.
How are you geared to serve the healthcare sector which has very peculiar demands when it comes to logistics?
When it’s healthcare, time is the most critical factor that is stressed upon by the industry. In services like diagnostic sample collections and delivery of medicines at patients’ doorstep, time sensitivity play a vital role. The underlying prescription for today’s advanced healthcare supply chain approaches—regardless of the healthcare organisation’s scope and scale—is technology, with a strong dose of data and analytics. We enhance these service levels and ensure that the customer is catered to on-demand and on-the-go.
At Locus, we help our customers increase the serviceability quotient by increasing the utilisation of current resources on ground and continuously tapping their ability to provide additional offerings to their end customers.
You have recently signed a deal with 1mg, an online pharma player. Can you share more details about it? Are there any more deals in the pipeline as far as the pharma sector is concerned?
Locus helps 1mg in delivering medicines to the patient’s doorstep. Primarily, we help them optimise their deliveries by enabling efficient automation and optimisation using our route planning engine. The average distance travelled per rider for every task completed was reduced by 50 per cent by following the routes planned by Locus’ optimisation engine.
We are at various stages of discussions and pilots with some of India’s largest diagnostics labs and other medicine delivery companies.
What are your growth plans for the sector this year?
The healthcare industry has realised that it’s time to bridge the gap between technology, data, and analytics to truly transform supply chain into a strategic business asset. Various companies have now started emphasising on the fact that customer requests have become very diverse and hence, timely customer service is the need of the hour. Healthcare companies require a comprehensive fleet management solution to cater to these requests without increasing their operational expenditure and fleet size. This means that there is a need to increase the productivity of the service agents on ground.
The healthcare sector currently contributes to 15 per cent of our top line and by the end of the year, as per our projections, this will grow to 20 – 22 per cent. Locus aims to be the market leader in the healthcare services domain.