A Mumbai based cold-chain startup, Celsius serves as a unique aggregator platform and offers solutions for both Reefer logistics and cold storage warehousing. Celcius was launched in November 2020 and since then has transported over 4000 tonnes of perishable cargo for sectors like Dairy, Pharma, Fruits, and Seafood across 98 cities in India and have also ventured outside the country. Apart from these sectors, a technology driven cold-chain solution like Celcius also has a key role to play in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine across the country. Rajneesh Raman, Co-Founder and COO, Celcius during an interaction with Nitisha from BISinfotech elaborates the value of cold chain market in India. He also shares the upcoming plans and future offerings.
Kindly explain Celcius and its special offerings? How is it different from other cold-chain companies?
The Indian cold chain landscape needs a better structure to aid its operational functions and Celcius fulfills this need. Celcius is a cold chain aggregator platform. We provide a marketplace for cold chain entities like transporters, shipping companies, manufacturers, and warehouse storage owners to connect and collaborate with one another. Our SaaS based platform handles onboarding of clients, and syncs with cold chain-specific IoT devices and thermal sensors to provide live readings and updates to the shippers and suppliers. Celcius helps small scale transporters in meeting GDP compliance by upgrading their cold chain technology. Celcius’ aim is to create a nation-wide network of small, medium, and large-scale cold chain institutions to facilitate seamless workflow within the industry. At present, Celcius is the only cold chain marketplace entity in India.
How has the cold chain market evolved since 2020?
The cold-chain industry came into the forefront in 2020 as the demand for these services increased. The Indian government recognised the need for a robust cold chain system and started providing more subsidies to the sector. The Make in India initiative bolstered manufacturers from tier 2 and 3 cities. The MOFPI (Ministry of Food Processing Industry) helped set up more food processing plants while the National Horticulture Board (NHB) and the Agricultural and Processed Food Product Export Development Authority (APEDA) helped increase the infrastructure of cold chain facilities. The dire exigency and the added subsidies from the government inspired many to establish their startups in this sector, and pushed several existing dry logistics companies to venture into the cold chain segment. Private investors are now liberally investing in cold chain startups, especially since vaccines hit the market. The industry’s growth rate is expected to reach 20% CAGR by 2025.
How can the cold chain industry streamline its services to accommodate for the lack of cold chain infrastructure?
The Indian cold chain market requires around 1.5 to 2 lakh reefer trucks to meet the demand but there are currently around 50,000 reefer trucks. The recent advancements in the industry is expected to narrow the gap, however, it is crucial that we double-down on the existing infrastructure and utilise it to the best of our ability. India requires an interconnected cold chain system, ensuring all the cities and rural areas have access to basic cold chain products like pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, and perishable consumables like fruits, vegetables, and meat. This network will empower smaller transporters and warehouse owners to reach out to bigger cold chain manufacturers and work with them, thereby increasing their visibility. Celcius is striving to build such a network to tackle the disintegration within the industry and to build alliances between cold chain enterprises.
What role does technology play in the transportation of cold chain products?
Conventionally, the cold chain industry was not accustomed to employing technology in their operations, leading to mishaps on the road and storage facilities. Technology has come a long way in eliminating these errors. Technology combats unforeseen circumstances enroute, allows entities to monitor shipments, track the vehicle during transit, and store data seamlessly. Technology opened the gateway to transparency, interconnectedness and better integration between suppliers and transporters.
IoT devices and thermal imaging/thermal sensing technology makes it easier to monitor temperature stability while shipping and storage. The industry has also shifted to PCM (Phase Change Material) instead of dry ice, as it is a lot more effective at maintaining the required temperature without requiring constant refills. Tech devices can also detect pressure changes within the reefer trucks and storage containers, sense if the vehicle doors are unlocked, and can provide regular status alerts and updates. Having access to such vigilant tracking and monitoring minimises the amount of cold chain waste generated, and it also ensures that each order is well accounted for.
What are your future plans for the growth of the company?
In May of this year, we were fortunate enough to raise about $500,000 as our seed funding. We are grateful to the institutional VCs like MaGEhold, Keiretsu forum, EVAN, LUMIS partners, Huddle, Mumbai Angels and some international investors that showed confidence in Celcius’ offerings. With the funds, we are looking to expand our team and operations across the country. Currently, Celcius operates across 97 cities in India, but we aim to establish a reach all over the country. By next quarter, our goal is to broaden our services to 200 cities across the country and establish several other headquarters. We also plan on using the funds to scale up our partner base and to enhance our tech platform to make it more efficient.
What kind of challenges the industry is facing and how can be coped up with such situations?
The pandemic nudged the cold chain industry to the forefront. Previously, the sector was underfunded, leading to poor infrastructure, which the industry is still grappling with. In the next decade, a steady growth in reefer transports and pack housesis expected but it will only be possible if entities in the industry work together. Besides the paucity of proper infrastructure, upgrading to the latest cold chain technology still remains a far cry for a lot of the local storage space owners and transporters, making it harder to collaborate with suppliers, which reduces their visibility.
Celcius is tackling this issue by providing shippers/storage owners, who come on board, with necessary facilities to upgrade their technology. We’re aiding them under our scheme — Vahan Vikas Yojana, where we provide income guarantees and other financial aid to small-scale cold chain entities. Moreover, the cold chain sector also struggles with making its products available to remote/rural areas of the country. Meeting this end will require the industry to amplify their assistance towards the regional cold chain businesses as much as possible as they are the key to reaching the rural and remote areas of the country.
Is there any new project you are working on? Explain.
Celcius’ platform has evolved and grown tremendously since our inception. We ensure that with every update, our platform gets better and more efficient at what it does. To take things forward, we are working on integrating WMS (Warehouse Management System) and TMS (Transportation Management System) onto our platform to enable seamless assimilation of the two services. Our goal with this integration is to create a holistic end-to-end supply chain solution for the cold chain industry that encourages the upcoming cold chain entities and startups to tie-up with us.