Digital Supply Chain Podcast

18 min read
October 17, 2023

Recently, Padhu Raman, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Osa Commerce joined Tom Raftery with Digital Supply Chain to speak about the intricate and fascinating world of supply chains.

In this episode, Breaking Data Silos: A Deep Dive with Osa Commerce,  they speak to the critical importance of eliminating data silos, emphasizing data quality, and bridging disparate systems in the supply chain.

Watch the full episode here:


Key Take Aways:

🚛 Breaking Data Silos: Padhu highlights the critical importance of eliminating data silos, emphasizing on data quality, and bridging disparate systems in the supply chain. 🔄

🔐 Security & Privacy: He underscored the paramount role of ensuring data security and user privacy in a world where supply chains are extending beyond enterprise boundaries. 🛡️

🤝 Collaboration and Connectivity: Padhu explained the concept of centralized logistics, offering a holistic view while permitting decentralized execution. 🔄

🚀 Future Forward: Exploring the upcoming trends, Padhu envisions a future in supply chain and e-commerce focusing on engagement, sustainability, and, crucially, a blend of AI and human interoperability. 🤖💬

🔄 Resilience in Exception Handling: Zara's striking example illustrates the prowess of a centralized logistic system in planning, executing, and, crucially, managing exceptions. 🛍️🌐

🤖 Artificial Intelligence: As we navigate through a landscape interweaving AI and human interaction, Padhu posits thought-provoking questions around collaboration, communication, authority, and transparency. 🌟

Listen in for a deep dive into these topics and a fascinating conversation around building a resilient, intelligent, and collaborative future in the realm of supply chains 🎉🚀

Read the full transcript:

Digital Supply Chain Podcast: Episode 356

[00:00:21] Tom Raftery: Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Digital Supply Chain Podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain, and I'm your host, Tom Raftery.

Hi everyone and welcome to episode 356 of the Digital Supply Chain Podcast. My name is Tom Raftery and I'm excited to be here with you today, sharing the latest insights and trends in supply chain. Before we kick off today's show, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to all of our amazing supporters.

Your support has been instrumental in keeping this podcast going and I'm really grateful for each and every one of you. [00:01:00] If you're not already a supporter, I'd like to encourage you to consider joining our community of like minded individuals who are passionate about supply chain. Supporting the podcast is easy and affordable with options starting as low as just 3 euros or dollars a month.

That's less than the cost of a cup of coffee and your support will make a huge difference in keeping the show going strong. To become a supporter, simply click on the support link in the show notes of this or any episode, or visit tiny pod. Now, without further ado, I'd like to introduce my special guest today, Padhu. Padhu, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?

[00:01:40] Padhu Raman: Thank you Tom. Padhu Raman, Chief Product Officer and Co-founder at Osa Commerce. I've been in the supply chain close to 25 plus years now. Focused primarily on the e-commerce, retailer, and the 3PL customer journey.

[00:01:57] Tom Raftery: Okay. And tell us a [00:02:00] little bit about Osa commerce Padhu, what? What is it? What is it you guys are doing?

[00:02:05] Padhu Raman: We are a technology provider. At Osa Commerce, we provide a collaborative visibility platform that primarily enables brands, retailers, manufacturers, and the logistics providers to connect the dots. So that they can connect, communicate, and collaborate efficiently.

[00:02:24] Tom Raftery: Okay. What kind of visibility are we talking about? Because again, it's kind of a broad term. Gimme a couple of practical examples of the kind of things that you're helping your customers do.

[00:02:36] Padhu Raman: Primarily, if you think about the overall landscape from a supply chain perspective, it is a complex city where you are moving away from a single enterprise to a multi enterprise solution, right? And then that's how you solve the entire supply chain problem. You talk about globalization, you talk about e-commerce growth, and when you have e-commerce growth, you have ability to connect to multiple [00:03:00] demand channels.

So now your what your traditional way of thinking in one demand channel one demand. Now demand is getting more , more fluctuations. And then you're also looking at more hyper personalization with the e-commerce penetrating the market, both from a customer request perspective and the demand perspective.

And so primarily we try to connect from the manufacturer to the end customer, the entire product so that there's a customer journey, becomes a product journey, and try to solve that as a visibility problem for effective decision making capabilities.

