The man who has always been recognised as an enthusiastic leader, a quick decision maker and very positive in his approach, who has been seen taking serious initiatives to bring in key issues on the table for the betterment of the industry.  Shankar Shinde, has the same approach as the Chairman of Federation of Freight Forwarders Association of India (FFFAI). Under his leadership, FFFAI has well structured, well planned strategies to create a bridge between industry stakeholders and the government and custodians. 

He believes in one common platform to take up industry’s concerns to the government, Mr Shinde shared elaborately with JASLEEN KAUR from APACE DIGITAL CARGO in an exclusive interview. And giving it a further boost, FFFAI, under his chairmanship, is all set for the 24th Biennial convention from 12-14th August, 2022 in Chennai with the agenda – “Logistics – Reshape, Embrace and Surge in the Digital Era”.

To begin with, the 24th FFFAI Biennial Convention is all to begin from 12th-14th Aug, 2022 in Chennai. How do you see the response from the fraternity in the post-pandemic scenario? How do you anticipate the participation?

The Biennial Convention of the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) is the much sought-after event for the entire logistics industry in the country. We are very happy we could organise the 24the Biennial Convention of FFFAI in Chennai from August 12-14, 2022 during this post-pandemic period. The industry had an unprecedented challenging time for almost two years owing to COVID-19, which disrupted the trade and commerce globally, though the resilient logistics industry kept the manufacturing and distribution supply chain, (especially life-saving pharma products) moving, risking their lives.  

We have witnessed tremendous interest and excitement about the 24th Convention of FFFAI from the cross section of the logistics industry stakeholders as well as government. More than 500 delegates from across India and overseas countries have been registered to attend the three days Convention. 

What would be the key agenda of discussion? What would be focus areas? As the theme of the convention says – “Logistics – Reshape, Embrace and Surge in the Digital Era”, how do you see the changing landscape of freight forwarding industry from traditional freight forwarding to Digital freight forwarding?

The logistics industry is currently witnessing rapid, significant and visible changes especially in the recent years. With India becoming a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement there is an accelerated approach by the Indian Government – more so of the Ministry of Finance – to create a seamless, smooth and swift environment for global cross border trade. The pace of trade facilitation is so dominant that adapting to such changes is becoming a challenge. Logistics industry is the core center for the success of the trade facilitations and a comprehensive rethink is required in our business environment and business model.

While India is taking strong strides and is emerging as one of the fastest developing economies with huge expectations to be in the first few top slots in the years to come aiming to become the USD 5 trillion economy by 2025, there is a need match this growth in all support activities. Galloping global trade requires support services to move to top gear, which is possible only with recast business model, digital enablement, innovative solutions and exploitation of technology to be a dominant global success story.

We have all these capabilities and more though our only hurdle is to break the shackles of conventional mind set. With all the uncertainties around us, the only certainty is change and our willingness to accept and adapt to such change so as to remain relevant in every time zone. In this context technology will be playing an important role, the business models will change with adaptation of technology and digital marketing. 

In this much awaited Convention delegates will have opportunities to interact with domain experts at six business sessions on current topics aiming to coping up the market trends/demands and expansion of the business horizon to survive and thrive. In addition, there will be B2B Sessions and evening entertainment /networking functions amidst the especially designed hospitality of the most dynamic city, Chennai.

How has been the government’s participation in the convention? In addition, being associated and working closely with the government, how do you see initiatives taken by the government for the freight forwarding community, specially Gati Shakti? What kind of growth is anticipated with the implementation of Gati Shakti?

FFFAI has received very good response from different ministries of the Government of India and assured participation in it to address the mega event and interact with the delegates. In one of the Business Sessions we are focusing on the importance and impact of PM Gati Shakti, which will be really a game changer for the manufacturing, exim trade and logistics industry in India.

For the logistics sector, this is going to be one of the important milestones, as this sector supports and improves the efficiency of endeavours such as Atmanirbhar Bharat, Make in India, and Digital India, among others. The PM Gati Shakti will be driven by seven engines, including roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways, and logistics infrastructure, which will be the game changers for years to come in the country. The formulation of an expressway masterplan will benefit in increasing logistics speed and lowering logistics costs.

In line with the PM Gati Shakti, the Union Budget 2022 made some crucial announcements. One of the important announcements, which is eagerly followed by the logistics sector, is pertaining to the Unified Logistics Interface Platform, which allows data exchange among all mode operators. A multimodal logistics park through public-private partnerships, as well as the promotion of local businesses, will be established. One Station, One Product will help small MSMEs and small exporters considerably. Infusing `20,000 crore into road infrastructure and building 100 cargo terminals in three years will go a long way in the logistics industry. 

