In this interview, Sapan Jain, CEO of Blubirch discussed how the company contributes to a circular economy by preserving product value, reducing unnecessary transportation, and its strategies to cater to the unique demands of online retailers and e-commerce in managing their reverse supply chains.
Read the complete interview:
TechGraph: Could you provide us with an overview of Blubirch’s journey in the reverse supply chain industry? and how has it evolved to address the needs of modern businesses?
Sapan Jain: Let us start with how the needs of retailers and OEMs have evolved first. Up until the first decade of the 21st century, retailers and OEMs could afford to treat the costs in the reverse supply chain as the cost of doing business.
With e-commerce companies increasing their presence in the marketplace, customers began to expect a seamless returns experience as a necessary condition for shopping on these platforms.
To respond, retailers across formats were forced to liberalize their returns policies. This created a significant increase in both the volume and value of returns flowing into the reverse supply chain.
In addition, the experience with returns plays a critical role in ensuring customer satisfaction. Given all of these drivers, retailers, and OEMs could no longer ignore the costs in the reverse supply chain.
As the need evolved for retailers and OEMs to optimize the supply chain, they found that enabling tools were not available. It is in this context Blubirch developed its unique platform called Returns Automation and Monetization Platform (RAMP), which aims to automate and manage product returns for brands, retailers, and marketplaces in an omnichannel environment.
Blubirch’s AI-based, data-driven platform offers an effective and sustainable solution, seamlessly connecting all stages of the reverse supply chain, starting from returns initiation to final inventory disposition.
By utilizing AI/ML technology, the platform can accurately grade products, detect fraud, and resolve issues at the source, thereby reducing unwarranted returns.
The system’s item-level tracking, automated approvals, and disposition allocation ensure faster processing times and fewer errors, resulting in reduced operational costs, improved profitability, and enhanced compliance.
The integrated liquidation module facilitates the remarketing of returned products across various secondary channels by utilizing data analytics and insights. This enables efficient product remarketing, ensuring that items are resold or repurposed in suitable markets to achieve optimal recovery without causing any channel conflict.
The platform was developed by partnering with some of the leading global retailers and OEMs. This ensured that, unlike platforms developed in the lab, the solution met the real challenges that retailers and OEMs were facing.
TechGraph: The reverse supply chain industry has gained significant attention in recent years. What do you think has been the driving force behind this growth?
Sapan Jain: There are several factors behind this growth. As discussed earlier, the growth in e-commerce has resulted in increases both in the volume and value of returns.
In addition, forward-thinking CFOs are beginning to calculate the cost of returns. In our analysis, a retailer or OEM operating on a 7% operating margin will have a 16% impairment on their margins, even with something as low as 2% returns.
Further, even a 20% reduction in these returns costs increases operating margin by almost 400 basis points. This is a significant increase and enlightened Boards are beginning to ask questions of the CEO on what they are doing to optimize their reverse supply chain. Growing environmental awareness has spurred companies and consumers to seek eco-friendly practices.
The reverse supply chain sector, pivotal in waste reduction through efficient recovery, refurbishment, and reselling of returns, aligns with the principles of circular economy, thus curbing the adverse environmental impact. A reverse supply chain not only allows businesses to recapture value from returns but also limits losses and operational costs related to waste.
This economic prospect has prompted investments in reverse supply chain solutions, enhancing overall profitability. Consumer demand for responsible practices and stringent waste management regulations drive businesses towards efficient return processes.
Technological strides, particularly in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation, optimize returned product management, yielding efficient and cost-effective reverse supply chains.
As the potential for value recovery from returns becomes apparent, the reverse supply chain industry provides economic opportunities for manufacturers, retailers, logistics providers, and refurbishers, fostering collaborative investments.
TechGraph: The concept of a circular economy has become more prominent in sustainability discussions. How does Blubirch contribute to this paradigm by optimizing reverse supply chains?
Sapan Jain: Blubirch employs a multifaceted strategy to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of the reverse supply chain. One key focus is on value preservation, achieved through calculating the potential of offering discounts to customers for retaining marginally damaged items. This not only reduces the prospect of value erosion but also facilitates a higher recapture of value from returned products, thereby reducing waste.
