December 2009


This Blog has just turned one year old. Several people have asked me to sum things up. Here goes …

The response has been encouraging and the readership has grown steadily with over 36,000 hits; many comments and e mails coming from all over the Americas; Europe; Africa; India and throughout Asia and Oceania. Clearly, there is an interest in creating a Logistics approach that does not seek to plug and play from the Logistics Lexicon of the developed economies alone and seeks to build a unique and relevant response to a set of all too real logistics challenges beyond the fast tracks of the developed world.

Strategy is all about imagining a future environment five years out for your product or service and then, creating the operational map to get there. Looking at T L after one year the vision remains the same – to create an umbrella term for logistics in developing and emerging markets that offers a toolbox and case studies of ways in which logistics can, and has, transformed businesses and the quality of life. This does not mean best practice from the developed world so much as fresh practice from very different circumstances – more jugaad than blue sky thinking; simply modal rather than leading edge.

It takes all sorts ...

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In the 1968 film The Graduate, a young character fresh out of College, played by Dustin Hofmann, emerges from the pool in his diving suit and flippers to be given advice on his future. “I just want to say one word to you young man, just one word – plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.” Just like the advice; this extraordinarily durable material carried all before it revolutionising whole industries though, over time, its very durability and non-biodegradable nature have made it a menace for the planet. 

Indian cities are characterised by huge volumes of waste and landfills overflow with plastic. In their valuable book Life in Plastic (2000) Robert Edwards and Rachel Kellet cover how India had not been a major user of plastic until legislation shifts in the 1980s when the Government sanctioned a dramatic increase in its production to assist industries to become globally competitive. The use of plastic then increased rapidly as more people moved to cities and the bonfire of the restrictive licensed Raj in 1991 triggered increased imports. Several studies highlight the impact plastic extruding machines have had on a whole range of traditional craft-based industries and the skills that had been passed through generations. Here are a few:

Tradition has its place ...

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Mayhews London Labour and the London Poor (1861) describes street folk of the fast expanding capital city with flower sellers as the “aristocracy” of the street; their elevated status due to a combination of wealthy clients and the need to own sheds to store and carts to move their fragile crop avoiding, in his delightful phrase, “concusive” transit – he may have been anticipating the last mile in Chennai! Mayhew describes in some detail a supply system that, by the end of the 19th century, was copied in the major US cities with horicultural growing centres located within or close to the major centres of population of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.

By the 1950s, the expansion of the interstate highway system facilitated transportation of cut flowers over longer distances with nurseries expanding further afield in Colorado; Denver and California.  Today, horticulture has taken advantage of the rocket science of logistics to stretch supply lines into the most remote areas of the globe. It could act as a catalyst to transform Agriculture still further as well as being a testing house for green supply chains along the way. Here’s the story …

Flower power is big business

Today, the World cut flower market is worth close to $50 billion annuallly – the rose variety alone generating $10 billion – with logistics and ever more sophisticated supply chains enabling farmers in places like Columbia, Kenya and Ethiopia to become major players. This is big business in the developed world with a massive impact at the other end of the development scale. For example, in Kenya, horticulture generates $110 million exports per year and employs an estimated 500,000 people; 75% of whom are women earning up to $30 per month. (more…)

On Sunday13th August 1961 the lights went out at the Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. Within days a Wall 43 kms was erected that cut into the flesh of a living City and divided it until the heady collapse of 1989. Since then, Berlin has become one massive construction site as the Wall’s collapse triggered a tortuous and expensive process of unification and urban regeneration. Listening to extensive media coverage of Die Mauer and the aftermath, provokes images of other walls such as the high tech / low tech digital divide; food price hikes and energy blackouts that challenge the informal marketplace; formal and informal living space; those with lifestyles  and others battling the survival agenda. As thoughts turn to climate change another wall is built between those who are changing their behaviours and others that cling to any statistical nuance to protect their better yesterdays.

We too have Alma Cogan records!

For the first time in history more than half of the worlds population are living in cities. That means an estimated 3.5 out of 6 billion people and this will rise by another 2 billion over the next 20 years. People are living in the same urban space but, in terms of the amenities and quality of life that each citizen enjoys there are Berlin Walls all over the place – between those from the formal and informal neighbourhoods; the chic quartiers and the ghettoes; the favelhas and the designer lofts of urban living. And yet, you cannot fence in public health issues or, be exempt from the congestion that sees cars travel at the speed of a horse in the medieval age. (more…)