Third-party logistics service provider Mahindra Logistics Limited - a part of the Mahindra Group -- is in talks with vaccine manufacturers and is in process of capacity creation for Covid-19 vaccine logistics. The company expects vaccine supply to gain traction in the first quarter of 2021-22.
Going forward, the company's vaccine strategy includes blocking capacity with airlines for international freight forwarding, finalising warehousing plans keeping in mind the specific needs of Covid-19 vaccine storage, and helping its transport partners ramp up the capacity of their fleet keeping in mind the transportation needs of the vaccine.
Speaking to BusinessToday.In Rampraveen Swaminathan, CEO, Mahindra Logistics, said, "We are in talks with the Indian pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines for logistics solutions. We are already in the vaccine supply logistics and are in the process of ramping up capacity specific to the needs of the Covid-19 vaccine. We expect more acceleration on the Covid-19 vaccine supply front towards the first quarter of the next fiscal when more biotech companies will get regulatory approvals."
The company is looking at both international as well as domestic demand for the vaccine and is in the process of creating capacity for the same. For the international freight forwarding, the company is tying up with multiple airlines and is identifying nations where sponsored vaccination programme will be implemented.
"For international freight forwarding, we have blocked capacity with multiple airlines. We have also expanded capacity with the airlines. We will be looking at markets like South America and Africa among others. Our focus will be on the markets where sponsored vaccination programme will be implemented," Swaminathan added.
On the domestic front, the company is in the process of finalising warehousing contracts to cater to the vaccine supply. "We have identified one warehouse in South India and one in West India. The warehouses will offer temperature-controlled environment for the storage of the vaccines," Swaminathan said.
Once the warehouses are ready, the company will apply for US FDA approvals for the warehouses. Swaminathan expects that the US FDA approval for the warehouses will come in by second quarter of FY22. The third aspect of the company's vaccine strategy is to ramp up programme with its transport partners.
Being asked why the company's Covid - 19 vaccine logistics-related plans are focused around the first and second quarter of the next financial year while the vaccination has already started beginning January 16, Swaminathan said that currently the entire ecosystem is managed by the government. He also pointed out that Serum Institute of India which is manufacturing the Covishield vaccine is the only vaccine maker that is doing it at a scale.
"So by the first quarter of the next financial year, the vaccine supply is expected to be scaled up, thereby creating more demand for logistics service providers," he pointed out.
The company witnessed a good recovery from the Covid lows in the third quarter of the current financial year. The company posted a 17.42 percent increase in the consolidated net profit at Rs 18.40 crore in the quarter ended December. The management attributes the profit to continued traction in the non-auto segments like e-commerce, pharma and cross-border logistics.
To date, apart from SII's Covishield, Bharat Biotech's indigenous vaccine Covaxin is being used in the country to inoculate people against Covid -19. The mass inoculation drive against the virus began on January 16. Over 68 lakh people have been inoculated in the country with an average of slightly over two lakh doses being administered daily.