The Indian logistics sector has several difficulties, including inadequate infrastructure, regulatory hurdles, high transportation costs, the slow cross-state flow of goods, security concerns, a lack of digitalisation and a trained workforce shortage. The sector is predominantly unimodal, with 60% of movements dependent on roadways alone. As per the World Bank's Logistics Performance Index (LPI), published in 2018, India was ranked 44th. This could be because India's $200 billion logistics sector has always remained in the shadows regarding supportive policies and getting the government's attention. However, much of that has changed with GoI's sincere efforts resulting in a climb of 6 places in LPI in 2023. The National Logistics Policy (NLP) launched in September 2022 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been revolutionary.
The Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP) is one of the many initiatives under NLP. It's been over six months since tech companies have been helping manufacturers, shippers, and various other industries streamline and optimise their logistics with the data extracted through ULIP.
"Nearly 70 million API transactions have occurred on the ULIP portal by various industry players. ULIP has ensured a smooth data exchange across various systems. Gradually, this initiative is bound to strengthen India's status as a hub for manufacturing, allow for greater inclusion into global value chains, empower the country to take in more of the world's commerce, and boost the pace of economic development." said Abhishek Chaudhary, Vice President- Corporate Affairs, HR & Company Secretary, National Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (NICDC).
ULIP brings all the digital data related to the transportation sector into a single portal. Around 33 systems of 7 ministries integrate through 106 APIs covering more than 1600 data fields across ports, shipping lines, waterways, railways, aviation, road transport and highways, customs and DGFT. Some of the prominent APIs of this platform are FASTag, Vahan, Sarathi, Port Community Systems (PCS), Freight Operations Information System (FOIS), Air Cargo Message Exchange System (ACMES), Air Cargo Community System (ACCS), and ICEGATES.
For any business, these API integrations are crucial for real-time tracking. Businesses tracking their surface movements get additional visibility from FASTag integration which provides toll-based visibility and detailed toll expense. This leaves the transporters little room to manipulate toll charges and make unnecessary route deviations.
Large businesses, logistics service providers, and startups are all eager to partner with ULIP. A few users have successfully integrated their solutions/ systems with ULIP. They leverage this data for multimodal tracking and tracing, vehicle and person authentication, document digitisation, process automation at yards and gates, and discovery services, lowering overall logistics operational costs and saving time.
One of the first companies to partner with the GoI and have access to ULIP data is a real-time multimodal visibility company called Intugine. They enhanced their multimodal capabilities by collaborating with NICDC and Niti Aayog since 2021 to provide end-to-end visibility of assets to their clients across every modality and every leg of their logistics. Due to their unprecedented access and usability of ULIP data, Intugine has clocked 8.5+ million transactions for 20+ clients in a transparent and real-time manner over six months.
A general observation in the cement industry is that most drivers drive with inappropriate licences, costing companies heavily due to non-compliance. By utilising the Vahan and Sarathi APIs, companies like Ultratech Cements and ACC have seamlessly verified driver's licenses and vehicle details, preventing delayed deliveries and SLA breaches. Furthermore, Bridgestone has digitised its verification process to eliminate manual checks.
Hindalco, OfBusiness, Century Mattresses India, Nilkamal, and WayCool also needed more visibility in planning their inbound movements with ULIP. Before implementing FASTag-based visibility of their vehicles, they had 90% visibility. After infusing FASTag with their existing Intugine solution suite, their visibility surpassed 95%. This way, these companies have achieved almost Swiggy-like visibility with accurate ETAs of incoming vehicles, making their planning process more efficient and call-oriented.
"We move tens of thousands of vehicles across India daily. With increased global trade demands and customer expectations, digital solutions have become essential for our growth," said Sheetal Gada, Function Head Control Tower, Mahindra Logistics. "Earlier, we had only 70% road visibility and had to manually call and follow up with drivers/transporters for location updates. Thanks to Intugine's multimodal platform, powered by ULIP, we can now seamlessly track and trace all our vehicles in real-time and take corrective measures to deal with any exceptions. The extended visibility we are getting with ULIP APIs like FASTag has tremendously helped us achieve over 84% visibility of our shipments and transformed our operations. It is a perfect alternative to track our assets on the road wherever other tracking methods fall short," added Sheetal.
Harshit Shrivastava, Co-founder & CEO of Intugine, said, "From the initial implementation of ULIP, it's been a great success for enterprises who want to up their visibility game. Our clients are now getting a unified, transparent and streamlined view of all logistics processes. They can track and monitor their shipments in real-time, reduce manual intervention and errors and enhance the customer experience. To reduce duplication, we can marry the ULIP data with other enterprise systems, such as ERPs, CRM, and WMS."
The NLP was deemed a game changer. In the last couple of months, the ULIP initiative has seen exponential growth and success in positively enabling the supply chains of multiple organisations. The initiative is shaping up the Indian logistics landscape, and that day isn't too far when the nation's collective vision to reduce the cost of GDP from 14% to 8% is realised.