New initiatives such as the Double Stack Dwarf Container train, and Roll-on-Roll-off service trains provide a positive outlook, believes Ajit Venkataraman, Managing Director, APM Terminals India Pvt Ltd.
Of all the governmental schemes, which are the ones that have benefited the industry the most?
Over the last few years, the Government of India has rightly refocused attention on the shipping and logistics sector, and has recognised it as a key contributor to the development of the country. Initiatives such as Sagarmala, Dedicated Freight Corridors, Jal Marg Vikas, thrust on highways, and 'Make in India' - are either already impacting or expected to deliver a positive impact for Indian businesses, and drive Indian economic development.
Each programme is unique in its own way. For instance, 'Make in India' will most likely boost hinterland economic activity as well as export-import (EXIM ) trade. Initiatives such as Sagarmala and the Jal Marg Vikas project are expected to provide solid infrastructure support for such initiatives. Accordingly, the vision of Digital India will ideally lead to e-governance, contributing further towards ease of doing business.
Around 15 per cent of an Indian product's landed cost is made up by logistics. Will this scenario ever change?
Things don't change overnight, but India is on the path to transformation. Consolidation of this fragmented logistics sector under one umbrella, reduced turnaround-times, consolidation of smaller warehouses into bigger ones and a shift to market-driven logistics planning is expected to bring about significant cost savings.
Is the Indian Railways doing enough to enable seamless connectivity of shipments?
The government has shown commitment to bringing about a renewed focus on the Indian Railways, and enhancing its role in the logistics sector. New initiatives such as the Double Stack Dwarf Container train, and Roll-on-Roll-off service trains provide a positive outlook.
The Dedicated Freight Corridor is expected to bring about expanded connectivity to hinterlands and reduce costs.
We feel that a robust multimodal environment is the key to transformation in India's logistics sector. This arrangement will optimise investments and improve overall distributive and transport efficiency.
Has the government done enough to address the issue of road safety in India?
The government's effort towards creating a safe environment around roads is noteworthy. As a signatory to the Brasilia Convention, the Indian government intends to reduce traffic fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020. The Cabinet's approval for the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016, the Rs 64,900-crore Union Budget proposal for infrastructure spending, serves as a testament to positive change for the country.
We at APM Terminals Inland Services believe safety is every individual's responsibility and it is our license to operate. A consciousness needs to be built both within and outside the industry towards this responsibility and it needs to be
clearly understood that while the government can make the biggest transformation, the onus is not on the Government alone.
Lack of adequate depth and absence of port-side connectivity have been curbing the developments of the trade. Can these be overcome?
Yes, that's true, but as mentioned earlier, there's a lot of work happening on that front and we would like to believe that the future looks promising. Through continuous and accelerated efforts, these obstacles can definitely be overcome.
Over 140,000 km of roads built in India since 2014 (more than during the previous three years); an increased allocation of Rs 6,924 crore for highways in 2017; 2,000 km of coastal roads plan; Mumbai Harbour Channel and JN Port Channel (Phase-II) deepening and widening approval, are all proof of the focus on infrastructure development, and represent steps in the right direction. These, along with other initiatives, are likely to ensure better connectivity between ports and interior locations. They will also enable the handling of larger vessels, reduce vessel waiting time and produce savings on account of transhipment - all of which will contribute to the competitiveness of India's EXIM trade and development.
- Devarajan Mahadevan