The lobby at Hotel Zuri, Whitefield, hardly two kilometers from the Daimler Truck Innovation Centre, is quiet.
“Can we meet over breakfast?” asked Phaniraj Murti, a decade-long friend in the logistics domain, over the phone within hours after he noticed my arrival notice via the Indian Logistics Club WhatsApp group, crafted by another doyen, Krishna Guha.
I ‘Yes’sed for the next morning meet- the day Narendra Modi-led BJP would sweep three state elections later in the day and dash the hopes of his political rivals.
Phani chose the venue closer to my nephew’s residence where I was put up — just behind the Daimler Innovation Centre.
Soon, we were seated in the sparsely filled spacious restaurant. Early morning 8.30. Sunday. Hotel guests might be sleeping still in their cozy rooms. The music was loud in the restaurant. Why? No idea.
Fiftyish Phani has been coaching prospective candidates in the logistics/supply chain segment through his academy for the past couple of years in Bengaluru, his hometown. He offers 30/60/100 hours classes stretched over three months. Plus, an internship is arranged for the candidates, and placement is assured for those who pass out with the Logistics Sector Skill Council certification.
Women constitute 30% of his students from Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamilnadu. “They are interested in a career in logistics,” adds the tall Phani.
The A to Z of logistics/supply chain is imparted to the undergraduates with full-time coaches and visiting faculty from the industry forming the academy’s core. Phani played a significant role in creating the curriculum for Bangalore University’s Logistics and Supply Chain degree course. “So, I know what needs to be taught,” says he.
What about his placement record? A sheepish smile escapes his tight lips.
Phani is not to be blamed, however. What’s the ground reality?
“Their expectations are too high,” avers he between biting into his puri, dipped in the warm aloo sabzi. (I settle for idli, vada, pongal).
“Upwards of Rs.75,000 monthly salary, they expect,” explains he. There’s a pause. I read his face. It signals a bit of discomfort. It tells that he is not in agreement with such a deal.
75k for a fresher? No entrant in any domain can dream of such a start. Therefore, Phani has nothing to boast of in terms of placement.
What’s his assessment of entry salary in the logistics and supply chain at the undergraduate level? Rs. 15,000–20,000/-
He blames the education vertical. “They hype the whole thing. Rs.8 lakhs annual package, they tom-tom for an MBA. They are into enticing candidates into their colleges. Showcasing such a high package is a business trick,” says he.
When he sits with such Rs.8 lakh package guys and explains that the actual salary works out to Rs.2.3 lakhs and the rest is based on their performance: deliverables. “They refuse to read those things,” laments he.
He talks about one of his students whom he placed at Rs.15,000/- a few years ago, who now gets Rs.80,000. This transformation and hike in pay came through diligent performance. Patience is missing.
“Logistics is a physically demanding job. Freshers look at an airconditioned workplace, fewer working hours, and, last but not the least, is a good female presence in the office,” says Phani.
Simply put, they expect desk jobs, not in warehouses or distribution hubs. Nobody wants to do the hard work.
Phani concedes logistics is quintessential for the $5 trillion dream. He categorically pooh-poohs the notion that rail will cannibalize road transportation. “No way. Yes, their share may go up with the size of the cake enlarging. Nothing can match the door-to-door service of road transport,” he adds.
In the middle of the conversation, he removes his jacket. Maybe the talks got hotter! Or is it the mirchi in the chutney?
With filter coffee, we conclude. Shake hands with a promise to remain in touch. We step out into the drizzle. He waits for the valet to bring his car and possibly on his way to his next meeting. I moved to the nearby Shantiniketan Mall to spend some time exploring the mall scenario in Bengaluru vis-a-vis my Gurguram ones.