Ecom Express Limited: Covering the length and breadth of India with its end-to-end technology-enabled logistics solutions [Ecom Express]
Ever since the IT revolution heralded a new era driven by fast-paced delivery of products and services at your premises, the responsibility on logistics firms to live up to the expectations of end-users and deliver products and services in the stipulated manner have increased manifold. Today, we are going to talk about one of the largest tech-enabled e-commerce logistics solutions providers with highest number of pin-codes serviced in India – Ecom Express Limited.
Among large e-commerce logistics service providers, Ecom Express has the highest pin code coverage in India delivering e-commerce shipments to over 27,000 pin codes, out of more than 30,000 pin codes in India. The company has deep coverage Pan India, including across smaller towns and rural establishments. Ecom Express covers 95%+ of the population in India through its delivery network of 3,000+ branch offices. Ecom Express was founded as a business venture by four friends and former colleagues – T. A. Krishnan, K. Satyanarayana, Manju Dhawan and Late. Sanjeev Saxena in 2012. The trust, respect, camaraderie and partnership that the co-founders shared over 25 years before they decided to go on an incredible journey together continues to be embraced in the DNA of the company that promotes an equal opportunity employment with considerable flat hierarchy.
T.A. Krishnan is currently the CEO of the company and has been driving business, operational and technological prowess that the company has built. T.A. Krishnan is a recognized leader in the Indian express and logistics industry. Over his illustrious career Mr. Krishnan has been instrumental in leading several business initiatives in the express industry in India.
Being a veteran in the courier and express delivery services sector with more than three decades in the industry, he brings enormous knowledge and vast expertise. He has been instrumental in drawing the vision and business plan that seeks to differentiate Ecom Express from the rest of the industry players with several first introductions, e.g. the first company to build all surface network from air in lieu of constrained aviation capacity to handle e-commerce volumes, first company to have 25 states with full-state coverage model, and so on.
A value driven organization, their values framework, iCORP stands for Integrity, Commitment, Openness, Respect and Passion that drives their actions and overall organizational culture.Ecom Express operates a hybrid network for its pan India e-commerce shipment delivery with hub and spoke network. Their network design and footprint are a key differentiator.
“We operate a pan-India, asset-light, end-to-end express logistics network covering first-mile pick-up, mid-mile transportation and last-mile delivery as well as reverse logistics (returning shipments from end-consumers to customers) and fulfilment services, primarily serving e-commerce players”, asserts T.A. Krishnan.
Leveraging on differentiated business model which is built on delivery service capability, scalability, customization and sustainability
As technology forms the backbone of the firm, their proprietary technology applications, high level of automation across their entire value chain and data science capabilities have helped them achieve scale, operational efficiency and network flexibility. They have invested significantly in technology across their entire value chain which has enabled them to onboard customers quickly, increase network throughput, enhance end-consumer experience, drive operational efficiencies, take data-driven decisions and minimize human intervention. They leverage on differentiated business model which is built on delivery service capability, scalability, customization and sustainability. With the boom in India’s e-commerce industry, the organization has witnessed accelerated growth in the last few years.
Talking about the firm’s differentiating factors, Mr. Krishnan says, “What differentiates us from our competitors is purely an outcome of the strategy we have adopted so far. As an organization our focus has been on connecting strategy with the vision; innovating the customer experience; investing and leveraging Technology and Data Science capabilities; build capabilities in managing future scale and growth; building customer relationship; always keeping our people at core of everything we do.” They have been investing ahead of the curve and scaling their capabilities to commensurate with the growth of the industry. A significant portion of expansion and investments into automation, including enhancement, have been activated across major locations.
As a credible logistics partner to the e-commerce industry in India, and as part of their commitment to scale ahead of the curve, they have invested in hi-speed automated sorters in pick-up and processing centres (PPCs) to handle the surge in volumes. The customer centricity is at the forefront of their strategy, and they have been nimble and agile in aligning their infrastructure, technology, people and processes in assuring better service deliverables. Being a responsible player to the industry and to its surrounding eco-system, it is their constant endeavour to upskill their entire supply chain network which is well synchronized and assure seamless services to their customers.