Furthermore, Blubirch emphasizes the importance of minimizing unnecessary transportation in the reverse supply chain process. By streamlining the returns process, their system reduces unnecessary shipments and associated carbon emissions, as such promoting sustainability practices.
Addressing fraud management is another pivotal aspect, where Blubirch utilizes advanced methods such as nanoparticle-based QR codes and image reconciliation to track items and prevent fraudulent activities during returns. This ensures transparency, authenticity, and accountability throughout the process.
Furthermore, Blubirch’s system handles various types of returns efficiently, facilitating thorough validation processes for different products at each stage of the reverse supply chain.
Lastly, upon reaching the warehouse, the system optimizes the rewarding process, ensuring organized and systematic processing of returned items, thereby extending their life and contributing to the circular economy’s principles.
TechGraph: Data and analytics play a crucial role in supply chain optimization. How does Blubirch leverage advanced technologies and data-driven insights to help businesses maximize the value of their returned products?
Sapan Jain: Blubirch’s data-driven platform offers a comprehensive solution for the intricate challenges of the reverse supply chain. By seamlessly integrating all stages, from returns initiation to inventory disposition, it harnesses the AI and machine learning elements of the platform to facilitate the reduction of goods flowing into the reverse supply chain, efficient grading, fraud detection, and dynamic resolution, effectively curtailing unwarranted returns at their origin.
The key features of the platform include item-level tracking, automated approvals, and precise disposition allocation, resulting in significantly reduced processing times, streamlined operations, improved profitability, and heightened regulatory compliance.
A pivotal aspect of the platform is its integrated liquidation module, which optimizes the remarketing of returned products across secondary channels, leveraging data analytics for optimal recovery while minimizing channel conflicts. In the reverse supply chain and logistics ecosystem, data security is a priority, particularly when handling returned electronic products.
Utilizing advanced encryption techniques during data transmission and storage ensures sensitive information remains in a secured, unreadable format thus preventing unauthorized access or proliferation. Robust access controls grant specific permissions based on user roles, preventing unauthorized access to confidential data.
The platform employs data anonymization to protect customer privacy, removing identifiable information while still extracting operational insights. Secure data deletion mechanisms ensure data from returned devices is permanently erased, thwarting the prospect of data leakage, misuse of private data, or unauthorized access.
Throughout transportation, secure logistics and encrypted communication channels guarantee data protection. Complying with data protection regulations and regular security audits enhances the platform’s security framework.
In cases involving third parties, stringent risk assessments confirm their adherence to data security and privacy standards. These measures collectively cultivate customer trust, minimize data breach risks, and ensure legal data handling responsibilities are upheld.
TechGraph: Product authenticity and quality are critical factors in the reverse supply chain industry. What measures does Blubirch take to ensure the authenticity and condition of returned products before reintroducing them into the market?
Sapan Jain: Blubirch’s system conducts comprehensive inspections and validations for diverse return types. Each return undergoes visual checks, functional tests, and verification of specifications to meet authenticity and condition standards.
To counter fraud, the system aligns returns with company policies, deterring fraudulent returns and unfit item reintegration. Employing advanced tech such as nanoparticle-based QR codes and image reconciliation, Blubirch tracks items to ensure their authenticity.
For intricate validations, Blubirch collaborates with authorized partners or manufacturers for expert assessments. By leveraging data analytics, Blubirch gains insights into returned items’ history, enabling informed decisions and risk management. A transparent supply chain traces items from pickup to warehouse delivery, detecting mishandling. Standardized grading maintains uniform evaluation for remarketing suitability.
TechGraph: Many companies struggle to strike a balance between recapturing value from returned products and managing the operational costs of the reverse supply chain. How does Blubirch address this challenge and create win-win solutions for its clients?
Sapan Jain: Blubirch’s system ensures the legitimacy of returns through meticulous validation, catering to individual customers and complex dealer/store scenarios. To combat fraud, its comprehensive Fraud Management module scrutinizes changes, missing components, and authenticity.