[00:03:34] Tom Raftery: Okay. And so again, the connecting to the end customer could be logistics so that the end customer can see where the delivery is at this point in time, but I suspect that's not what we're talking about, is it?

[00:03:51] Padhu Raman: Both right. It is one from an end customer pers. It is. It is relative, right? Who is the end customer? The end customer could be viewed from [00:04:00] an inbound perspective. If I am the 3PL or I am the shipper, I'm looking at my inbound visibility, the products coming from manufacturer to me. If I am a customer looking from a procurement or an e-commerce perspective with end customer who is pursuing the product at home, I'm looking at my orders I placed, and then from a shipper perspective, it becomes outbound journey, right?

So connecting the both, the inventory life cycle from a procurement to the e-commerce path there to the end customer, that will becomes order lifecycle. Connecting both is what primarily drives the end to end possibility.

[00:04:37] Tom Raftery: Okay. And what kind of industries are your customers in? Are they in everything or are they in, I don't know, pharmaceutical, automotive, or, you know, is it, is it specialized or is it across the board?

[00:04:53] Padhu Raman: It is generally across the board, but we primarily more focus on the lifestyle, [00:05:00] consumer goods, electronics. Mm. And high-end fashion apparel, footwear, more on the commodity retailer side. And then, but we do have some customers specializing in certain area of the verticals, but that's where our majority of customers are focus towards today.

[00:05:19] Tom Raftery: Okay. In terms of the kind of issues that you're helping solve, have you got any kind of practical examples you can talk to of problems that customers have had that you've managed to help them solve?

[00:05:35] Padhu Raman: Okay, so I'll take one use case and for one customer and explain the entire journey. Primarily this customer gives a marketplace for specialized gift articles and goods. They are shipping the product, connecting to a lot of manufacturers and retailers and artisans in India and in Africa. So they have around 17,000 [00:06:00] sellers and manufacturers that they connect to.

They help them to ship the product across to US, north America and Europe. They enable them to logistically, transport the physical product. They enable them to make that available in their own marketplace, plus all the other different marketplaces. It could be Amazon, Etsy, in their own marketplace called Expo Bazaar.

So what happens is now think about the complexity in one, connecting all these manufacturers, artisans, two giving them visibility of the current inventory positions. And giving them visibility of which demand channel the, the product is being sold. Fourth, giving them the visibility to the personalization and hyper personalization that the end customer's requesting and what modifications they can make, and then how much to actually manufacture, how much to plan for and [00:07:00] replenishment stock, all those entities, they get a real time visibility. So one, we are able to connect across all the entities. Number one, across global as well. Then we are able to establish clear communication. They're able to understand which customer has ordered what. What is my inventory level any point in time? What is my logistics cost and what is my next cycle or hardware manufacturer, rep, and what to do across multiple entities. And then the better collaboration, right? Because now everybody's synchronized. Now your freight forwarder, your triage agent, your distribution associates, their labor supplier manufacture, the, the demand channel, the buyer, everybody looking at a single source of truth to provide a better experience, better convenience, and also engage the customer in a better way, and then try to be more sustainable as well.

[00:07:57] Tom Raftery: Okay. And if I am an Osa Commerce [00:08:00] customer, how is that data presented to me? Is it. Is it an extra screen that I get? Is it a series of screens? Is it dashboards? You know, how? How does it link into my current system?

[00:08:13] Padhu Raman: Yeah, it's a great question. You have primarily as a user, you need to have the flexibility and agility to consume the data. One, if you have a no system or you have an outdated system, we provide our own dashboard and what we call as a customer portal, which a and customers could be relative, right? Which are the end customer, the the 3PLs customer could be a brand, brand supplier, everybody looking at the same data through our, what we call the Unified Commerce Tower, where they can look at the orders, inventory, freight charges, financial transactions.

They can look at the billing, the cost, the, the flight charges, the logistics costs, the labor charges in one centralized platform. Apart from that, say you already have certain mechanism [00:09:00] to consume the data. Then we can expose through our own integration APIs and other mechanisms to expose them so that your entity can consume the data in your entities that you're con you're probably connected to multiple other systems, right?

So we give the flexibility of internal data as well as external data as well.

