Charting The Evolution Of Express Courier Logistics in India

The express courier industry in India has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years. Embracing advanced technology and green initiatives, courier companies are further revolutionizing last-mile delivery to meet the changing demands of businesses and consumers. Join us as we explore the monumental shifts, innovations, and growth trajectory of India’s thriving express courier parcel logistics industry in this story.

Express courier services play a crucial role in the global economy. It supports businesses, e-commerce, and individual customers by ensuring the efficient and timely delivery of packages and documents worldwide.

Courier delivery, through continuous evolution has been working to bring the world closer together for eons. Despite, not having any specific origin, courier delivery in India has been supported by organized systems that date back to ancient times.

From being a network of messengers and runners, which were skilled in covering long distances on foot or horseback in the 4th century BCE to the 6th century CE, the courier delivery system changed to an extensive postal network called the ‘Dak Chowki’ system during the 16th to 18th century. This system involved a series of postal stations (chowkis) situated at regular intervals along major trade routes and important cities. Couriers were carried between these stations, ensuring efficient communication and trade throughout.

Then came the British East Indian Company, which further developed the postal system by introducing the first formal postal service in India. The late 18th century under colonial rule marked the beginning of the modern postal system in India with the establishment of the Calcutta General Post Office in 1774.

Over time, postal services in India expanded, with the addition of various modes of transportation and integration of telegraph services. Once again, restructured and modernized in the post-independence era under the government-operated postal and courier service, India Post continued facilitating communication and trade.

Inspired by global models like FedEx and DHL, the Indian market in the late 20th and 21st century, saw private courier companies take charge and offer courier services that were more specialized and faster in catering to the growing demand of businesses and individuals alike.

Today, courier services in India have continued to adapt and evolve to transform into Express courier and Parcel Services, catering to consumers’ every need. They now offer online tracking, express delivery options, and other modern features to meet the needs of a fast-paced, interconnected world. Most courier companies like DHL, BlueDart, FedEx, Ecom Express, Delhivery, etc. have made constant investments and innovation, particularly in technology and last-mile for improved efficiency and customer experience.

Sharing how Blue Dart has renowned itself as the ‘Logistics Company of Bharat’, Ketan Kulkarni (Chief Operating Officer, Blue Dart) shares, “Blue Dart has played a crucial role in these transformations by expanding its reach and supporting small and mid-sized parcel deliveries. Blue Dart’s extensive network, covering 55,400 locations nationwide and 220 countries worldwide, has been a key factor in its success. Initiatives like ‘DAWN – Delivery Anywhere Now’ and ‘RISE – Revenue Increase from SMEs and Emerging Markets’ have doubled the serviceable locations, particularly in Tier II and Tier III cities. These programs aim to bring the world closer to small towns and support businesses in Bharat.”

As express courier and parcel logistics in India become a significant domestic market with companies entering and expanding networks, let’s take a look at the factors that are contributing to the segment’s ongoing monumental shifts.

The monumental shifts of the Modern Express Courier Logistics

Express courier and Parcel Logistics, which refers to the collection of services that involves the delivery of various goods and products through different mediums such as air, water, and land across regions, is segmented by business model i.e. Business-to-Business [B2B], Business-to-Customer [B2C], Customer-to-Customer [C2C], Type (E-commerce and Non[1]e-commerce), and End-User (Service, Wholesale and Retail Trade, Healthcare, Industrial Manufacturing, and other end-users). It has witnessed a monumental shift in the last decade especially in terms of small and mid-sized parcel deliveries.

Ashish Sikka (Chief Strategy Officer, Ecom Express Limited) highlighting the consolidation of the market as a key development in the sector says, “The handling of Customer-to-Customer (C2C) couriers, especially for time-sensitive customers who demand live tracking of their shipments, has picked up, hence, the need for seamless customer experience while booking a courier delivery to recipient tracking it. In many ways, the traditional industry, which has historically focused more on BFSI and document[1]related services, is now undergoing product-led shifts to cater to the demand for time-sensitive and non-BFSI related courier services. This has led to courier companies offering robust customer panels that provide real[1]time updates and visibility of shipments at every stage.”

“Driven by factors such as the growth of e-commerce, technological advancements, and a focus on sustainability this segment has been booming,” says Kulkarni.

In addition to this, the change in consumer behavior and the rise of MSMEs are also contributing to the shift and growth of the segment.

Rajesh Kapase (CEO, Trackon) agrees with the same and takes our attention towards the role played by internet penetration and the introduction of GST. He says, “There has been a quantum jump in internet usage in India. Since LSPs serve thousands of pin codes in India, this has supported the use of technology in every corner of India. Also, the introduction of GST has permitted the LSPs to smoothen the movement of products inside the nation.”

Changing consumer behaviour

 India was already undergoing significant changes due to shifting customer expectations, and the pandemic further accelerated it to a point where customers now increasingly demand faster and more efficient delivery services. With the rise of e-commerce and online shopping, customers expect their parcels to be delivered quickly and accurately.

This is an abridged version of the special feature published in the August edition of the Logistics Insider Magazine. To read the complete feature, click here.