The platform incorporates an advanced grading tool, powered by machine learning for streamlined and consistent item evaluation. It further suggests optimal actions for each return, factoring in grading results and predefined rules.
Once disposition is determined, automated processes engage relevant teams, facilitating efficient execution. Notably, the distinctive Blubirch liquidation platform connects sellers with a diverse buyer base, enriching the reverse supply chain process.
Beyond operational efficiency, the system promotes environmental sustainability by optimizing dispositions and reducing value erosion, thereby curbing the carbon footprint.
Economically, Blubirch aids in the success of insurance claims and faster fund recovery, contributing to improved financial outcomes. The platform also fosters inclusivity by enabling businesses to reach buyers in various regions, generating employment opportunities. With its streamlined approach, Blubirch enhances reverse supply chain processes by reducing manual efforts and enhancing productivity.
In summary, Blubirch offers a comprehensive value proposition that encompasses authenticity verification, fraud prevention, environmental consciousness, unique liquidation capabilities, and operational efficiency.
TechGraph: With the rise of e-commerce, product returns have become more frequent and complex. How does Blubirch adapt its strategies to cater to the unique demand of online retailers in managing their reverse supply chain?
Sapan Jain: Blubirch’s Returns Automation Platform as a Service (RA–PaaS) solution caters to diverse industry segments and product categories, assisting online / offline retailers and brands across sectors such as consumer electronics, fashion, and IT equipment in developing a secure and seamlessly structured returns management protocol and process.
The company targets crucial issues in returns management and asset recovery through several tailored strategies. These include preventing fraudulent returns with a hybrid approach, reducing returns through AI-driven policy and resolution modules, enhancing profit margins by countering excessive returns, optimizing processes for efficiency, maximizing recovery from remarketing, and improving customer experience via a frictionless omnichannel returns process.
This facilitates data-driven decisions and supports environmental and sustainability goals by minimizing waste and enabling circular economy principles. Blubirch’s holistic approach aims to reshape returns management while boosting profitability, customer satisfaction, and sustainability across industries.
TechGraph: As the reverse supply chain industry continues to evolve, what trends and technological advancements do you foresee shaping its future? How is Blubirch prepared to embrace and capitalize on these changes?
Sapan Jain: The reverse supply chain industry’s forthcoming trajectory is being molded by prominent trends and technological advancements. A thrust towards sustainability and circular economy principles, marked by waste reduction and extended product lifecycles, takes the lead.
Data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are primed to revolutionize decision-making by furnishing insights into customer behaviors, return patterns, and optimal disposition strategies.
Innovations such as blockchain are set to amplify transparency, traceability, and authentication across the reverse supply chain. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) hold the potential to streamline inspections, while automation and robotics are poised to expedite operations and minimize manual intervention.
Notably, Blubirch is expertly positioned to embrace this emerging evolution, which boasts AI-driven modules for fraud detection, grading, and disposition optimization. Its unique liquidation module and extensive buyer network stand ready to leverage blockchain’s secure transaction potential.
Moreover, Blubirch’s commitment to sustainable practices and value retention aligns seamlessly with the industry’s growing environmental focus. As AR, VR and expert collaborations for complex validations come into play, along with a transparent supply chain and robust data security, Blubirch remains agile in embracing change. Collectively, these attributes position Blubirch at the forefront to thrive amidst the dynamic landscape of the evolving reverse supply chain industry.
TechGraph: Lastly, with a vision to transform the reverse supply chain landscape, what are Blubirch’s long-term goals and aspirations for the industry? How do you see the company contributing to a more sustainable and efficient global supply chain ecosystem?
Sapan Jain: With a transformative vision, Blubirch aims to reshape the reverse supply chain arena. Long-term aspirations involve setting industry benchmarks by integrating advanced technologies such as AI, blockchain, and automation. This aims to streamline operations, minimize waste, and optimize disposition for a circular economy.
Beyond efficiency, Blubirch envisions sustainability as a cornerstone. Its unique liquidation platform redirects returned items, reducing waste and enhancing decarbonization. Through value retention and responsible disposition, Blubirch aims to drive a broader shift toward sustainable resource management in the global supply chain ecosystem.