Interview with Suharto Chatterjee: How Peak Season 2021 Fared in India

Feb 03, 2022

7,809 kilometers. 13,568 kilometers. 7,658 kilometers. That’s how far India is from Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom respectively. 

Despite the diverse geographies, socio-economic factors, and customer preferences between these different countries, the festive season in any one of them is marked by family gatherings, scrumptious meals, and loads of shopping. While the peak shopping period in India is traditionally dominated by brick and mortar stores, there is no denying that the country’s e-commerce scene has been on the rise ever since the onset of the global pandemic. Given the persistent supply chain disruptions and COVID-related uncertainties, how did India’s most recent peak season fare?

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In this exclusive interview, we spoke with Suharto Chatterjee, Logistics and Supply Chain Expert, to give us an insider’s perspective on the latest last-mile delivery landscape in India’s e-commerce.

Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

1) Without using the words “e-commerce” and “logistics”, could you introduce yourself to our community members? 

Suharto: Hi I am Suharto, from India. Turning problems into opportunities is the essence of my profession. During my career, I have been able to reduce the delivery time from over one hour to less than 30 minutes using the same model. I have helped to design multi-country supply chains and have an in-depth interest and understanding of hyperlocal delivery. In addition to my expertise in operations, I also have solid experience in sales, and combining the top line with the bottom line has helped me hit profits post-COVID.

2) Tell us a bit about what the e-commerce landscape in India is like and which period is considered the e-commerce peak season! 

Suharto: India is a very interesting logistic market. Each state, city and hyperlocal zone has its own uniqueness and challenges. What clicks is seamless visibility in each and every leg of the supply chain. Digital contactless payments and faster cash payments from Aggregator to Seller and Rider fortify the ecosystem and promote trust.

Navratri and Diwali in the October-November period are considered the peak season as these are 2 festivals where family members gather at their parental homes to celebrate.

3) How did you and your team prepare for the peak season last year? 

Suharto: During the festivities, delivery executives are a scarce resource but as I mentioned, every problem is an opportunity. We focused on the floating fleet: hiring a temporary fleet of college students. Since some potential delivery partners might not own a vehicle, we worked with rental services to bridge this gap. As the peak season is for everyone, we offer more incentives to our delivery executives during this period while raising the delivery fees charged to customers as their willingness to pay increases.

4) How did the peak season go for you and your team? Was there anything different with peak season 2020? 

Suharto: The 2021 peak season was better than 2020. In 2020, there was a dearth of delivery executives as the orders had increased by leaps and bounds once the COVID situation improved, thus resulting in a gap in supply and demand. In 2021, we were better prepared with respect to how the demand will spike following the COVID’s second wave. Hence, we had started preparing for a backup fleet well ahead of time. Furthermore, we were more decisive on what percentage of the outsourced fleet would work for us.

5) What are the main learnings from peak season 2021? 

Suharto: Increasing the productivity of the fleet by opening various business lines resulted in a more loyal fleet. This somewhat creates an entry barrier for other companies. A focused approach to generating revenue from multiple streams is what allows us to pass the benefits to our cost centers and make the ecosystem even more robust.

6) Do you have any tips for e-commerce businesses looking to expand to India? 

Suharto: Let me answer this in steps:

  1. Do research to understand the consumers.

  2. Use an agile method to develop or modify the tech.

  3. Consumers: Use social media to penetrate Tier 1 and mass media to penetrate Tier 2 and 3 cities.

  4. Seller: Understand the pain point and bridge the gap. Complete clarity on the flow of SKUs and cash is the key here.

  5. Constantly innovate to retain repeat users and gain the confidence of new users.

7) Lastly, what kind of trends do you foresee happening in the e-commerce logistics space for 2022?

Suharto: I think we will see more of the following trends in 2022:

  1. The EV revolution will drive down per-km costs and this will definitely make us more sustainable while strengthening our profits. 

  2. Quick commerce will redefine the speed of delivery, especially in the grocery sector.

  3. Many offline players will resort to Omni Channel. There is a potential for retail to be redefined as more and more businesses go online to boost their sales.

(We would like to thank Mr. Suharto Chatterjee for taking the time to answer our questions. Mr. Suharto was previously working with Swiggy and has recently joined Xpressbees as Assistant Vice President. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.)

For more exclusive reports, insights, and interviews on the latest updates in e-commerce and logistics, follow us on LinkedIn or join our community as a member.

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