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India cold chain the blue revolution?

cold chain

Industry leaders discuss wide aspects of cold chain and logistics to envisage a revolution that will reinvent the cold chain segment.

Indian cold chain logistics market is expected to increase by more than 14 percent by 2025; and the demand for cold storage distribution is expected to strengthen further. The present global scenario has created humungous opportunities in cold chain logistics for sectors like F&B and Pharmaceutical. Adoption of multipurpose storage systems and logistics including 3PL and 4PL services from farm-to-fork has greatly increased, but the accessibility to technology, temperature-controlled logistics, and limited financial assistance remains to be a concern. 

Impacts of pandemic on cold chain business in India 

Gubba Kiran, CEO, Gubba Cols Storage says “I think the government should commercialise the preservation and hoarding of vaccine with third party players. If you look at India’s population, we account to 130 billion, amidst the rest of the world. In fact, 60 percent of vaccines are manufactured in India. We are no less than global hub for vaccines. Now, it’s been close to one month since started receiving vaccines. It’s time the government should open up to the public and private sector. Right now, it’s available for corporates but we can also go and get vaccination, if we have a choice. So, this has to happen for real; and then Indian courts and industry serving the vaccine will strike across the country. With this kind of supply chain and reachability, I think Indian cold chain system is prepared to lever the COVID-19 inoculations. There are challenges, of course, all the courses are not yet equipped to handle the vaccine. You need to have a WHO GDP certified facility, which many courses don’t have. But it’s not challenging right now. Maybe in a couple of months you can get your cold storage or WHO GDP certification and that will allow you to preserve the vaccine. Luckily, India is connected throughout the corners right from the North to the rest of the country, also, we are prepared for rest of the world. The government must give us an opportunity to serve India and the world.

Discussing the same, Shruti Gupta, Women Chair, ISHRAE feels that from the past few decades, the government has been working primarily with respect to the blue revolution. But, along with the cold chain, they introduced Energy Conservation Building Code in 2007, which was improvised further in 2017. This code was launched primarily for the commercial sector to an extent, wherein, they decided to launch the energy conservation building code as they realised the impacts on the HVAC load on the residential, commercial and typeologies of buildings has increased. Now, launching the code is not an issue for a country with such history and such realm of practitioners and professionals; but the absorptions of these codes and guidelines into the designated state building, by laws, and then allowing the masses to absorb it by incentives.

I think India has around 10,000 cold storages in India, and we are expecting grow by another 10 percent by next 2023, says Aakarshit Madaan, Executive Director, Aakarshit Ice & Cold Storage Limited. People do tend to go out and start their own business across various industries, which actually seems like need of the hour. With the retail store providing groceries are being organised in a manner, whereby, they require a suitable facility to fill into it, along with multiple PLs systems coming into the foray. “I think this is going to magnify the number up to 8 percent in coming years. But that’s again, being bullish. Nobody hopes to meet or experience any critical situation, but for our industry, chaos is meant to be an opportunity. So, we are pretty bullish about how the growth is at the moment.”

Cold chain for farmers / agriculture

On this note, Shruti refers to sustainability development goals 7 which talks about the quality, which in this case is not just restricted. By main distribution of the resources or with respect to be of financial position, I think the cold chain should be absorbed in line with Indian farming practices. It’s important to educate them with the available and newer technologies and equip them with the infrastructure in all cities including those in Tier-I, Tier-II ad Tier-III. 

When green revolution happened in the late 90’s, the government made sure of on telecasting the importance of technology awareness amongst the farmers via Krish Darshan, on National channel. They embraced technologies like layering, grafting, technology that could help the farmers to enhance and improve their produce. Now that they are equipped with newer technologies, they must learn to conserve and preserve their produce. This becomes a mandate to serve the ever-growing population across the country. I feel that in lineage to that, if there are programs that will be channelised to make them aware of this new technical know-how to create social groups to enlighten their future generations and these technologies that would ensure that farming as a practice would have enhanced yield in the coming years and will be able to serve our population. “If investment is channelised into the process of developing technology for cold chain management for farmers, are particularly for packaging houses. I think it will help us reduce that load which is being generated for the time being because of the destruction of produce mishandling and lack of knowledge, of course”, adds Shruti.

Reducing the carbon footprints with green practices 

According to Aakarshit, there are a lot of green practices in India which can be put into the place. For example, if the government plans to bring a code, which has to be in terms of bringing about sustainable or green practices, I would say 80 percent of the cold storage would cease to existence, or they will probably come out, you know, come out on a strike, later become operational. It would take time, as these kind of activities and actions require appropriate planning and implementation of green practice codes. While talking about refrigeration, ammonia is the safest and most clean cooling mode, so when both implemented simultaneously, cost actually brings about parity to proceed with it. Also, when we talk about cost, electricity pricing is one of the major factors. VRV systems have been trending in India for some time now as a model for energy conservation in HVAC&R systems. There is there are a lot of opportunities that can be actually banked on, but there should be a willingness, which right now is missing in the present industry. So, green or sustainable cold storage is being implemented already and it will take time to flourish in India. 

