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How India’s supply chain ecosystem can become ‘future-ready’, consumer friendly Accenture INTERVIEW

The pandemic prompted supply chain leaders to modernise business operations to become more resilient. Vineet Ahuja, Managing Director and lead for consumer, sales and service, Accenture in India, said in an interview with Tanya Krishna of, “The pandemic led the segment to swiftly embrace collaboration to co-innovate across the ecosystem and invest in skilling their workforce in digital technologies.” An Accenture report said that only 4 per cent of chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) view their operations as future-ready and 34 per cent expect to be there by 2023. While Vineet Ahuja added that Indian businesses are not far behind when it comes to building a future-ready supply chain, he also maintained that this may not be defined by the similar model that worked for one country or company. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Digital commerce is growing in India. Which categories are witnessing the fastest growth? How is the consumer-packaged goods industry adapting to this shift?

With evolving consumer preferences and behaviours, there has been a dramatic rise in digital commerce in the past two years. In fact, our research finds that the rise is likely to remain or accelerate further. For instance, the proportion of online purchases for products such as food, home décor, fashion, and luxury goods by previously infrequent e-commerce users has increased 667 per cent since the outbreak in India. As per industry estimates, India’s digital commerce market is expected to reach US$ 111.40 billion by 2025 from US$ 46.20 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of 19.24 per cent.

What are the challenges being faced by the consumer-packaged goods industry when it comes to the supply chain? Supply chain responsiveness has become crucial for gaining market share in the consumer-packaged goods industry. There is a clear shift in consumer priorities from cost-efficiency to business continuity and service excellence. From 10-minutes deliveries to problem-solving in seconds, consumers are increasingly looking for instant gratification and hyper-personalization. Therefore, business leaders need to adopt a holistic approach to reimagine their supply chain by developing a robust framework that includes a responsive and resilient risk management capability. This capability should be technology-led, leveraging platforms that support applied analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. It should also ensure end-to-end transparency across the supply chain.

How important is an adaptable supply chain ecosystem keeping in mind the evolving consumer preferences? What are its prerequisites? The pandemic not only reinforced the need for supply chain resiliency but also highlighted that meeting new consumer expectations to deliver personalized products and services with a greater sense of responsibility and sustainability, demand completely new digital architecture and ways of working. To build a customer-centric supply chain, companies need to invest in advanced digital technologies and relevant data to identify and meet specific customer needs, while optimizing costs and inventory to serve each consumer segment cost-effectively.

To create a customer-focused supply chain means rethinking its design from ground up based on five key building blocks: Innovate: Use data as an insight generation engine for new products and services designed around the customer. Configure: Configure the supply chain into an asset-light ecosystem that delivers customer experiences in unique microsegments. Connect: Connect with external parties for real-time end-to-end visibility and integrated planning and execution. Operate: Build a service-oriented operating model that empowers a hybrid workforce to deliver customer experiences. Optimize: Optimize day-to-day operations using analytics, performance monitoring and continuous innovation.

Do you think India’s supply chain ecosystem has the capacity to become future-ready? Is India’s supply chain ready for another health crisis or any kind of geopolitical uncertainty? The pandemic not only revealed how much the supply chain can make a company’s success but also exposed hidden vulnerabilities. According to our global research, 81 per cent of supply chain leaders said that the pandemic has been their organization’s greatest stress test. Expectations that were taking shape pre-pandemic such as supporting innovative customer experiences to boost profitability, quickly took on new urgency and gained momentum during the crisis. It prompted leaders to adapt to changing consumer demands and modernize business operations to become more resilient. From sourcing to third-party logistics partnerships, customer needs formed the basis of all decisions with an equal focus on environmental and social responsibilities.

Indian businesses are not far behind when it comes to building a future-ready supply chain. However, in every industry, there are leaders and laggards when it comes to digital reinvention of the supply chain. India has a huge opportunity to play a key role in the global supply chain ecosystem. To make this a reality, companies need to embed more intelligence into their supply chain networks and shift from manual to automated to autonomous systems.

What can the Indian consumer-packaged industry learn from its international counterparts in pursuit of adopting a future-ready supply chain? What worked for a specific geography or a company or an industry, may not work for another company in the same industry and geography. Organizations need to define their own north star by articulating the customer experience journey and then creating a business case and roadmap. They should embrace collaboration to co-innovate across the ecosystem and invest in skilling their workforce in digital technologies. There has never been a better time to reinvent supply chains for profitability, growth, and innovation.


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