ITP Techblog

Brought to you by IT Professionals NZ
« Back to Home

Where there is no ‘last mile in delivery’, and ‘one-time password’ is key

Sunit Prakash, Guest Post. 09 March 2020, 5:00 am
Where there is no ‘last mile in delivery’, and ‘one-time password’ is key

On my sometimes annual sojourn to Mumbai, I am always struck by the changes and adaptation of technology and its impact on life and human behaviour. 

I still see them through geeky - but distinctly Kiwi - lens.

Yes, I find that leaving Aotearoa is easy.

Excited as I was to sample the flight from Wellington to Singapore and then on to Bombay, for someone like me, the airline app, the lounge app, and Flight Radar 24 not only kept me good company, but made my journey comfortable, easier, and a lot more interesting.

As a seasoned traveller with homes in many countries, I have multiple SIM cards. 

Arriving in Mumbai, inserting the local SIM, turning the phone on, watching itself establish on Vodafone India and the familiar ding, ding, ding, ding welcome home messages... totally priceless!

Having cleared customs, immigration, and baggage collection, and established on the mobile network, it was easy to order an Ola for the ride home. 

What a novel experience, I thought! A good Indian ride-share company in India, with what else but an Indian driver! 

My Ola account worked a treat, but I was surprised to see my New Zealand credit card details had not carried over on account of KYC (know your customer) to be re-done. 

The driver expected to be paid in cash, which I did with my "Indian taxi money stash" that had escaped demonetisation.

To my relief and surprise, my Uber account worked a treat and I could go cashless. 

In the days of the old black and yellow (or kaali - peeli) cabs, the drivers had local knowledge of roads and the fastest way to get to a destination. 

The ride shares depend on GPS, and more than once I have had to ask the driver to override their suggested routes. The auto-rickshaws of course had "native" intelligence on micro-locations.  

Delhi belly, indigestion, culinary colonisation, and Indian takeaways

I was looking forward to Mum's cooking. She had switched to a tiffin service, so there was no home cooking for me! 

In the past, women like mum would cook lunches and a dabbawala would pick up the food, and using their six-sigma quality, deliver the home cooked meal to their children and husbands to their schools and offices through an incredible network and using Bombay's local trains.

Mum's switch to a tiffin service was the reverse.

"Home cooked" meal services have cropped in Bombay delivering nutritious religious-appropriate meals to homes.

When inviting friends for a meal, ordering in was the unanimous choice. Out came the phones. Zomato and Swiggy were launched. Everyone ordered what they wanted from where they wanted. Our table was groaning under pao bhaji, chole bhature, sitaphal ice cream. No match for Uber Eats.

Zomato is an Indian company, delivering Indian meals to Indian households in India. Not having a Zomato account in New Zealand meant I did not have the "ordering in another country" experience. Suffice to say not only did I set up an account, so did my Mum! 

And in a Spotify-like manner, both Zomato and Swiggy started to understand my taste buds and sure enough reviewed my eats and started to provide me with recommendations and "taste-breakers"!

Restaurants now have a whole new channel to market. 

Niche ones, some of which were going out of business, now have a new lease on life. Others are not physical restaurants, but just kitchens with online presence and only deliver.

With these services, Uber Eats stood no chance and has been digested by Zomato in India.

Going the distance; and the size that matters

"Last mile delivery" does not exist in Bombay. There is no "last" mile. 

Stepping out of our local Gymkhana (sports club) and flagging down a rickshaw (note: rickshaw, rick, or auto, not tuk tuk), I needed a glucometer. 

The local pharmacist was called at 9:30pm. After our three-minute ride, the home delivery person was waiting at our front door. 

This was his fifth delivery to our place that day. We "micro-order" just enough and replenish frequently as required making this household so "Lean", we could put Toyota to shame. 

The pharmacist, the convenience shop (or kirana stores), the street food vendors are always "around the corner", never too far, less than 100 metres away, and always happy to deliver. 

Problems that Amazon and Uber Eats are trying to solve have been solved in Bombay long ago. These stores provide tough competition to the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

Then, there is the corner microstore 

Started off as paan-walas, some have morphed into the Indian equivalent of a Japanese vending machine. 

Who knows how many SKUs (stock keeping units) they hold, but they generally have whatever you want? 

The packing is small, micro, sachet, or singular sized, and how they remember the price of each item is beyond me. 

You can purchase a single A3 battery; a single Gillette shaving cartridge; a 200ml bottle of flavoured milk; or sliced bread a quarter of the size of loaves in New Zealand supermarkets.    