Value system built on trust and equitable foundation
Not only a technology-driven firm but it is also an employee-driven firm. Employees across the organization take iCORP as a guiding principle for all their actions and working practices.“A module on our values is included in our onboarding program to align all employees to the iCORP framework. In addition to iCORP, the company has been a consistent follower of sustainable and gender-neutral goals. For instance, we have 10+% representation of women in senior management of the company – one of the best-in-class gender compositions across the ecosystem.”, says Mr. Krishnan.
“I” that stands for Integrity means acting in the interest of the organisation rather than for personal gains, having upstanding character traits, work ethics, sound judgement, honesty, dependability and loyalty. Being a logistics organization, their employees handle high value shipments across the value chain. Hence, high degree of integrity at workplace is critical and in making employees trustworthy and reliable as it has a deep connect with the overall customer experience.
“C” that stands for commitment forms an intrinsic part of their operations. Behaviours under these include making genuine delivery attempts to customers, proper handling of all shipments, striving to improve business metrics, and so on.
“O” that is Openness is about being flexible, accessible, and receptive to new ideas through constant encouragement and active participation. The senior leadership at Ecom Express paves the way for this as they periodically engage with all employees through monthly meetings, informal connects, and open sessions with family members. “At Ecom Express, we have an open-door policy and everyone is encouraged to share their views and thoughts, at any time, with senior leaders to improve business processes.”
“R” that is Respect forms the core of who they are. Having a large geographical reach with employees from diverse backgrounds, it becomes imperative to value opinions of others and treat each other with respect and dignity. There is no tolerance for disrespect.
“P” that stands for Passion is about having the drive and commitment to achieve high performance targets by demonstrating high energy, focus on solutions, and making continuous self-improvements that reflects on team performance as well. The passion to do more has translated into successful business metrics like consistent NPS, and high trust and brand loyalty from customers.
These core values form the bedrock for many of the firm’s policies such as Whistle-blower policy, Code of Conduct & Ethics, POSH policy, Equal Employment Opportunity, Gifts Policy and Anti Bribery and Corruption Policy. These policies, in turn, ensure that business practices and conduct are built on the foundation of core values. All these policies are hosted on the HRMS platform. They reaffirm their belief in the policies by regularly sharing internal communication campaigns.
Promoting people-oriented culture and practices
Special recognitions are given to employees for demonstrating their values as they share specific employee stories to help others see how these values are relevant in everyday work situations and are actually utilized. Stories about employees going out of the way to perform duties or helping customers or co-workers being empathetic to each other’s situation or supporting each other during the difficult COVID waves were captured and shared with all employees as a shout-out to value driven actions.
The leadership team is involved in ensuring that the business goals are clearly communicated across the organisation. Mr. Krishnan addresses all employees through the quarterly Town Hall meetings and talks about the organization’s achievements, current and future market trends. Giving priority to awareness and transparency, new initiatives and projects undertaken by internal teams are communicated by the senior management to all employees. This way everyone in the organization remains aligned to organisation goals, vision and progress.
“In our meetings, we adopt a 360-degree collaborative approach wherein the leaders take inputs from the ground business teams and co-create the roadmap and business goals. Being in a dynamic industry, we review our business goals on monthly basis to remain realistic and relevant with our expectations on the overall outcomes.”
The beginning of Financial Years is a time for kick-off meet wherein co-founders and members of the senior leadership team from the head office visit regional teams and ground staff to align strategy, business goals, motivate teams, and celebrate past year’s successes. Such meets have provided a unique opportunity for employees to be encouraged by each other’s positive emotions. It has been observed that the good energy that is harnessed from such initiatives lasts for months to come.
Robust internal campaigns to ensure the goals are communicated clearly
For the ground teams across operations, morning huddles play an important role in ensuring alignment with overall operational efficiencies in the first, mid and last mile of the business. Critical agenda such as NPS scores, and delivery pendency are discussed during these huddles which have a direct and immediate impact on the business goals. The approach of open communication allows to effectively drive business goals.
“The best example of how our business goals is communicated across the organization is the peak season campaign.” The run up to Diwali festival is the busiest time for an e-commerce logistics business such. The order volumes at that time peak due to offers provided by online shopping platforms, resulting in the tripling of parcel volumes. It is during this demanding season that all resources of Ecom Express are focussed on one objective: to process the parcels and get them delivered to end customers at the fastest possible time.