Most importantly, AI is being used to increase GST revenue. FFFAI is in constant dialogue with CBIC to ensure that the endeavours of the Government of India are implemented in the most efficient manner for timely customs clearance and the movement of goods internationally and nationally.

FFFAI highly appreciate other recent initiatives of the Government of India viz ‘LEADS Report’, LPPT, ‘Faceless Assessment’, ‘Turant Customs’, ‘SWIFT’, ‘DPD’, AEO, etc aiming towards fast cargo clearance, Ease of Doing Business and improvement of Logistics Performance Index of the country as per world standard.    

The Government’s Initiatives towards Ease of Doing Business and World Bank ranking have created huge pressure on CB performance. We will be working towards providing support and guidance to our members in coping up with challenges.

In India, the overall logistics costs remain high as compared to global standards. What are the reasons? How can the costs be reduced? What measures are needed from the industry players as well as from the government?

Various studies including the government sources stated that the logistics cost in India is 14% of GDP. However, it may be pertinent to mention that a recent study by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has revealed that India’s logistics cost as a percentage of GDP is 8.35% on an average. Based on the NCAER study the government has hired a consultant for assessing the logistics cost and to work out a framework for calculating the logistics cost based on the wholesale price index and the consumer price index. The NCAER survey has also calculated the logistics cost for individual commodities and sectors, which has revealed that the logistics cost for certain commodities has been as low as 6.05%. The 8% logistics cost brings India at par with developed countries. The commerce and Industry Ministry is now looking at working out an index which can be calculated on a regular basis taking a few commodities and corridors that have a large contribution to the logistics cost.

We welcome Government initiatives on reducing the logistics costs, transaction costs and dwell time through various trade facilitation measures, infrastructure building and enhancing multimodal connectivity. FFFAI has been the partner to all these initiatives by providing industry inputs to the Government from time to time. 

The recognition to FFFAI comes from the business integrity and working together with Customs department, Government of India as partners in facilitating EXIM trade. This creates a greater sense of responsibility to the Nation and Fraternity we belong to for an opportunity to serve through FFFAI Platform.    

We are optimistic that the government’s recent policy initiatives regarding developing the logistics infrastructure (including IT infrastructure/digitisation) and reducing transaction time/dwell time along with other trade facilitation measures would remove all hindrances remaining as major reasons behind the high logistics cost. 

Finally, being the president of the Convention, what is your message to the FFFAI members and to the fraternity regarding the Convention? 

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate each member and leaders of FFFAI for being part of this 60 years successful journey. Leaders have built strong pillars in institutionalising the Federation to achieve greater heights, I extend my Greetings to all members of FFFAI, the supporters of FFFAI and also the stakeholders who have partnered during the journey. 

Welcoming the 60th year Golden Jubilee gives an opportunity to review our achievements for celebration and further boost the Moral and motivate the next generation to participate in our future endeavours. This also recognises our industry for the next generation to opt into the logistics industry as the first choice of industry.  

In this “Diamond Jubilee” year we have aligned our convention theme “Logistics – Reshape, Embrace and Surge in the Digital Era”, to commemorate our 75th Independence Day marching towards achieving “Atmanirbhar Bharat”.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate each one of FFFAI members and industry fraternity on the eve of 75 years of celebration of “Azadi ka Amrit Mohatsav”. 

While celebrating the Diamond Jubilee we also welcome challenges and are confident enough to build up opportunities for members out of these challenges through handholding during crises by providing regular support in Training and skill developments, creation of cooperative sustainable business models. Logistics industry has a huge talent gap to be built, we would be happy to initiate our training through Education Institute IIFF and build the gap shortly with regular training courses at University and Management Schools to bridge the talent pool gap.

FFFAI is the largest organisation in the Logistics sector. Our successful Project with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry on INSTC & Ministry of External Affairs on TIR convention has built up great confidence to partner with government initiatives and provide inputs on trade facilitation measures and international logistics scope with adaptation of best international practices. 

FFFAI is a very effective platform for the entire logistics industry to participate and get involved in various initiatives. I am fortunate to have this opportunity to serve the fraternity and interact with the fellow Customs Brokers, International Freight Forwarders and stakeholders to take our initiatives forward. Hope this Convention will be immensely beneficial for our members to shape up their future business plans.

I appeal to all Customs Brokers and Logistics Service Providers to be the members of FFFAI. I look forward to the active participation of our members and logistics industry stakeholders in FFFAI endeavours.