Smart feeds

With my geo-location on, I saw content and ads in my feed changing. A sari ad targeted me while I am reading Stuff in Bombay! Clearly, this was an algorithm error as saris are not for me. I thought again, probably it was smarter than I am as it could be a reminder to pick up something for loved ones.

Changing location on LinkedIn also was interesting. 

Locations on the app were greyed out, I could only select Bombay as "my location". Very smart, I thought. I could not "pretend" to be a candidate or job seeker in a country where I was not physically present.

And with that came LinkedIn's Daily Rundown - a curated list of articles of what it thinks may interest me. Not seeing this feature in New Zealand, Australia, or the US, it could be an India-only feature or a brand-new one just rolled out.

Google Places seems to be a little slow on updates. Google would be constantly badgering me to rate "Spruce Goose" when in Wellington. 

In Bombay, having visited a number of micro-breweries, clubs, gymkhanas, gyms, restaurants, physios, labs, and medical clinics, it was after three weeks that I was asked to rate the business I had visited, and that too, happened very sporadically.

In search of 'the last mile'

India is when I do most of my reading. The books are some of the cheapest in the world to buy and to post. It may have something to do with promoting literacy or perhaps a left-over relic from the past. 

A hardcopy of William Dalrymple's The Anarchy cost about USD 21.78 (or NZ$ 32.96) on Amazon. In India, it was INR 490.00 (or NZ$10.46).

So, in addition to thrashing my credit card on Zomato, Swiggy, and Uber, it also copped abuse from the Amazon India bookstore.

Amazon's delivery is stunning. 

It remembers me and the locations where I have had stuff delivered in the US and New Zealand, my payment details, and painlessly and frictionless lets me order my books.

Then it helps me track my delivery from start to finish, telling me when the package is likely to be delivered. 

Finally, for peace of mind, Amazon sends me a "one-time password" or OTP so that only on giving the password to the delivery agent, will I receive the package.

OTP is ubiquitous in India and has entered common parlance. 

A large number of services are digital (Aadhar card or universal ID, driving license, banking, payments, travel, shopping, movie tickets, the list is long); and all of them involve SMS messages to confirm, followed by an OTP for authentication and security.  

There are lots of Kiwis in India - if you know where to find them

During my stay here, Asia New Zealand Foundation has had three interns at Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai. 

Creative HQ ran a five-day workshop on 'the ease of doing business with New Zealand' for the state of Karnataka. Former Prime Minister Helen Clarke, Commodore Melissa Ross, Graham Morton, Principal Advisor MFAT, Suzannah Jessep Asia New Zealand Foundation, Dr Manjeet Pardeshi New Zealand India Research Institute, journalist Katie Bradford, and others attended the Raisina Dialogue in Delhi; and separately journalists Anusha Bradley and Abigail Dougherty of Stuff also visited India. Kiwi politicians from across the spectrum have just concluded - or are planning - their trips.

From students to global tech CEOs 

From a business perspective, In New Zealand, apart from cricket, India is largely invisible. Employees of Indian origin, customers of Indian origin, Indian students - relatively small, insignificant, and melding into the greater. With limited interest in India, their knowledge, insights, and connections are not totally harnessed.

Many, if not most New Zealand IT shops have Indian majors - TCS, Wipro, HCL, and Tech Mahindra - in their IT value chain. If they are a large bank, they have their own offshore dev, support, and business process centres in India. Indian IT majors are present, and equally Indian IT minors with specialist skills and services.

Thanks to its penchant for attracting the best talent, and its habit of meritocracy, Indian students who studied further in the US are now leading global tech players. 

Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Vishal Sikka, and Arvind Krishna, IBM's new CEO, are some examples. There are many more at the next level, and the next level and the next level - and I often wonder what lesson New Zealand, its immigration, and international student strategy could learn from this. 

India is not about to go away. Even with its issues. With its youth, education, and hunger for growth - it seems to be at the epicentre inwards, outwards, and upwards.

There are markets, opportunities, and talent waiting to be exploited.


Sunit Prakash is an ICT professional based in Wellington specialising in consulting and advising corporates on what it takes to deliver superior IT services to their customers. He has an MBA from Bombay University and has extensive global experience in the ICT industry. He is co-author of Strategic Lean Service, a case study of how a global service delivery organisation used Lean to drive organisational transformation and achieve customer satisfaction. His areas of interest lie in the Indian Diaspora, their IT successes overseas, outsourcing and multi-sourcing, business & trade, and technology - in Asia-Pacific with a particular focus on New Zealand, Australia and India. Reposted with kind permission.


You must be logged in in order to post comments. Log In

Sunit Prakash 16 March 2020, 9:57 am

This article was originally published in CIO NZ.


Web Development by The Logic Studio