[00:09:22] Tom Raftery: Okay. And we've seen a huge explosion in talk about and interest in AI in the last 10 months or, or, or more, particularly since the release of ChatGPT. How is AI impacting you guys? I assume it's something that you've had built into your systems already, but with this new rise in interest, are you bringing in any of the newer generative AI technologies into your systems?

And what use are you making of AI any anyway?

[00:09:54] Padhu Raman: Yeah, it's a great question. And see, as a technology provider, we continuously focus on [00:10:00] adding new innovation and expanding and providing, basically, if you think about supply chain itself, it's a very complex operation, but from a end user, from an consumer perspective, we have to simplify it. That's where we continuously focus on how do we simplify this complex problem. In two, I'll just give you, we use AI in many places, but I'll select two areas where we are hyper focused on making this complexity more simple.

One is where we are trying to do this in the integration, right? Because today, if you think about when you're connecting to multiple entities, your integration is one of the major challenges. It takes almost weeks and months and some of the integration, if you look at a plan, it's, it could be almost a year, based on my past experience, I've seen this a major complex. What we provide AI is to make two system talks to auto generate the integration capabilities without human intervention. That's one [00:11:00] area we are pretty focused on. The second area is also focused on decision making, based on understanding the real-time metrics, because we get a lot of data when we are connected to multiple entities.

We get order inventory, finance, product lifecycle, product management, product, and, abolition. I mean, we get every bit of data in the, in the whole entity. So we primarily make the journey of consuming the data, using a better metrics management. Creating a baseline, we try to automate all the entities. So the change management and consumption of the information could be in a most simple way where we try to channelize or synthesize into three metrics that they look at on a daily basis.

And those metrics are created through AI driven management. It could be a replenishment quantity, it could be an economic order quantity, or it could be a order consumption how we want to manage. So we try to synthesize that.

[00:11:58] Tom Raftery: Okay. What [00:12:00] about things like robotics as well? Is that something that you guys are coming across interested in, able to work with? How does that figure in.

[00:12:07] Padhu Raman: Yeah, I mean, robotics is actually going to penetrate any, everywhere. There are multiple avenues where robotics can help. One, I'll take apic, a specific example is within our distribution centers. Whereas we are seeing a lot of robotics penetration in the last couple of years, or maybe after Amazon put in the Kiva robots.

There are a lot of increase in that area. So we have we definitely see robotics as one of the ways where we can optimize the, the execution of supply chain abilities.

And secondly is also labor. Labor is getting a very big challenge. So distribution centers are looking for better way to actually meet the customer service level.

So robotics is one way penetrating in every area. We basically work with multiple different robotics vendors whether it's a goods to person, or person to goods, primarily focusing [00:13:00] on how to optimize ability to pick, pack, and ship in the most efficient way at a, the, at the most least cost that we can support it.

[00:13:11] Tom Raftery: Okay. With all these multiple connections to multiple organizations and the whole value chain is there the possibility that this is opening up new vulnerabilities for bad actors to come in?

[00:13:29] Padhu Raman: Absolutely. The, the biggest challenge the industry today faces is definitely the, what they call as a supply chain cyber challenges, right? The cyber data, data breaches, data security. And if you think about recent times, if you see even in Target the many other places, this is continuously happening, right?

So one of the things that we inherently built in the platform is a focus on the cybersecurity. Especially when we are connecting because we hold, we connect to multiple entities. We hold [00:14:00] multiple data. So the data becomes a predominant part. So we have to keep the security and the privacy as key aspect. So, we have a lot of ability to create that entity. We basically encrypt all the information. These, especially when we are exchanging information across multiple systems, we focus on very very rigorous and ability to security layer, to, to connect. We put in a lot of tokens and ensuring that there is an no leakage of information or no penetration of information.

Apart from that, the majority of the time we also spend in actually educating the entire network, right? Because it's, although we might be really in the, in the forefront of a security perspective, but not all players, because many of them are still in unstructured environment and people are still using, if, if you talk to, when you connect to multiple carriers, They just don't have even a computer.

Right? So there are a lot of challenges that is still in the entities that is going on. [00:15:00] So we, most of the time we focus on educating them and updating them what needs to happen from a cybersecurity perspective. And and, and also we are building our framework on blockchain hyper technology so that we can enforce more security layers as part of it.