In order to motivate all employees, they run a robust internal campaign to ensure the goals created at the top are communicated clearly throughout the company. They get all departments involved in operations as they believe that during the crucial peak season, supporting Operations are the responsibility of each function, and not just of the Operations department. They start the campaign ahead of the peak season and talk about goals, plans and efforts to bring all departments into the process and ensure all functions and teams are aligned and working in the right direction for success.
The campaign collaterals and the messages in it are tailored so they appeal to the various strata of roles and levels of employees as well as create function-wise messages to help build stronger connect.The co-founders become a source of inspiration to go the extra mile for the organisation. From sending daily emails to charging up the team, to reinforcing back-end systems, to dealing with the surge in the number of orders that happen during the sale, they handle it all. They also hold regular conversations to discuss any issues and concerns with employees and clearly and succinctly explain to employees everything, from organisational goals to specific tasks.
Running powerful in-house expertise think tank
By encouraging employees to be creative, they run a powerful in-house think tank as employees take the initiative to seek new ways of doing their jobs and more efficient ways to using company resources.
An example of this is the implementation of ‘’5S methodology’’ in parcel processing centre led by one of their employees. The Company had since long been trying to implement 5S in its facility centres but somehow not been able to. “An employee in-charge of one of our largest centres took the initiative to implement the 5s methodology by assessing everything present in the centre, removing what’s unnecessary, organising things logically, and created a more organized and productive workspace.” The management initiated a recognition for the total 5S implementation by the employee, and his leadership in the total process in initiating and carrying forward the program to be replicated in rest of the facility centres.
Another example is of a Management Trainee who was provided the opportunity to work across functions and grasp the holistic picture of logistics business for the initial 9 months of her stint. The trainee was made to work on real business problems ranging from Sales & Marketing to Operations, from Finance to Data Sciences, from Business Analytics to Control Tower. The entire training roadmap was thoughtfully carved, power-packed with challenges and learnings, exposure and excitement. After a year, she was placed to lead one of the most critical functions of the company, and this speaks volumes about the organisational culture that is built around openness and trust.
“We firmly believe that employees are interested to work and grow with us given the way we keep expanding and bring new opportunities to everyone who has potential to scale up.” The organisation is committed to on-time pay-outs and transparency in processes and employee engagement which forms the core for the ground workforce. For the specialized and managerial roles, Ecom Express is a hot bed of exciting work and learning everyday as they transform the future of the industry with their initiatives on Artificial Learning, Machine Learning, extensive automation in operations and so on.
Expansion of New Products and Centers
As an organization they have truly been able to create a social impact at the grassroot level. They had participated in the Social Impact survey conducted by the CDC Group and 60 Decibel. A sample of 900+employees took part in the survey. The Net Promoter Score was very high wherein the participants appreciated the timely payments of salary, presence of good colleagues and good workplace conditions. “The job satisfaction of our ground staff matters a lot, as it can have a direct impact on the team associated with our First Mile, Mid Mile and Last Mile.”
About 92% of the respondents who participated in the survey reported impact indicators such as stable income, better lifestyle, and acquisition of new skills. The survey has also highlighted that 36% of ground staff were accessing employment for the first time, which demonstrates that Ecom Express has the right reach. In the same survey, 81% of employees reported an increase in their income and 84% employees reported having opportunities to learn and grow. “Being able to provide a sense of financial security and learning opportunities for our staff makes us proud.” Adds, Mr. Krishnan.
The launch of multi-modal product Express Plus to provide bundled services to time sensitive customers is phenomenal as it reduces the transit time of shipments and leverage the company’s presence in all 27,000+ pin codes. Another recently launched product Ecom Magnum is a one-stop solution, catering to all order fulfilment and shipping requirements. They are continuously working on the expansion of Warehouses and Fulfilment Centers to cover more locations and increase capabilities. “Automation is the future of logistics and hence, our key focus is integrating technology with human resources at even the micro level of our service operations. We are committed to invest in tech and strengthening of processes to further improve customer experience.”