“We continue our endeavour of moving closer to customers”

The logistics giant Skyways Group has been growing vertically and horizontally in air cargo. Being the number one air freight forwarder, Skyways Group is now present in 30 Indian cities and will expand into another 12 cities over the next 15 months. “Our First and Last mile operation from the current reach of 13000 zip codes will reach approx. 15500 zip codes over next 15 months too. Our air freight business continues to serve a diversified customer base across products and geography,” shares Yashpal Sharma, Managing Director, Skyways Group, in an exclusive interview with Apace Digital Cargo. Here are the excerpts. 

How has been the changing scenario of the air cargo industry in terms of digitalisation, new cargo airlines coming in and even the ocean carriers are making a mark in the air cargo? How do you see the contribution of Skyways Group towards the industry? 

The industry has been gradually evolving to keep pace with other industries in the areas of digitisation and technological innovation. The advent of Covid gave a stimulus to this and we have seen a huge penetration of digital processes within the industry. In addition, I see immense scope of automation of existing legacy systems used in the sector which can be replaced by paperless transactions, robotics and AI based tech solutions. The Logistics industry has attracted a lot of attention and there are few new players entering air cargo. The ocean carriers have had a commercially solid last two years and are utilising their new reserves to forward and backward integrate business. They have also gone sideways and invested in aircrafts and will surely compete with the traditional airlines in years ahead. I see some very competitive space in the airline space over the next decade.

Skyways has been growing vertically and horizontally in air cargo. We have also expanded well across other spheres of logistics like Ocean freight, trucking, courier, e-commerce logistics, cold chain, etc over the last four decades. We have expanded our product portfolio in the last five years in healthcare and perishables (food & vegetables). Over the last two decades, we have invested heavily in technology. We have built our ERP and mobile app which can API integrate with the carriers and customers enabling faster communication and transactions. Creating visibility for customers has been one of the key objectives for us and our technology does this effectively for our customers across the transportation modes.

Air Freight is synonymous with Skyways; such is the benchmark of Skyways in the air freight domain. So what are focussed areas and expansion plans? Any new endeavours plan?

We continue our endeavour of moving closer to customers. We are now in 30 Indian cities and will expand into another 12 cities over the next 15 months. From our presence in six countries, we will also take that to 10 over the next 15 months too. Our product portfolio will see the addition of one more product for us in the next six months. Our First and Last mile operation from the current reach of 13000 zip codes will reach approx. 15500 zip codes over next 15 months too. Our air freight business continues to serve a diversified customer base across products and geography. Our work on TAT for each port pair has been seeing a constant improvement and now with more capacities available it will surely improve much faster.

Being associated and working closely with the government, 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?

ACFI (Air Cargo Forum India) has been working closely with government and regulators for improvements in the Indian air cargo infra and processes. While few actions of the government have been extremely positive over the last 2 years, but the GST introduction on freight has surely not been taken well by the industry. This was very avoidable. When the government talks of ‘Ease of doing business’, then any activity that does not ultimately bring revenue to them, should be totally avoided as it is a waste of time for taking input credit or refunds. Even other associations like ACAAI have been actively advocating against this.

 The NLP will surely help in carving out long term benefits for the air cargo industry. Timely implementation of this though will be the key.

E-commerce and digitalisation are the trends of the industry. Even “Digital freight forwarder” is the latest term to be used. What do you have to say on this? How will it impact the traditional freight forwarding? How to cope with the changing trends in the industry?

E-commerce has been growing at a fast pace over the last decade. The Covid 19 period gave further boost to this as people could shop for daily essentials and other things without stepping out of their homes. E-commerce has also been the main driver for growth in air cargo. The new trends of smaller freighters have got a shot in the arm due to e-commerce which needs more frequency and not necessarily moving larger loads. Digital forwarders have been around for a decade now but gaining market share over the last 5 years by offering easier access to transact to customers. The traditional forwarders have been trying to do a catchup on this but their entire processes are based on a different DNA. While they have developed the technology that digital forwarders have, but the mindset, processes and skills of the workforce, will be a huge challenge which would need massive transformation.

ACAAI 46th Convention is all set to take place in Bangkok from 24th to 27th Nov, after a gap of two years due to pandemic situation; what is your anticipation for the convention as post pandemic scenario and resilience of the industry will be key topics of the discussions at the convention?

ACAAI has been a premier IATA Air Cargo freight forwarder body and has been driving the interest of the forwarding community for several decades. Their engagement with several regulatory and functional decision makers has resolved many matters during the past years.

The ACAAI Convention has been an important event in the Indian Air Freight landscape where a lot of industry issues are discussed and deliberated upon by the participating subject matter experts. Since this is the first one since 2019, there are huge expectations from the delegates for some key issue deliberations and networking between the industry over the four days of the event. I am hopeful that this year some crucial topics will be discussed at the convention to take the Air Freight industry into the next higher growth orbit.