How tech integration is enabling vaccine cold chain

The existing success rate of the vaccine drive has been made possible with the integration of technology with the cold chain industry processes. From maintaining the temperature on road by employing PCM (Phase Change Material), which can absorb large amounts of heat and keep the vaccine vials cold in the process to IoT devices and thermal sensors for monitoring and GPS sensors to track vehicles, technology is providing transparency and traceability, says Swarup Bose, Founder & CEO of Celcius cold chain marketplace

How is technology integration enabling vaccine cold chain in the country?

Swarup Bose, Founder and CEO, Celcius

The ongoing vaccine drive in India is of a colossal scale. As per the latest data provided by the government, nearly 10.6 per cent of the adults in India have been vaccinated. However, we still have a long way to go to meet the vaccine requirements of the country. The existing success rate of the vaccine drive has been made possible with the integration of technology with the cold chain industry processes. Traditionally, the cold chain industry was very fragmented due to the lack of collaboration between transporters, shippers and suppliers. There were also several hurdles when it came to monitoring the shipment, tracking the vehicle during transit and keeping a record of all the data to refer to when required. Integration of technology has helped streamline the entire process from start to finish. Technology provides transparency and traceability while also making it facile for the transporters and suppliers to collaborate and keep track of the vaccine shipments. This way, the amount of waste generated is minimal and each dose of vaccine is accounted for. This is crucial in ensuring the efficiency of the vaccine drive.

What role is Celcius playing in this whole process to ensure that vaccines reach different parts of the country?

Celcius is a cold chain marketplace and our SaaS-based platform helps aggregate shippers, transporters and manufacturers of small, medium and large scales. We ensure that we accommodate the needs of every supply chain entity that comes on board with us. We help the transporters install the latest IoT devices in their vehicles and acquaint them with our software that provides end-to-end solutions. Our platform connects the transporters to a nationwide network of manufacturers and shippers and they can collaborate with them as per their requirements. Moreover, when the transporters are en route, the manufacturers receive live reports every few hours via WhatsApp, email and SMS directly from our system, keeping them up to date with the entire operation. We also have an operations team that can track and help the transporters on the road in case of vehicle breakdowns.The diligent tracking of the vaccines right from the warehouse to the point of administration ensures that there isn’t any time period that is not accounted for. Furthermore, the vaccine centres can also access the live monitoring feature and predict the availability of the vaccines and administer them efficiently.

What are the challenges you are facing in distributing vaccines?

During the initial stages of vaccine distribution, a major challenge we faced was getting reefer vehicles that were compliant with the GDP guidelines for both storing and distributing vaccines. However, we realised early on that a large number of vehicles in the market can instead be upgraded with the latest IoT devices and tracking systems, making them GDP compliant. Our team worked on upgrading the vehicles in the initial months, and we slowly made a strong base of last mile vehicles that could distribute vaccines across 10 cities in India, and even to the remote areas surrounding those cities. Over the past six months, we have scaled up our operations and we are now capable of distributing vaccines to the last mile to over 22 cities across the country, and to around 75 cities for the primary and secondary movement of vaccines.

How is technology solving some of these issues?

Traditionally, the cold chain industry lacked integration, and it was ridden with issues around monitoring and tracking. Switching over to technology that is better equipped in solving these issues is crucial to run a seamless cold chain network. In order to aggregate the various cold chain entities like shippers, transporters and manufacturers, it helps to have a platform where they could collaborate as per their needs. Maintaining the temperature on road is something that Celcius deals with by employing PCM (Phase Change Material) as it can absorb large amounts of heat and keep the vaccine vials cold in the process. IoT devices and thermal sensors, on the other hand, can help when dealing with monitoring issues while GPS sensors can make tracking of the vehicles seamless.

How are your tech solutions helping vaccines reach rural and remotest parts of India?

In order for Celcius to penetrate rural and remote parts of India, tying up with transporters and shippers across the country is key. Smaller transporters that initially did not have the bandwidth to collaborate with larger entities can use our platform to transport vaccine shipments as per the needs of the shippers or manufacturers. For instance, we work closely with Reliance. They receive vaccines in bulk from the Serum Institute of India. The vaccines have to be moved to their cold storage warehouse in Mumbai for which we connect them with several large and medium-size transporters. From there on, the vaccines have to be delivered to the hospitals and to meet their requirements, we help Reliance collaborate with smaller transporters that help haul the vaccines to the hospitals. This interconnectivity on our platform coupled with our transporters that come from over 60 cities across the country helps us penetrate the tier 2 and tier 3 cities and even the remote parts of the country. This has enabled us to expand our operations from Mumbai to over 90 cities in India in a short span of time.

Is there any other significant factor you wish to highlight regarding the cold chain sector?

The cold chain sector needs to grow rapidly and arresting food and pharmaceutical wastage has to become one of the top priorities of the country. The government has been pushing this initiative by providing subsidies across various platforms. We encourage private logistics firms operating in the dry logistics segment to enter the cold chain sector. Celcius can assist them in setting up the right vehicles and storage units, and help them collaborate with other key players in the industry. By doing so, we can reduce the initial hiccups that come along with entering a new market. Hopefully, in the coming years, we will be able to witness tremendous growth in the cold chain industry. The growth would help cut down on the amount of waste generated with perishables and reduce their price. Celcius has the vision of being able to provide cold chain solutions on a grassroot level, to even the smallest farmers. We want to make this industry accessible to everyone.

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