A clutch of start-ups floated by former railway employees has been successful in drawing more customers towards the railways by designing alternative types of containers.
A firm founded by Naresh Kumar – Kalyani Cast Tech — has designed containers that help provide services on the rail mode on an end-to-end basis. Kumar claims that the services are at least 10 per cent cheaper than transportation by road especially for lighter cargo.
His former colleagues from the Indian Railways — Rajnish Kumar, Amit Kumar and Durgesh Govil — have founded a container train operating firm Pristine Logistics, which has been running these boxes on a small stretch between Jamnagar and Ludhiana.
Kumar now hopes to run the trains on newer stretches.
Adjusting railway routes to ensure that they can run double stack containers of smaller size can mean big business for railways, according to Kumar.
Stacked one atop the other, the smaller-sized containers— an innovation by Kumar — are already successfully chugging between Jamnagar and Ludhiana/Rewari for the last 15 months. These containers are moved by Pristine Logistics.
Kumar stressed on the importance of “end-to-end” pricing, as the cost of moving goods usually tends to increase after taking into account the last-mile handling on roads.
Kumar believes that lighter traffic can be weaned away from the road sector if the Indian Railways uses these containers across all routes. Lack of sufficient air space — both vertically and horizontally — prevents the movement of such double-stack containers across the rail network.
The network has foot-overbridges, roofs above platform, among others. This infrastructure could get damaged if these containers, stacked one over the other, are allowed to move.
That said, newer railway routes are opening up for dwarf containers. The new routes that the Indian Railways will open up soon include Jamanagar-Vasai, Jamnagar-Hyderabad and Ludhiana-Mumbai-Hyderabad, said Kumar.
Kumar has studied and arrived at a list of routes that can be cleared for movement of such double-decker container trains.
These rail routes will connect Delhi/NCR with various destinations like Chennai,
Adjusting railway routes to ensure that they are able to run double stack containers of smaller size could mean big business for the railways
Benagaluru, Pune, JN Port near Mumbai, and Siliguri; and Punjab/Haryana with Mumbai in the West, South and East sectors.
These routes move 70 per cent of the country’s container cargo, Kumar said. But an investment of “below ₹1 crore” is required to make
available the requisite air space on these rail routes so that the trains lugging the double-decker containers chug through smoothly without damaging any of the infrastructure like the over-bridges.
Kumar said the latest version of dwarf containers dethe signed and made by him are at an advantageous position compared with similar containers made by other Indian and Chinese firms because the KCT containers can carry cargo of much higher volume and can accommodate extra load as well.
Much of what is moved on these routes such as FMCG, fruits and vegetables, chemicals, garments, automobiles and polymers and bulk of them are transported by road. Kumar expects the cargo to shift from trucks on road to the rail mode using containers designed and made by KCT.
Moving cargo on the railway tracks by using these containers instead of trucks could help customers avoid multiple handling, theft and dealing in cash, said Kumar. Newer and wider roads, which allow loading of heavier cargo now, are providing much stiffer competition to the Railways.
As for customers, RIL (Reliance Industries Limited) has been moving cargo using such containers on Pristine Logistics for over a year now. These can also be used for foodgrain movement for Central Warehousing Corporation, according to studies.
These wagons can also be used to transport two- and four-wheelers at low costs. KCT has also been in talks with road sector players to promote usage of its dwarf containers along with smaller containers.
Kumar is optimistic about the revenue that these containers will generate.
As customers look out for ways to slash logistics costs, there is bound to be an additional investment in these containers and wagons over next few years. Economic growth coupled with traffic weaned away from roads can potentially generate some 100 million tonne of extra cargo. To move such volumes of cargo, investments will be needed for over a million containers (about ₹7,500 crore) and wagons (another ₹7,500 crore). These investments can generate a revenue of ₹15,000-18,000 crore every year for the Indian Railways, said Kumar.
In fact, he has also designed small-sized boxes, into which smaller loads — of less than a truck-full — can fit in. Such smaller, standardised boxes can also fit into the dwarf containers and help the Railways attract lighter, high-value and parcel cargo.
Kumar hopes that someday these boxes will become the standard or most used containers in India, and may be beyond India as well.