So those are the broader things we are working on. One continuous innovation, two, change management and education to the entire entity and why it is important and how they can prevent themselves and prevent the entire ecosystem of the data and continuously enhancing, and encrypting and introducing the new innovative technologies to secure the information.

[00:15:39] Tom Raftery: Okay. And it, it's interesting that you mentioned education because. I'm sure you're not just educating your customers about cybersecurity, but there must be other aspects as well that you have to educate your customers and their employees about your products.

[00:15:57] Padhu Raman: Absolutely right, I mean, it's a continuous, uh, as part of the [00:16:00] solution we focus on because again, when always there is a technology change or a process change, apart from integration being a challenge and supply change, that's second biggest challenge as a change management.

[00:16:13] Tom Raftery: Yep.

[00:16:13] Padhu Raman: people are introduced to a change, there's always a resistance because it disturbs their day to day aspect.

But once they understand the benefit, right? Ultimately the technology actually actually solve three key problems, right? Hey, one, is it helping me and my customer increasing the service level; two, is it going to benefit me in saving the cost, and also any loss cost. And three is going to help me in changing my lifestyle by increasing my revenue in every aspect of that, right?

So once we are able to convince that this technology or this solution, because it's not just all the platform, right? It is a combination of people, process, and the platform, right? So we have to take the people on board, introduce the [00:17:00] right process. Technology is always there, whether our technology or there are a lot of technology available, but if you don't have the right combination of the people, process, and platform, then it becomes a challenge in not any, any adoption.

So we focus on educating them on the product. We provide them a lot of online access and educative tools and videos and webinars continuously educate. And, apart from that, as part of that, we also stress on data quality, breaking the data silos, security, unifying the information, and looking at driving everything on our system, which helps them to drive a better efficiency.

[00:17:39] Tom Raftery: Looking across all of your customer base over the last number of years, what do you think are the main challenges that are facing them in supply chain these days?

[00:17:51] Padhu Raman: It is definitely one, it's a siloed data, right? Data being very siloed. And as I said in the, in the beginning, [00:18:00] today's supply chain is moved outside from an inside enterprise to across enterprise, right? So that means how soon, how broader, you share the data and break the data silos, that helps in the better visibility.

Two. The second thing is we are connecting to multiple different disparate systems. That could be some of the systems are legacy systems. Some are simple, still they're using Excel, some are using advanced systems. So there has to be a normalization of connecting and we see a lot lack of that standardization still happening and people are doing it.

And then second, third is definitely, we talked about security and privacy and the different level of security they are in and how we can manage and do it. So, these primarily connecting the data across disparate systems, standardization of the processes and ultimately building them a kind of a confidence and trust so that we can solve this entire complex in a more simple and easy way.

[00:19:00] And ultimately they, they can collaborate. Once they break this, they're able to collaborate. Then they can see, okay, cost is going down, revenue's increasing, and I'm able to sell my customers well.

[00:19:11] Tom Raftery: Okay. And on the logistics front talk to me a little bit about the advantages of uh, centralized logistics.

[00:19:19] Padhu Raman: Yeah. In fact, it is a very good question. In fact if you think about what is the advantage of, I would say more of a centralized review and a decentralized execution, right? So you still, you have the, the system. Everybody's able to look at same data at the centralized view perspective, but still their ability to execute individually.

Right? A manufacturer is going to execute through his manufacturing system. A freight forwarder will have his own TMS, he is going to execute through his own systems. Custom clearance will be a different system, and so every entity in the supply chain is still going to focus on decentralized execution. But, ultimately they're looking at the same [00:20:00] data that is coming from the centralized logistics system, right? More often hub where it understands how the orders are going to be Second is how optimal, where do I allocate from, from a cost perspective, right? So you say you are a you, you, you are out of Europe. And you make an order in one of the marketplaces, the system should automatically recognize where you are ordering from, which is the nearest distribution center. I should be able to allocate the orders to pick back and ship to you at the shortest interval of time at the most optimal cost, right. If so, that's so again, second thing is there could be no inventory available in that geolocation.

