The presence of a robust logistics-related infrastructure and an effective logistics management system facilitates seamless movement of goods from the point of origin to that of consumption, and aids an economy’s movement to prosperity. The progress of logistics sector holds an immense value for Indian economy as well; as such advancement would increase exports, generate employment and give the country a significant place in the global supply chain.
As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, the Indian logistics sector provides livelihood to 22 million-plus people and improving the sector would facilitate a 10% decrease in indirect logistics cost, leading to a growth of 5-8% in exports. Further, the Survey estimates that the worth of Indian logistics market would be around US$ 215 billion in next two years compared to about US$ 160 billion currently. The boom in next couple of years is expected largely due to the implementation of Goods and Service Tax (GST).
Today, the Indian logistics sector is a sunshine industry and is going through a phase of transformation. Due to the initial efforts of Government of India (GoI), such as Make in India programme and improvements in infrastructure along with the emergence of skilled professionals, the country’s position bettered from 54 in 2014 to 35 in 2016 in the World Bank (WB)’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI), in terms of overall logistics performance. In fact, India improved its tally in all the six components of LPI. India also registered an overall 30 points rise in 2017 and stood at 100th position compared to 2016, in the WB’s Ease of Doing Business Index (EoDBI).
There exists a tremendous scope for further jump in India’s rankings if the existing infrastructural and cost inefficiencies are addressed. The Survey goes on to identify the challenges that beset the Indian logistics industry, the foremost of which is it being largely in the unorganized realm. The other challenges hindering its growth include high cost, underdeveloped material handling infrastructure, fragmented warehousing, presence of multiple regulatory and policy making entities, lack of seamless movement of goods across modes, and poor integration with modern information technology. These challenges, particularly the ones pertaining to procedural complexities, redundant documentations and involvement of several agencies at our ports and borders, severely dent our performance in international trade, resulting into about 70% of the delays.
To ensure ease of trading in the international and domestic arena it is important that steps are taken to build the Indian logistics sector in an integrated manner. The Survey suggests to achieve the same by harnessing the potential of emerging technologies, bringing in investment, creating human capital, removing bottlenecks, improving intermodal transport mix, automation, single window clearance system, and simplifying procedures.
The need of the hour is to formulate an integrated logistics policy. Today the stakeholders have to deal with multiple government agencies at the union, state and local levels, which result into avoidable delays. The integrated logistics policy could go a long way in streamlining and consolidating multidepartment requirements, besides facilitating corrective action, effective monitoring and prompt grievance redressal. Along with it, a mechanism needs to be created to measure the sector’s performance at regular intervals against the set benchmarks, thus, providing evidences to the policymakers so that a favourable policy environment is created.
To alter the country’s logistics landscape, GoI has taken a number of decisions. The GST regime is certain to expedite faster conversion of informal logistics setups to formal ones and speed up freight movement at interstate borders due to dismantling of check posts. There is a target to reduce the logistics cost in India from the present 14% of GDP to less than 10% of it, by 2022. A national committee headed by Cabinet Secretary is in place to develop the pan-India roadmap for trade facilitation.
A new Logistics Division in the Department of Commerce has been established to coordinate integrated development of the sector by way of policy changes, improvement in existing procedures, identification of bottlenecks and gaps, and introduction of technology-based interventions. A concerted effort in collaboration with central line ministries and state governments is on to simplify the regulatory processes in domestic and export-import logistics. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) is developing an integrated logistics portal which would serve as a transactional e-marketplace by connecting buyers, logistics service providers and the relevant government agencies such as customs, port community systems, port terminals, shipping lines, railways, etc. Once functional, it would reduce delays and facilitate a transparent, informative and convenient trading system. Recently the Ministry also launched a new Logistics Ease Across Different States Index to rank states for the support they provide to improve logistics infrastructure within their respective jurisdictions.
The logistics sector now finds a place in the Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure Subsector. This inclusion is set to benefit the logistics industry as it will now have an access to cheaper and long term credit. Such a move will also lead to simplification of the approval process for the construction of multimodal logistics parks. Lastly, it will encourage market accountability through regulation and will attract investments from debt and pension funds into recognized projects.
The commitment of GoI towards an integrated development of logistics sector through policy amendments, infrastructural development, tax reforms and technology adoption will certainly deliver desirable results. It will enhance our trade competitiveness, create jobs, shoot up country’s performance in global rankings and pave the way for India to become a logistics hub. Such measures will also contribute to creation of a New India by 2022, as envisioned by the Prime Minister of India.
The authors are Adviser and Young Professional respectively in the Infrastructure – Connectivity vertical of NITI Aayog. The views and analysis expressed in the publication are personally those of the authors. They do not reflect the views of NITI Aayog. NITI Aayog does not guarantee the accuracy of data included in the publication nor does it accept any responsibility for consequences of its use.