FROM MAGAZINE: Focus is on customer demands

FROM MAGAZINE: Focus is on customer demands

Holding a market share close to 20 percent, Maersk Line is one of the leading players in the Indian shipping industry. With 25 offices and presence across 16 ports in the country, Maersk Line offers a one-stop solution closer to the place of origin of cargo, thereby reducing the transportation time between the point of origin and the port.

Steve M Felder has taken over as Managing Director of Maersk Line (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives) recently. Having associated with the Maersk Group for over a decade, in his new role, Felder will add further momentum to Maersk Line’s Asia growth trajectory. Felder believes that digitalisation is the way forward and Digital India is a much-needed initiative. In conversation with Rashmi Pradhan, Felder talks about the strategy for India, emerging trends in shipping and EXIM from India.

As the new MD of India for Maersk Line what would be your areas of operation?
My geographical scope is India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. My role is to oversee the business and to lead the business from end to end. From business development to collections, which means end to end cycle of shipping. This includes customer service, documentation, operational matters and anything that involves serving the customers. Going forward, I will remain committed to the India growth story and to provide integrated logistics solutions to our customers.

How do you see the potential of India for Maersk Line?
Last year we transported in and out of India close to 20 lakh TEUs. The market is growing at a reasonable pace of 6 to 8 percent. We aim to maintain our market share in India, which is around 20 percent. We have witnessed a healthier growth from India than other markets in the world. India is a big market with many opportunities. We recently moved the first ever container shipment from Visakhapatnam to Nepal. In addition, we delivered the first ever consignment of fresh fruits to an ICD at Sonepat (NCR Region). The market has a good natural momentum; it has the scale and growing quickly. India is a bright spot on the map. This is an exciting time to be in India and I would like to build on and add further momentum to our various initiatives in this sector. After joining this position, I have been visiting different markets and talking to customers, suppliers, stakeholders and, I have observed that confidence is very high. It is comforting to be at a place with so much potential. It is such a pivotal point on the growth curve. However, India needs a lot of infrastructure development since it will help to reduce logistics cost. 

Elaborate on your strategies for the Indian market?
It has been only a month that I have taken up this role and still working with the team on finalising the strategy. We are the largest player in the market today; one in every five containers that moves out of India is managed by Maersk Line. We are looking at competitive advantages and focusing on customer demands. We will continue to grow with the market and maintain our market share. We want to be able to work more in the inland locations. According to the feedback received from our customers, we realised that they want to deal with fewer parties. Where shipping and logistics are not the core expertise of our customers, they want to take our services along the supply chain. We are looking at the opportunities to improve our products, services and enhance our port coverage. There has been a lot of enhancement of port coverage over the last few years. We will also continue to invest on the digital side of our business to make it easier for our customers to do business. We recently launched a mobile app which was received quiet well. In India, 99 percent of our bookings are online (customers can download invoices online). We are also working towards digital payment gateways through net banking and credit cards. Nowadays port to port shipping has been commoditised. We are always looking at how we can differentiate ourselves and create more compelling value proposition to our customers. There is a lot that can be done.

What kind of crisis did you face at the time of the recent cyber attack on Maersk?
It was a very difficult situation and led to a lot of learnings since it was a global issue and the scale was extensive. For a couple of weeks we worked manually and through other communication platforms. The entire team came together and exhibited creativity. The team was focused on minimising the impact on our customers. We really saw resilient spirit, none of the employees complained even though they had to work for long hours and during weekends. Our customers were also supportive, sympathetic and understanding. Now we are back to business.

What are the trends you see in the shipping sector in India?
We see consolidation, operational alliances and digitalisation happening globally. These are the big trends in the global shipping industry. Consolidation is happening at two levels, first through mergers and acquisitions and second, consolidation through operational alliances. Emergence of three mega alliances particularly in the East West corridor command about 96 percent of East West trade and 77 percent of global traffic. This is the only way shipping lines can achieve lowest unit cost by maintaining most extensive port coverage. It is also great for the customers as they have a variety of choices based on commercial value propositions.

India is witnessing the knock-on effect of the global trends. There is an increasing competition within shipping industry in India. On the digital front, India is tech savvy. You can launch a digital method, product or an app and will witness that the implementation is strong. The customers are open to new innovations and changes. It is a great market from a digital prospective. We will continue to invest in the digital platform in India.