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COVID-19 remodels business structure of transport

Komfie Manalo

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The transport sector has responded to the calls of times and rethinked their business structures in response to the disruption in supply chain brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in ages, a large part of the nation is at a standstill. Never before has mobility been crippled this extensively, not even during nationwide strikes or any political upheaval. Some businesses have begun revealing vulnerabilities due to lack of safety nets to help cushion the impact of unprecedented dilemmas. Others have turned threats into opportunities, effectively filling gaps created by the coronavirus pandemic.

When the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was swiftly implemented, Victory Liner Inc was forced to shut down its passenger transport operations.

“After ensuring safe storage of our assets, we transported all of our personnel back to their provinces so no one will be stranded in Metro Manila,” recounted Marivic Del Pilar, VLI’s vice president for Finance and Marketing.

“We reassessed and restructured our finances to make sure we’ll get through tough times and arranged financial aid for our employees,” she adds.

The company then shifted its focus to its cargo services, keeping provinces and regions in Luzon connected even when the people are forced to self-isolate.

Supply chain disruptions
When provincial hospitals clamored for protective gear to safeguard its frontliners from the highly-infectious Coronavirus, Victory Liner was one of the private organizations instrumental in transporting protective equipment and medical supplies where they’re badly needed.

In March, the number of COVID-19 cases started to surge, highlighting the scarcity of PPEs specially in remote areas of the country. The bus company was in the best position to guarantee that these equipment will reach its destination, having efficiently integrated cargo with passenger transport operations in 2018 through its Drop N’ Go service.

Since its launch, Victory Liner’s cargo service has not only helped spur economic progress in the provinces, but has also served as a link between regions, provinces, cities, and people.  Its terminal-to-terminal logistics system maximizes its passenger transport operations and effectively keeps down the cost of its service.

“We can move goods faster than other cargo and logistics companies because we do not need to wait or consolidate cargoes.  We can put freight items such as furniture, raw materials, food and appliances in the underbelly of our buses which are dispatched by the hour.  Our service is fast and more importantly, cheaper,” explained Del Pilar.

The company caters to both trade and retail clients. Businesses rely on them to transport raw materials and trading supplies up in the highlands while small-time traders in the provinces find it more affordable to convey their goods to the National Capital Region if they use their services.

She shares, “Dagupan retailers supplying to Metro Manila customers depend on our cargo service for their daing na bangus business.”

More notably, it also serves as a bridge between family members living apart. A mother from Manila can send snack food items to her daughter who is studying in a Baguio university.  Parents of workers who hail from Tuguegarao but currently working in NCR are able to give their children a sack of rice per month.

Despite limited logistics caused by the quarantine, Victory Liner kept the vegetable supply chain of Luzon up and running by dispatching produce from Baguio down to Metro Manila where they can be sold. By delivering solutions for the farmer’s logistics problem, it has concurrently helped fill the gap in vegetable supply in NCR.

Adapting to the situation
Multiple industries were hit hard by the pandemic, transforming the business landscape, with many scrambling to stay relevant and competitive.

Del Pilar says, “The shutdown of public transport  has taken a toll on our financial position.  In spite of this, through careful planning, budget, and control, we should be able to find ways to come out of this crisis to serve the commuting public again.” Although caught off-guard, the company was able to fulfill needs for logistics, allowing them to operate and provide essential services despite limitations imposed by ECQ.

Victory Liner’s cargo operations are currently operating at 35% capacity, with no plans as of yet to resume provincial bus operations. “We cannot say we will be 100% ready and perfect [for the new normal],” shares Del Pilar, “but we are working towards providing a safe bus service for our customers and their goods.  Policies tend to change by the day so we are ready to adapt and comply.”

Adapting includes gradual digitization of their processes, not to replace existing manpower but to serve as a tool to streamline operations.  “With social distancing awareness in place, people will want to monitor things through their mobile apps,” explains Del Pilar.

Also being mulled over is potential partnership with motorcycle courier companies so they can extend services to door-to-door deliveries.

Victory Liner believes that for businesses to survive post-outbreak under the so-called “new normal,” companies should be more digitally adept. The trend points at massive automation of systems and processes.

However, the challenge right now is coming out alive from the pandemic and it is clear that the private sector plays a major role in crisis management through a meaningful collaboration with the government. Businesses are being asked to step up and help in any way they can.

“We are glad that we were able to transport some frontliners and government officials during the ECQ period.  Indeed, transport will always be a necessary part of the economy,” Del Pilar reflects.

The Victory Liner cargo delivery service serves several provinces in Luzon. To send a package, go to the Drop & Go office of your chosen Victory Liner terminal, accomplish the provided freight form with your personal and delivery information. Present the items for weighing, inspection, and cost evaluation. Pay the fee.

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