“National Logistics Policy and PM’s Gati Shakti Plan are the roadmap to definite success and the industry is appreciative of the same”

One of the humble, cheerful and positive personalities in the air cargo fraternity, who has been seen associated with the fraternity for the betterment of the industry, Afzal Malbarwala, the President of Air Cargo Agents Association of India (ACAAI) has well structured, well planned strategies – firstly to overcome the challenging period of air cargo industry and to create a bridge between industry stakeholders and the government and custodians. He shared elaborately with JASLEEN KAUR from APACE DIGITAL CARGO in an exclusive interview about the convention in Bangkok, Thailand with the agenda – “Resilient – Air Cargo Industry – Post Pandemic”, which is taking place after a gap of two years due to pandemic situation. 

To begin with, the 46th ACAAI Convention is all set to begin from 24th to 27th Nov, 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand. How do you see the response from the fraternity in the post-pandemic scenario? How do you anticipate the participation?

All of us are very excited for more than one reason. We have been planning and discussing the event in great detail with members and other fraternity associates showing their eagerness as well. Beyond doubt the participation is going to be in full numbers and since we are meeting after two years there is a lot we have to discuss, agree on and move forward.

What would be the key agenda of discussion? What would be focus areas?

There is a lot we have learnt in the last two years. We accepted some changes forcefully and the rest as it was time to do so. The discussions and brainstorming will revolve around sharing knowledge gained, technical know-how on adapting newer methods in our routine operational cycles, areas which have come up in our industry radar as weak zones and potential processes to strengthen the same etc. The idea is to share what each of us has learnt in difficult times and how we can collectively manage in future during force majeure conditions.  

As the theme of the convention says – “Resilient Air Cargo Industry – post Pandemic”, how do you see the changing landscape of the air cargo industry from traditional freight forwarding to Digital freight forwarding?

The evolution to digital freight forwarding is natural. This was bound to occur as technology has been steadily growing and taking over monotonous physical tasks which cannot be managed efficiently by physical labour. The impetus to drastically accept, adapt and implement technology into daily work processes was however a pandemic induced event. Many of us never had a chance of even reviewing the specs of implementation as delays would result in us being left behind. We worked harder than before, developed new competencies and let go of irrelevant processes thereby avoiding wastage of effort. Our inner resilience came to the fore as we emerged out of the situation together. Technology will definitely take us to bigger heights of efficiency and developing competitive cost controls, the magic is in using it in the right place as Technology cannot replace Talent.  

How do you see initiatives taken by the government for the freight forwarders community? One side National Logistics Policy is unveiled and then comes the government decision to discontinue GST exemption on air freight 18 pc. So do you see these two actions by the government and impact on the growth of the sector and exports? 

The new initiatives were much required and the fact that these are being rolled out even as we come out of the pandemic situation shows that the government is not shying away from supporting the industry. National Logistics Policy and PM’s Gati Shakti Plan are the roadmap to definite success and the industry is appreciative of the same. It requires enormous participation from our side as well and we are gearing up for the same. 

Every developing economy has been forced to address country taxation at some point of time. As a business entity owner, I am concerned about the same. I also understand the fact that in a developing economy, the government needs access to liquid capital also. I am confident that a middle ground facilitating growth in the economy will be achieved and all of us will be motivated to contribute efficiently. 

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

I am excited to be part of the fraternity and being able to hold the convention after two years is a joyous occasion for all of us. Over the next three days all of us will be sharing our wins, learnings and even our nightmares. There is no bigger learning ground than learning from the person next to you as we flank each other and move forward collectively. We believe the worst is behind us and having learnt new lessons we are stronger than before and more equipped to march forward together.