 There should not be any hard culture in setting up cold storages. “If you are interested to set-up a cold storage facility, you must conduct a market analysis, don’t just rely on the McKinsey report or the NY report. These reports must be referred but an initial mud experience is a mandate. Get your hands dirty and have a real-time scenario with facts and figures, requirements, get idea of product diversification, products to be sold out in the market”, says Kiran.

When you set up a virtual facility for temperature zones like a 20ºC or 80ºC or even in (-0), for frozen food or consumable items, so if ‘A’ product fails, you can lean on the ‘B’ product and so on. And if the capital works out well, you can move towards a solar powered cold storage facility for efficient refrigeration system that will last for a longer time. The same awareness must be brought towards the farming sector by educating the farmers with the prerequisite and upgrade them with latest available technologies. 

Sustainable cooling challenges towards green factories and green cold storage  

“When we talk about the prototype being developed for cold chain, I would like to refer to the point that the National Building Code of India, entitled that the country has primary five climatic zones”, says Shruti. So, the five climatic zones into which the country has been divided, must be recognised and then the prototype development in terms of technology and machinery should be made for each climatic zone. This enables us to ensure that the minimum set-point temperatures and the humidity levels are taken care of. Only then they are implemented in that area so as to reduce the energy consumption in the cold chain facility; this can be one of the feasible solutions. When we talk about green building practices, one must look into the planning and designing part of it. Here, while designing we need to ensure existence of 5 natural elements are permitted into the building. Sunlight and air ventilation are among them – for air we have natural ventilation and cross ventilation, which are traditional or vernacular architecture. These can be equipped in all the climatic conditions, according to the human thermal comfort level and humidity levels. And if these passive technologies are introduced into the building environment according to the current active technological practices, can reduce the energy consumption.

Opportunities and challenges in India’s cold chain sector

According to Kiran, cold chain and cold storage goes hand-in-hand. Best example is COVID vaccines; it has to be distributed through reefer trucks with a temperature requirement of -20ºC, -80ºC or -20ºC and -70ºC. “These are brought in from a cold store, shifted to temperature-controlled reefer trucks and then stored in a cold store cold room factory and then to the last mile delivery. So, we need to link these channels without disruption which begins right from generation to the last mile delivery. The same process applies while exporting the vaccines to various countries.” Talking about cold chain for food, I think we have been growing constantly. Earlier, we used to consume locally grown fruits, wherein, today we are able to consume food produced across the country and even from international borders. This is feasible only because of the increasing capabilities of India’s cold chain and cold storage. 

Whereas, Aakarshit feels that the capacity and future of cold chain in India is evident. We have been able to access and consume fruits and vegetables which never really existed for us 10 years ago, but today they have become our diet and dietary preferences. This scenario will be transformed further in the coming years and cold storage and cold chain logistics will play the pivotal role in the amplification. Challenges will be there in terms of geographical locations, reachability, traceability and distribution. Government is thriving to deal with them to ease the process every time. 

Final Note

By 2050, the air conditioning load is expected to triple. So, it’s important to educate the masses with the available technologies, energy-efficient methods, required investments and expected benefits from the cooling technologies. With this kind of knowledge, we should be able to revolutionise the entire cold chain segment as “Blue Revolution”.  To bring this into existence, we must ensure that every aspect catered is addressed.

One must have passion towards their actions. Take decision with your knowledge and work from your heart. Your passion will allow you to create leaders in your business, that’s what your client wants. When industry itself has a fine approach towards the sector, anything can be achievable. And in a cold chain industry, things are looking up with a good thought and ways to move ahead with it. In terms of looking cold storage as a dedicated industry, if one perceives cold storage as a dedicated industry coaching as a dedicated industry, there’s a way to go. 


Channelising investments and technology developments for cold chain management for farmers to improve distribution towards agri cold storage.

Shruti Gupta, Women Chair, ISHRAE 

We ought to link source, storage, logistics and distribution without disruption which begins right from generation to the last mile delivery to propel our cold chain.

Gubba Kiran, CEO, Gubba Cold Storage 

Industry’s willingness to move towards sustainable cold storage is yet to encapsulate, but sustainable and green cold storage is the future of India. 

Aakarshit Madaan, Executive Director, Aakarshit Ice & Cold Storage Limited.

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