eCommerce Expo 2022: Navigating Unpredictable Supply Chains with Humana International's Sanjay Desai
Q: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing eCommerce businesses within the next year? What impacts does this challenge have? And how can we overcome this challenge?
Ever since Covid hit the world, there is huge boom in everything which is digital, touchless and can be managed online. We can summarise it by saying “The global businesses have crunched a decade of change in 10 months, literally. And this will continue until we turn 369 degrees. Three of the fastest eCommerce growth engines are asian countries and regions, including China, Southeast Asia and India, which spells a huge opportunity for all of us and the world alike.
This huge growth in eCommerce also brings in multiple challenges, cyber security risks, privacy breaches, internet frauds, and more. It is like the Indian Proverb: “In a Jungle where there is fire, wet and dry burn together”.
The biggest and possibly the most severe is cyber and data security. eCommerce involves a lot of parties as well as lot of private and sensitive data. Any data hack or security break can expose millions of customers, institutions, and governmental organisation to a helpless situation. It can rob millions from end consumers, it can leak sensitive government information across the globe.
To protect ourselves from such exposures we all need to learn, adopt, and implement cyber security controls. These are mechanisms used to prevent, detect, and mitigate cyber breaches, glitches and attacks. They range from physical controls such as security guards and surveillance cameras, to technical controls, including firewalls and multifactor authentication. Some of the many cyber security solutions available to mitigate these challenges include:
- Encryption: Ensures that even if your data is stolen, hackers wouldn’t be able to read it.
- Data loss prevention: Data is essential in your day-to-day operation, and data loss prevention methods ensure your data is available all the time and without any risk of being lost.
- Access management: Ensures data is accessed only on a need-to-know basis and that those obtaining the information are who they say they are.
- Use of Firewalls: Firewalls control the flow of outgoing and incoming network traffic to protect against untrusted networks and potential malicious attacks.
- Anti-virus and anti-malware solutions: One of the most fundamental cyber security solutions in any computer network. It scans the system for threats and blocks viruses from accessing your devices.
- Web filtering: This stops employees from accidentally accessing harmful services on the company’s network that could expose the business to a data breach.
- Risk and compliance management: Businesses in many industries need cyber security services to meet federal regulations or industry standards. Risk and compliance management provides a dedicated solution for meeting these needs
Q: Do you have your eye on any specific technology that can help in managing global supply chains, and why?
There are so many emerging technologies that are becoming available and cheaper day by day. It will be very difficult to pinpoint one specific as the most impactful. However, there are a couple that will probably impress the global supply chain in the immediate and continue to transform over next three to five years. These technologies compliment and leverage each other and to transform themselves.
The first is artificial intelligence (AI) and second is cognitive machine learning (ML). A combination of these will be able to make predictive and prescriptive analysis for decision making, thereby mirroring the human brain. Over next 12-18 months, as we see new pathways to global recovery, organisations need to re-balance their demand and supply hedges, and increase end to end visibility in their assets management.
Studies suggest that AI and ML can deliver unprecedented value to supply chain and logistics operations. From cost savings through reduced operational redundancies and risk mitigation, to enhanced supply chain forecasting and speedy deliveries through more optimised routes to improved customer service.
AI in supply chain is being preferred by several manufacturers globally. These AI systems with intelligent algorithms can also predict and discover new consumer habits and forecast seasonal demand. This application of AI helps anticipate future customer demand trends while minimising the costs of overstocking unwanted inventory
According to McKinsey, 61% of manufacturing executives report decreased costs, and 53% report increased revenues as a direct result of introducing AI in the supply chain. Further, more than one-third suggested a total revenue bounce of more than 5%. Some of the high impact areas in supply chain management include planning and scheduling, forecasting, spend analytics, logistics network optimisation, and more.
With the complex network of supply chains that exist today, it is critical for manufacturers to get complete visibility of the entire supply value chain, with minimal effort. Having a cognitive AI-driven coupled with machine learning platform, it offers a single virtualised data layer to reveal the cause and effect, to eliminate bottleneck operations, and pick opportunities for improvement. All of this using real-time data instead of redundant historical data.
With all these influences coming to bear simultaneously, we are actually in the midst of experiencing a paradigm shift from simple reactive intelligence to predictive, adaptive, and continuous learning systems that drives better decisions for continuous improvements using AI and ML in Supply Chain.
Q: What would be your biggest piece of advice for fellow eCommerce leaders who are concerned about managing global supply chains?
There is much more than just meeting supply-demand in the life of an eCommerce Supply Chain leader. They need to lead the way into transformation of people, processes and toolsets in that order. One important skill which is highly critical is to interact intelligently with leaders across the organisation, because supply chain initiatives are often intertwined with multiple business organisations and functions.
The effective supply chain leader of today has to be tech-savvy and comfortable working alongside the world of “machines.” An important element about technology is that AI won’t replace managers, but managers who work with AI will replace managers who don’t.
We must note that the current leader is native to technology. But he or she needs to learn how to manage and understand people and pick up these soft skills. This leader has to be a great storyteller, digging into the countless layers of the supply chain to find the issues and weaving the right story together to create solutions.
Lastly, personally I feel in today’s world, if the horse is not willing to come to the water, you need to get the water to where horse is. There is no time for wrong egos and false pride in our execution on a daily basis. It is all about single minded devotion to excelling at outside-in, customer satisfaction performance.
Q: You will also lead a session on Women Leadership in the Global Supply Chain. What do you believe is the current state of gender diversity in eCommerce, and why is inclusion important for businesses?
According to a survey by Gartner conducted during mid-2022, female leaders account for roughly 20% of C Level positions in commercial supply chain. In general, 40% of the total supply chain workforce comprises of female leaders globally. The study also showed that companies with more than 30% female executives in their workforce are more likely to financially outperform companies with less gender diversity.
One area of major concern per the survey is “Not able to retain Female leaders at senior levels". A primary reason cited was lack of career opportunities in the “male” dominated leadership at the top across all supply chain industries, including supply chain solution providers.
Supply chain leaders must focus on creating sustainable gender equality programs that reduce biases and help all women climb the corporate ladder. In addition, introducing flexible workplace policies and equipping managers with the knowledge they need to recognise and address burnout can help businesses retain women who currently hold mid-level leadership positions. Making these adjustments is key to overcoming the new challenges the supply chain world is facing today. Having a diverse workforce especially of those with more female leaders make it easier for companies to challenge legacy-driven mindsets, adopt new automated technologies and propel digital transformation initiatives. It also helps to adapt to current regulatory mandates or industry-wide trends more quickly.
Q: What do you feel is the value of in-person events like eCommerce Expo Asia, and why would you encourage fellow business leaders to attend your session?
After a two and a half years of debacle globally, it is so pleasing to see such great crowds are back to attend and enjoy in-person events.
I believe in meeting and networking physically, as it creates instant vibes and positivity, which is not possible in a virtual event.
Attending conferences and seminars is a very good way to learn via a direct and instant interaction from many thought leaders and industry practitioners. You can easily understand the viewpoints better with an on-the-spot opportunity to clarify your doubts.
Sometimes the focused nature of a session or a speakers’ keynote address, makes you think deeper or wider to get a better understanding of the topic of your own interest. Most likely, you will get to see and hear third and fourth perspective, which can be an eye opener for you. Most important is you can learn how to bring these knowledge transfers in your function as new ideas and/or out of box innovations.
Another advantage of attending In-person events is it’s an effective way for you to meet new people who can potentially become your future clients or partners. Just be sure to bring your business cards and start networking. And that is exactly what I am doing when I come to eCommerce Expo in just a few days! Thank you CloserStill Media for making me a part of this wonderful event.
Sanjay will lead a session on Women Leadership in Global Supply Chain - Mandate to Movement, and will also be part of a panel session on Supply Chain Troubles - How to Navigate Unpredictability? with experts from Astellas Pharma Singapore, Cushman & Wakefield, Zimmer BioMet, and SingPost at eCommerce Expo Asia 2022.