February 2012


On the dining room table a candle burns, the house is silent and yet, this is far from romantic. It is a weekday morning in Chennai, South India and the computer on the table is running out of battery; all of the electrical appliances in the house lie still and living in one of several apartment blocks clustered together; natural light is poor. Welcome to the age of the power outage: up to 2 hours scheduled; sequenced by zones to share the burden and, even more that is not expected from time to time.

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Earlier today, Rob Bell gave a talk on the International Logistics scene to Faculty and MBA students at AMET  University and, moved to a discussion of Transformational Logistics and the Indian logistics and supply chain landscape.

The session opened with a review of the evolution of supply chains from the spice routes to today – via Napoleons military logistics; cowboys losing out to the railroad in the Wild West of 19th century America and on to containerisation revolution of the 1950’s. A key shift has been the integration of markets from globalisation and, the specialisation of the logistics function enabled by technology supporting this “new rocket science”. The segmentation of products (and ways to deliver them to the consumer) into Agile (those with high variability) and Lean (you can have any car as long as its black said Henry Ford) products was covered and the role of logistics as a differentiator was highlighted. As Professor Martin Christopher makes plain: “supply chains compete, not companies.” Logistics is part of any companies competitive edge.

The last mile counts ...

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Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has said of India that there are some places resembling Sub Saharan Africa and others California. Bangalore is one of the places he had in mind. Home of major Multi Nationals and leading Indian Corporations like Infosys, the place has the feel of a high tech hub. Some would say that this is at the expense of Indian authenticity and others, are disappointed that Bangalore is busy losing its Indian heritage in a rush to be the modern showcase.

Recently, there has been increasing coverage of the decline of once legendary markets like Jayanagar, Russell and Malleswaram which still dot the city but only as poor remnants of what they once were. “Our markets were wonderful places with beautiful buildings. Now, they have been reduced to garbage dumps. In developed countries, markets are tourists attractions but we have let them be controlled by the mafia and are allowing valuable property in prime locations to be rented out for paltry sums. The BBMP (Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation) should instead treat the markets as valuable real estate and as the city’s pride,” says ABIDe member, R.K Misra. ABIDe is an initiative to address the urban chaos of Bengaluru.

KR market Bangalore

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The T L Blog is delighted to introduce a new contributor – Tielman Nieuwoudt. Based in Johannesburg and for several years working out of Vietnam, Tielman brings a huge level of experience in frontier markets to the TL table. This and other posts to follow have featured on the Supply Chain Lab Blog previously. And so to Africa …

With low projected growth in the US and EU, and the realization that the BRIC countries won’t be able to do it all on their own, there is renewed interested in Africa. It is a continent with enormous potential with some of the fastest growing economies on the planet. However, for any company new to the African continent, there are a number of challenges to consider.

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Aakash is a hindi word meaning “sky or “ether”. It is a word that will become better known. Now, it is the brand name for an Android-based tablet computer produced by the British company Datawind and manufactured by the India based company Quad.

Kalra, who heads a team at the Rajasthan Indian Institute of Technology sums up the potential. “Inside ten years we expect that everyone will have one. There will be children learning, farmers checking prices, pregnant women getting medical assistance – all through the Aakash.”

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