As the lockdowns began in Bangladesh for the second time two weeks ago, many feared that essential supplies from bread and butter to vegetables and bakeries would run short, causing a wave of panic buying and stocking up. Supply chain disruption is not uncommon amid the lockdown. We experienced that in 2020. Prices go up. Certain items become difficult to access. But things rarely completely fall apart.
Thanks to fleets of delivery trucks, a new type of front-line warriors truck owners and drivers we tend to overlook, and the new generation of logistics services like Truck Lagbe, we can access daily necessities relatively consistently and essential supplies can reach from one part of the country to another amid a once in a hundred years pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has created huge supply chain challenges in Bangladesh. With truck stands closed, limitations on movements, and demand in areas such as the deliveries of important supplies, maintaining the flow of food to supermarkets, and ensuring humanitarian supplies and other individual logistics needs, logistics has become a key challenge. “It is a nightmare,” one industry insider told us, explaining the challenges in the industry.
At the same time, with businesses closed, SMEs shut, non-food retailers out of operation, along with the hospitality industry, parts of the logistics industry that previously worked with SMEs and other businesses have found themselves suddenly without work resulting in loss of business. In fact, the traditional logistics market was in complete disarray during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown. A highly fragmented and unorganized industry, the logistics sector took a severe hit in business amid the widespread fall of demands for logistics services due to the closure of businesses.
The challenge was and is multifaceted. Suddenly, businesses that need logistics solutions could not access trucks on one hand, and on the other hand, drivers could not find trips.
Thankfully, the shockwave that hit the logistics industry and challenges businesses subsequently faced due to the unavailability of logistical services has been mitigated by services like Truck Lagbe to a great extent by enabling a digital platform for logistics services.
In 2020, when lockdown came into effect in March, Truck Lagbe played a critical role in helping businesses run their logistics operation and individual users to find logistics support on time. This year when lockdown came into effect two weeks ago, Truck Lagbe has prepared itself with experience from the last year to support businesses and essential logistics needs in the market. The company has taken a meaningful role in helping to keep the businesses running their supply chain in highly challenging circumstances.
Truck Lagbe is a Dhaka-based digital trucking startup that connects truck owners and shippers via web and app. This brokering of logistics is proving invaluable to the companies, essential good suppliers, and individuals in need of logistics service amid the coronavirus pandemic. Truck Lagbe has become a necessary service amid the coronavirus pandemic and on and off lockdown.
“We learned from our experience during the previous lockdown,” says Truck Lagbe CEO Anayet Rashid. “We now know how to operate during a lockdown. The entire credit goes to our team. And then to our partner community. Our team has become accustomed to the uncertainty during this pandemic. The team now knows how to navigate between lockdowns and otherwise. We have been able to streamline the remote operation that has helped us to operate in full steam amid the lockdown when many services are closed and essential deliveries, and businesses continue to suffer from a lack of logistical support. Our driver and owner partners have worked harder than ever to ensure smooth transportation of necessary goods and essential supplies.”
The company has helped large businesses to maintain smooth operation amid the lockdown when logistics has greatly been disrupted. A growing number of large businesses have grown increasingly reliant on Truck Lagbe due to the unavailability of other services. The company has facilitated logistics for large businesses, government deliveries, and deliveries of essential items for a wide-ranging of organizations.
“Our driver partners have delivered all kinds of goods from daily necessities to medical equipment”, says Mr. Anayet.
Not only large organizations, development, and charity organizations doing public good work amid the pandemic have been using Truck Lagbe for logistical needs. Organizations like Bidyanondo Foundation and similar organizations have used Truck Lagbe to do the public good works.
The company says Truck Lagbe driver-partners have been extremely dedicated to supporting people amid the pandemic. “We have been lucky to enable the service to help the general people and organizations to operate amid the pandemic and in the process help our drivers and owners partner to continue their business.”
The company has worked on several government initiatives. The ICT Division has been running the Food for Nation program during the lockdown. It was effective during the last lockdown in 2020. Several startups partnered up to make it happen. Truck Lagbe has worked as a logistics partner in the project along with several other players. The company says it is likely to be a part of similar initiatives this time around as well.
Truck Lagbe gives the credit to its driver and owner partners. The company says although the broader society does not recognize truck drivers and owners as part of the frontline warriors who are fighting the pandemic from the frontline like doctors and other similar professionals, they are, to many extents, taking a huge risk to ensure the smooth working of the supply chain. Society should highlight and recognize the contributions of the people who are ensuring we have our daily essential supplies and food on our plates and the medical supplies are reaching the right place at the right time.
“If you think about bees, we do not see the direct effect of their work,” says Mr. Anayet. “But they are working silently keeping the balance of our environment. If suddenly all of the bees are dead, the balance of the environment will be damaged significantly and it will be threatening for the lives of other animals. Truck drivers are like that. They are constantly working to keep the economy going. During the first lockdown, the government and other authorities were not sure whether truck service was essential or not. Thanks to our ICT State Minister Mr. Junayed Ahmed Polok, who made people and the stakeholders understand the essentiality of trucking during the pandemic. During this lockdown, we saw the positive impact of his effort. We were not confused about whether or not trucking will be continued like we were during the last lockdown.”
Throughout the pandemic, Truck Lagbe has taken several initiatives to contribute to the smooth running of the supply chain. The company has done several interesting things such as creating trips at a base price — where one can't make any profit. During the first lockdown in 2020, the company created a new category of trips called One Taka Trips inspired by the One Taka Ahar. The trips under this category did not have any financial incentives for the drivers or Truck Lagbe. Drivers could not make money taking these trips. Despite the fact, the company says it had an excellent response from many driver partners who took these trips purely out of their sense of responsibility.
We are not familiar with these humane sides of these people. Truck drivers and owners are the people we rarely come up close. We consider them to be rough and practical and with limited capacity for feelings. The coronavirus pandemic has made them the unsung heroes.
“They are extremely compassionate,” says Mr. Anayet. “What we have seen so far working with this community throughout these lockdowns, it has been an empowering experience for me.”
We are acknowledging the contribution of different professionals amid the pandemic such as medical professionals and journalists and so on. But truck drivers and essential workers have helped us to maintain our lives while we continue to maintain social distancing. These people are frontliners enabling the functioning of our society. They should get the recognition and attention they deserve, Mr. Anayet explains.
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly presented our society with unprecedented challenges to overcome. Industries across verticals have been affected. Livelihoods have been disrupted. The natural way of life has been put on hold.
However, a host of communities, organizations, and sectors give us hope. Logistics is one of them. The logistics sector and the community of truck drivers and owners, has demonstrated flexibility, responsiveness and compassion and the strength of professionalism in supporting businesses and organizations and individuals and government initiatives to make things work amid the pandemic.
We have probably a long way to go before we are out of the woods. We are likely to meet further challenges along the way. The resilience of the logistics community — truck drivers and owners — offers reason to be optimistic.
Truck Lagbe has introduced an emergency number for the pandemic period, anyone, individuals and businesses, can hire trucks calling at 09638000245.
Naziba Ali contributed to this article.