January 2011

Ever since 2006 on India’s National Day, the 26th January, the Future Group’s Big Bazaar superstores hold the Big Sale – Sabe Saste Din – and thousands of items are priced, in the words of one advert, as “cashews for peanuts”. This year the sale lasts for a few days but the first year saw crowds that were unprecedented and stores in Kolkata were closed by mid-day because of fears for public safety. Big Bazaar were prepared for this – having studied crowd control at religious festivals. However, not all religious festivals run smoothly.

Sabarimla is located in a remote area of Kerala, India, and characterised by dense forest and difficult terrain infested with wild animals. Sabarimla is home to the deity Kantamala Jyoti, “the sacred light of the magnetic hills”. Back in the 1950’s a trickle of pilgrims would make the treacherous 65 kms trek barefoot over seven seven steep hills to witness the shrine; “thorns and sharp stones are like pads on our feet”. This year, millions made the journey and 102 pilgrims were crushed to death as the hopelessly inadequate infrastructure collapsed.

From a queue to a swarm to ...


Today, the world is facing natural disasters on an unprecedented scale: more than 255 million people were affected by natural disasters globally each year, on average, between 1994 and 2003. During the same period, these disasters claimed an average of 58,000 lives annually,with a range of 10,000 to 123,000 casualties. In the year 2003, 1 in 25 people worldwide was affected by natural disaster. Then, the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004; Hurricane Katrina 2005 in the USA; the Yogyakarta Earthquake in Indonesia in 2006; Sichuan earthquake in China in 2007; Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, the Haiti Earthquake; Chilean Earthquake and Pakistan in 2010. Now, the floods in Queensland. This one is different – where many disasters have a local impact, this one is having a far reaching global significance – a “butterfly effect” that should help to transform global thinking on commodity based logistics and supply chains in a fundamental way. That does not mean that it will …

Rising tides don't raise all boats


In recent months, BBC Radio 4’s history of the world in a hundred objects has captivated audiences with the story of humanity as told through the things we’ve made. Narrated impeccably by Neil MacGregor, the objects range in date from the beginning of human history around 2 million years ago through to the present day.

Here, we take up the story of Logistics with our own top ten of the objects that have transformed the movement of goods from manual handling to the most sophisticated technologies of today.

As the writer Ryszard Kapuscinski observed: the remains of marketplaces, ports, agoras and vestiges of such trade routes as the Silk Road, the Amber Route or, the Trans-Saharan caravan route illustrate; these were places where people met to exchange ideas as well as merchandise and discovered shared goals and values. This is where people discovered within themselves a fragment of the Other or, the foreigner – who they could chose to go to war with; exclude themselves from or, trade with and open up a dialogue. And the connectivity between these places has been one of the great levellers and, multipliers of history. Here’s the ten:

1. Amphora. An amphora is a type of ceramic vase with two handles and a long neck narrower than the body. The Latin word amphora is, derived from the Greek amphoreus (αμφορεύς), it is a compound word combining amphi- (“on both sides”) plus phoreus (“carrier”) referring to the vessel’s two carrying handles on opposite sides.

The Ancient World's TEU