YourStory SMB Week: How Indian SMBs can strengthen their supply chain and distribution to ensure no disruption

During YourStory’s SMB Week, powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), industry leaders from the pharma and healthtech sector came together on a WhatsApp chat to discuss how SMBs make supply chains more resilient using technology.

20th Apr 2020
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Supply chains throughout the world have been disrupted in the wake of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic which has brought the world to a standstill.


This is also a time when sectors like healthcare and pharma are seeing a monstrous spike in their sales. Falling into the category of essential goods, supply chain disruptions can affect the health of the business of these companies the most.


During YourStory’s ‘SMB week - Converse, Combat, Conquer’, a special, first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chat series, powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), industry experts from the pharma and healthtech sector came together to discuss how operations and sale of medicines can be carried out without disruption and how Indian SMBs can make their supply chains more resilient.

Keeping disruption at bay

With the COVID-19 having had a deep impact in the day-to-day functioning of the operations and services, experts shared how they are combating the situation in their own unique ways.


Aishwarya Nir, Director of Aishwarya Healthcare, shared, “One of the crucial supply chain factors we have taken into consideration is the heavy dependence of the Indian active pharmaceutical ingredient industry on China and therefore the long term goal is to develop that arm independently as it has been severely injured.”

She further added that for distribution, she and her team are ensuring all adequate state permits are in place to ensure free inter-state movement for their employees and goods.


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All experts, however, agreed that greater collaboration is the need of the hour.


Arjun Vaidya, CEO of Dr. Vaidya's, said, “The situation is extremely fluid. Thus, constant checking and updating on a daily basis is required with vendors and logistics partners.”


Valliappan Kumarappan, Co-founder and CEO of PinkBlue.in, further added, “This is the time to establish new partnerships in case the existing partners are facing issues. We have been quite open to collaborating with a bunch of newer players in the space, to ensure minimal impact on our supply chain, be it in procurement, logistics or technology.”

Leveraging technology

This pandemic has brought to life several life lessons for businesses and people at large. Businesses have understood that if they don’t come up with newer technologies and innovation, then they might survive in the short term but sustaining itself in the long term would be a challenge.


Another point that came up in the discussion is how SMBs in India are in dire need of digitisation. Valliappan said, “Several manufacturers in the pharma and medical supplies space are SMBs and they rely on extremely basic processes around their supply chain planning, which involves very little data.” He further added that despite being a critical industry on the supply side, they still don’t have more than first level (distributor) inventory data with most manufacturers. Adding that several might not even have the first level data.

So, what is the solution to this predicament?

Amit Chawla, Director of McW Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. said that communication with employees over video conferencing is the first step where technology can ensure that the business is in one mind.


“It is in these scenarios that automated solutions like SAP and Interact really aid and help in centralising operations,” said Aishwarya. “Cloud technology helps us enable efficient work from home solutions as most of our meetings across various plant operations have been shifted online via video conferencing or call,” she added.


In addition, the industry experts highlighted that tech solutions are needed to enable adoption at scale.

Aishwarya said, “A good solution can, therefore, start with the creation of centralised planning with blockchain at its nucleus, which allows all departments to interact as well as proactively act on a centralised plan of operations. The solution has to be effective, feasible, secure, accessible and easy to use.”

The new normal

The COVID-19 has changed the definition of normal. When the pandemic is over and the normalcy of our lives is regained, we won’t be living in the same pattern of what was called ‘normal’ in the pre-Covid-19 era.


What then is the new normal for the business ecosystem?


The magic caused by ‘work from home’ in some sectors is one of the few things the world has woken up to. Arjun says, “Traveling to a different city in India or abroad for a meeting may not be the answer - a Google Hangout or Zoom call can do the trick. Sometimes we find ourselves travelling six to seven hours even for a 30-45 minutes meeting. It bears wondering if it is really worth it?”


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Key Takeaways

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