Then what is alternate nearest location? Okay. America's is the next nearest location example, right? So it should be able to pick back from ship from America, right? So that is where your centralized logistic view will provide ability to manage. Can optimize and then satisfy the customer experience, right?

[00:21:00] I'll give you Zara as one fantastic example, right? Zaras, if you think about it, the entire, although they have all the network nearby, they connected it, but still from a systemic perspective, they can do three to four trial inventory runs, three to four times better than their competitors. Right. And, and the design to I, because I say I and fashion designed to the Fast Pro finished product, they do it in two to three weeks.

How is that possible? The main thing is they have connected all this entities and ecosystems in one centralized view. Each one is able to understand the, the progress, look at the decision making, and also exceptions management. The biggest advantage of centralized logistic system, not only planning and executing what has been planned, but an exception happens.

How do you recover from that? How do you reallocate? How do you re-manage? And that is where the critical component comes into picture.

[00:21:51] Tom Raftery: Okay. And looking ahead for the next 2, 3, 4, 5 years, what do you see as the main trends that are going to happen [00:22:00] in supply chain? Where are things headed to?

[00:22:02] Padhu Raman: So it's a good question. If you think about overall period, what has come from a supply chain and e-commerce perspective, the beginning of like the two thousands. Or the nine early two thousands was more focused on the customer experience. You had the retail store, retail commerce. You had a malls, you had a big focus on customers coming in the retail experience and everything was like channeled. One channel manufactured to the distributor or retailer. Everything was optimized. When Amazon came, you call it a convenience model, right, which is in the 2010. The past decade. So everybody got the convenience. They say I'm getting experience in, in the marketplace, but I'm getting convenience.

I'm getting it delivered quicker, faster. Now, if the next uh, aspect is engagement, people are looking over how do I interact, how do I personalize. I mean even Google has disassociated from the marketplace and focusing on YouTube engagement and creating a shopping channel out it, right? So the [00:23:00] engagement becomes a major path.

Social commerce coming into picture, right. And then finally, the sustainability, the re-commerce. So what I see is the past decades were focused on experience and convenience. The future decades is going to carry on that model, focused on more engaging and being sustainable, and all our supply chain, e-commerce will roll on all the factors, experience, convenience, engagement, and cost of the product.

[00:23:26] Tom Raftery: Nice. Nice. We're coming towards the end of the podcast now Padhu. Is there any question I have not asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to think about?

[00:23:40] Padhu Raman: So generally I would say supply chain is a very complex entity. We have to simplify. The biggest, as you did touch upon, is the artificial intelligence and AI and how it's going to impact. The one of the things that I think everybody has to think about in future[00:24:00] with keeping AI as a framework is how are we going to live in a world of interoperability between AI and human interaction, and how is that going to play? Because you're going to integrate with systems with one on human side and AI other side. How is that all collaboration, communication and, and connectivity is going to be established, who is going to establish a, a more of an authority in decision making and always going to be a mutual learning across the ecosystems.

And then finally focusing on the transparency. How is that all going to play out?

It's a big question and I think a collaborative approach of technology and a proper thought process and execution with the right process, we can achieve that. I think that's one of the thought, I think everybody has to start thinking, at this point.

[00:24:49] Tom Raftery: Cool. Cool. And if people would like to know more about yourself or any of the things we discussed on the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

[00:24:58] Padhu Raman: Yeah, they can email me [00:25:00] at Padhu at osa or connect me on LinkedIn. Happy to connect and share my experiences and, and as I said, mutual learning.

[00:25:08] Tom Raftery: Great. Great. Padhu, that's been really interesting. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.

[00:25:13] Padhu Raman: Thank you. Thanks. Thanks for the time.

[00:25:15] Tom Raftery: Okay, thank you all for tuning in to this episode of the Digital Supply Chain Podcast with me, Tom Raftery. Each week, over 3, 000 supply chain professionals listen to this show. If you or your organization want to connect with this dedicated audience, consider becoming a sponsor. You can opt for exclusive episode branding where you choose our guests or a personalized 30 second mid roll ad.

[00:26:00] It's a unique opportunity to reach industry experts and influencers. For more details, hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn or drop me an email to tomraftery at outlook. com. Together, let's shape the future  of the digital supply chain. Thanks. Catch you all next time.

Get Email Notifications