India’s golden opportunity: Global supply chain solution

May 23, 2024

Highways and metro trains in Jaipur, the Pink City.

Given the trend towards increasing deglobalization, friend-shoring, diversity and the acceleration of these themes post-pandemic, the focus on efficient and robust supply chains has intensified. Moving manufacturing plants to reduce risk, India is one of the main beneficiaries of the China+1 strategy.

The bottleneck of logistics infrastructure

India’s main issues are its logistic infrastructure and overall spending as a percentage of GDP. Currently, India spends approximately US$400 billion, 15% of GDP, compared to around 10% for the US/Europe and 9% for China. The logistics sector has a major impact on India’s cost, efficiency and manufacturing and exporting capacity. India is a major exporter of agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and textiles.

Government interventions

One of the major steps was the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) across India in July 2017. This moved the unorganized market to the organized market (an ongoing process), helping to reduce tax evasion and increase the traceability of merchandise from origin to destination. Today, a GST-registered operator cannot transport goods in a vehicle whose value exceeds Rs.50,000 without an eWay bill.

Revolutionizing toll payments with FASTag

Wait times between states were a major bottleneck due to the collection of taxes, verification and bribes. To solve the problem, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) implemented an electronic toll system called FASTag that enables drivers to pass through toll plazas without stopping for transactions. Using RFID technology, toll payments are made directly from the prepaid account linked to the toll owner. In 2016, 70% of tolls had the technology implemented; however, only 4.8% of total payments were collected via FASTag. To increase adoption, NHAI increased the non FASTag cost to 200%, which pushed users to adopt it to reduce costs. As of 2022, 96% of total payments were made through FASTag, increasing efficiency across the logistics industry.

Multi-modal transportation meeting diverse needs

The demand for logistics services in India is witnessing growth across various modes of transportation, including rail, road, air and sea. Rail freight, facilitated by initiatives like Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC), is gaining traction due to its cost-effectiveness and reliability. Similarly, trucking remains a dominant mode for last-mile connectivity, driven by the e-commerce boom and expanding retail networks. Furthermore, the emergence of e-commerce giants has propelled demand for air and sea freight, necessitating efficient cargo handling and multimodal connectivity.

Several industries in India are heavily reliant on efficient logistics operations to sustain their growth momentum. E-commerce, retail, FMCG, automotive and pharmaceutical sectors are among the key beneficiaries, leveraging logistics to streamline supply chains, reduce lead times and enhance customer satisfaction. Additionally, the rapid expansion of cold chain logistics is enabling the seamless distribution of perishable goods, catering to evolving consumer preferences and market dynamics.

Ambitious growth plans for national infrastructure pipeline

In 2020, the Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs released the Task Force’s Final Report on National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) for FY 20-25, with a target investment of US$1.4 trillion. Infrastructure projects are expected to be completed by 2025, with 21% from the private sector. Given that most transportation is done on the surface, India’s roads and highways have been a main focus, increasing from 6,061 kms in 2016 to 10,457 kms constructed in 2022.

With all these investments, the government estimates that India’s transportation and logistics sector is poised to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 4.5% from 2022 to 2050.

Major plans for Indian transport infrastructure
Diagram of major plans for India transport infrastructure, namely roads, airports, railways, ports and logistics and key enabling policies supporting the targets.
Source: Building the future: Infrastructure investment opportunities in India by EY Parthenon.

TCI Express: A logistic player benefiting from government spending

TCI Express provides delivery solutions in India and internationally. Most of the transportation is surface-related, although the company does offer air express. TCIEXP is one of the few companies that can deliver to every pin code in India due to its extensive network of sorting/delivery centres.

Capitalizing on the express segment boom

TCIEXP is part of the express segment of logistics, which has a CAGR of 12% and 18% for air and ground, respectively, during the last 10 years (Source: B&K Securities). The industry is dominated by the unorganized space, which represents 80%, where individuals own one to five trucks in their fleet, offering highly competitive services.

The organized space represents 20% of the industry and within it, 75% is owned by large competitors and 25% by SMEs. TCIEXP benefits from government interventions by being the lowest-cost producer within express logistics, allowing it to capture market share from those moving from unorganized to organized.

Asset-light model driving high returns

Operating as an asset-light business, the company doesn’t own its fleet; it outsources distribution to a third party, resulting in over 20+% ROIC. It retains loyalty by offering favourable terms such as return loads, creating loyalty amongst drivers. The company launched its first automated centre in India in 2023 and plans to open another four within the next two years, resulting in lower trucking wait times and increased inventory turnover for clients.

Is India’s logistics revolution a global turning point?

As the country invests heavily in infrastructure and embraces technology, it stands on the brink of transforming its supply chain capabilities. For businesses and policymakers alike, the challenge and opportunity lie in navigating these changes to foster growth and efficiency. How will India leverage this chance to become a leading hub for global trade? The world is watching, and the stakes are high.

Global Alpha Capital Management Ltd.
May 23rd, 2024