The density of the population of the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, is increasing day by day but the number of retail grocery shops, and bazars of perishable foods are not sufficient to cater to the total demand. There is huge deficit between demand and supply of items in Bangladesh. In the existing traditional supply chain, there are some people involved as agents (middle-men) which cause a gap between farmers and customers.

As perishable items like fruits, vegetables and meat are an important source of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, people need these items on daily basis. In this supply chain, farmers suffer due to wastage due to system loss, retailers suffer due to frequent changing of customer demand and excess inventory cost and consumers suffer due to non-availability of fresh products and unpredictable price fluctuations.

The traditional market has been afflicted with a lot of bad practices such as using different types of harmful chemical as preservatives to keep the products looking fresh or extend their shelf-life to make them available during the off-season at high prices.

The deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected many countries across the world including Bangladesh, where many countries have been forced to implement total lockdown. All the sectors are bearing the shock of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak since March 2020 when Bangladesh was compelled to effect countrywide shutdown. The virus is mainly spread by human to human transmission via respiratory droplets like sneezing, coughing or may be talking.

People may also become infected by touching an infected person or contaminated surfaces. At this stage, government strictly advised all citizens to stay at home to stop the infection of the virus. But people need to go outside to procure necessary items, like food items and, medicine etc. As it became apparent that similar lockdown measures would be implemented in the Dhaka city, many citizens were found to procure essential items to last them for quite some time. However, perishable items cannot be stocked for a long period of time.

This has forced the people to come out of their houses to procure these items. There are some online shops where people can place order through online but it is limited for a number of items only for limited items and it is also time consuming. As social distancing is quite important and at the same time to allow people to have access to essential items from retail shops the following measure may be considered.

In traditional supply chain management customers go to retail shop and buy their products. There are thousands of products including perishable items there in those shops which they can easily buy as per their requirements. But for daily necessity items, they need to go there frequently.

In the modified supply chain management where customers do not need to go to retail shop for their necessity items. Retailers are using logistics mobile vans where all the perishable items like vegetables, fruits, fish, meat are there and customer can buy the items at their gate. Customer need not to worry about stocking those items as products are available every day at their home.

As mobile van has limited storage space it is not possible to offer many items per van, hence retailers can overcome this problem by having separate vans for different products like fish meat and poultry items in one van, fruits and vegetables in another. As retailers directly contact with all the customers, they know what items will be required the next day. During the pandemic, retailers would be benefited by using their mobile van.

As the countrywide lockdown during the current situation, there is no traffic jam within the inbound and outbound transportation. So, suppliers can provide the goods to retailer on time and retailer can provide the items to customer on time through mobile van.

There is less chance to keep inventory as customers have the opportunity to buy the items from their home and they buy the foods as per their requirements.

Mobile van can be refilled within a very short time as retail shop is not so far. Mobile van can take the data /requirements from the customer for the next days.

Retailers can use the three-wheeler paddle van rather than engine van if the distance is not far or it may be reducing the cost.

As mobile van can fix their time and schedule on area basis, they can cover more area and customer also know at what time they can reach to them.

During the lockdown situation, as people are losing their job, whereas retailers or new entrepreneur can recruit people for this.

Customer can also be benefited by using the modified supply chain during this situation.

As social distancing is more important to get protection from the virus, customers can easily buy their foods from home with social distancing.

Customers have access to buy the foods every day from home, so they do not need to stock as there is the opportunity to buy fresh products.

Customer can place order to mobile van for the next day, if the products are not available.

Customer can buy the fresh foods rather than frozen or preserved foods.

Writer: Mohammad Ali, Assistant Professor, Department of Operations and Supply Chain Management, American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB)