A couple of weeks ago CargoForwarder Global highlighted some of the problems facing the Indian air cargo market and the introduction of the Indian government’s New Air Cargo
In today’s issue, we ask Radharanmanan Panicker, one of India’s best-known air freight specialists, his views on the scene as well as how he and his team are tackling Dangerous Goods training in India.
Radharamanan, you have been in the Indian air cargo business for many years. Please give us some background to your past experience.
RP: Having started my career as a marine cargo surveyor, I’m no stranger to the cargo business in India. My air cargo experience started with UPS India’s service partner Elbee Express where I worked for seven years before moving to manage Cargo Service Center India (CSC) which was a 100% owned KLM company. At that time, with our 1,200 staff we positioned ourselves as India’s top air cargo handling company. In the initial stages it was hard work as air cargo handling knowledge in India was quite sparse.
I was almost twenty years at the helm of CSC India and am proud that we grew the company from a single station set-up into a multi-airline handling company with stations in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. We won the tender to handle the Perishable Cargo Center at Delhi Airport and later the express cargo handling at both Delhi and Mumbai. Also, in 2010 we won the tender for construction and management of the Perishable Cargo Terminal in Mumbai and the Second Integrated Cargo Terminal in Delhi. It was in 2014 after more than 19 years that I decided to go out on my own and formed my own company - Dangerous Goods Management (DGM) India. I’ve not looked back since and am proud to say that DGM India is now a fully recognised dangerous goods training entity in the Indian air cargo market.
The Indian air cargo scene seems to be changing fast: Give us your view on developments over the past decade and where you see the most challenging areas.
When I walked into the air cargo facility in Mumbai in 1995 I was shocked at the complete chaos that reigned there. My express handling experience had taught me that cargo must be handled with care. This had to change and thankfully the Indian airport privatisation programme helped a lot in the years ahead. But there is still much to be achieved. Changes for the better occurred when independent cargo handlers were allowed on the scene at Indian airports with the arrival of automated systems and better management and documentation control. This has resulted in lower transit and handling times at most Indian airports.
However, air cargo growth in India does not necessarily follow the economic growth patterns. A clear and well-designed cargo vision is of utmost importance if India is to manage handling alongside its economic growth.
Do you see the possibility of an own Indian all cargo carrier getting off the ground or will foreign carriers continue to dominate?
As an Indian national I would dearly love to see an India all cargo carrier on the map. But I am not sure this will come about. Blue Dart Airline was maybe a possibility, but they were taken over by DHL. Spicejet, as a low-cost carrier which also operates a few domestic cargo flights could have also been a candidate, but as it seems has no plans to operate outside of India.
The only plausible solution would be for Air India to come back on the scene.
You are M.D. of a large Indian air cargo handler for some time - has the scene changed for the better in the meantime?
RP: Yes, today there is a better understanding of what cargo handling is about in India. More and more airlines are willing to outsource their entire cargo handling and operational activities. Also, there are quite some private independent handlers on the scene who bring a lot of management experience into India’s cargo handling. There are however still too many bureaucratic hurdles for such companies to overcome before they can settle themselves here.
You are now running DGM India - Dangerous Goods Management - what made you take this step in your career?
RP: Even before departing CSC I was in close contact with an old KLM veteran, Frank Petillon, who had started up DGM Netherlands. As is quite often the case, one thing led to another and Frank asked me to look at setting up DGM in India.
Well, to cut a long story short - I’ve not looked back since and over the past four years or so I think that we have come a long way in establishing ourselves as a serious dangerous goods training entity in India.
Dangerous Goods handling is a business, necessitating know how and strict controls. What makes DGM India special in this respect?
RP: DGR handling is becoming more and more complex and the need for proper training is of utmost importance. We at DGM India provide DGR training for air cargo but also for other modes of transport.
To name just a few, these include Third Party Compliance Programmes, 4PL and 3PL Services for Dangerous Goods in packaged form, on-site processing, warehouse DGR facility control and training as well as procurement of suitable packing material which adheres to IATA UN specifications.
DGM India Academy of Logistics is the only school providing this training for all modes of transport and so far, we train over 600 participants every year.
At our annual DGM owners’ meetings I get to exchange valuable thoughts and information with our colleagues around the globe. There is much to be done here in the future and the challenge is great.
Mr Panicker - many thanks for your time and input and good luck for the future.
Interview conducted by John Mc Donagh