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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 22 No. 24
Monday July 24, 2023

Hema Tanna All In The Family

Hema Tanna

Mumbai-based Hema Tanna, Director, Manilal Patel Clearing Forwarding Pvt Ltd, was meant to move to the travel industry but there was something about cargo that attracted her so much that she joined the logistics company that her grandfather had started. That was way back in 1998. Today, with more than two decades in the air freight and ocean freight forwarding industry, Hema Tanna is considered a ‘hands on’ person with complete knowledge of the industry processes. Her guiding spirit has been her father, who unfortunately passed away when she was very young. She remembers his words to keep focusing on the business and the people who work with her.

FT:  How would you see 2023 shaping up – air cargo-wise from India. Do you see difficult times ahead?
HT: The year 2023 will essentially not be an easy year. It will be more about finding stability and a balance as the last two years have virtually turned the air cargo business topsy-turvy and it is on its head in terms of freight rates, capacities, never before heard of Preighters, work-from-home concept, and so on.

FT:  What is the kind of business you have done over the past year.
HT: Last year has, by far, been the highlight for most Freight Forwarders. Business has never seen such growth in numbers, particularly in the Pharma and Medical sector. The pandemic hugely influenced never before movements such as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits, medicine, vaccines etc. It was one of our best years.

FT:  Which are the companies that have entrusted you with their business and why do they want to keep on working with you?
HT: Most of our customers were pleasantly surprised how we rose to the situation in the dire circumstances when airports and sea ports were locked down. Regardless, we were able to provide them with our services except during the initial three weeks when the pandemic first hit us. They value our relationship and have appreciated the fact that we stood by them during these critical times.

FT:  Were there some extraordinary deals that you did in the past year?
HT: I am not sure what you mean by deals but something that we had to “deal with” in a rather difficult way once Covid eased off, was the challenge of meeting customer demands of delivering their orders – this required a systematic shift from ocean to air which was not an easy task, particularly with the limited capacities available during that period. One read that certain companies were invoking the Force Majeur clause in their contracts but for MSME companies like us that became a challenge as going ahead we had to maintain long-term relationships with our customers. Win some, lose some unfortunately in such cases . . .

FT:  How have you changed the way business is done?
HT: Not only us, but most businesses have experienced a sea change in their day to day working. The work-from-home being one the most novel concepts – we still have few employees who WFH and this works for us in the sense that our international desks function more efficiently due to time differences. Another welcome business change was “automation” – customers who required hard copies of virtually every document have now started accepting online documents by soft copies saving manpower and unnecessary printing of paper.

FT:  How do you feel about your work and achievements in logistics?
HT: Very satisfying indeed! The changes which our industry has seen in the last two years and the way that our business models adapted to the new normal were an amazing eye-opener in terms of how fast our industry could change and adapt to changing times and 'need of the hour' situations. Ultimately, it’s all about mindsets.

FT:  As a woman, what are the new perspectives that you have brought in?
HT: Sustainable logistics is undoubtedly going to be the future of our industry. Many of our customers have pledged to decrease carbon footprints with each shipment and in fact we are working towards providing an automated calculation of Co2 emissions for our customers on our website the moment they enter their shipment details. We are taking the issue of Co2 emissions very seriously in our organization. We are taking every small step like investing in EV handling equipment such as forklifts, switching to EV cars, solar panel energy for our warehouses, plus every little thing like switching off air conditioning and reducing lights during lunch hour, using the stairs so on and so forth.

FT:  How have you coped with the ability of the air cargo community to understand the breadth of change in world trade and commerce?
HT: As I mentioned, our industry was one of the fastest movers in terms of adapting to our changing business. Many other businesses simply did not pick up pace but logistics, I think, was there for the asking – goods had to move, food had to be on the table, medicines had to be made available, energy supplies had to be uninterrupted – we as forwarders have always taken pride in the fact that we can adapt to any and everything thrown at us and come out winning – that’s one more feather in our caps!

FT:  As a family business, how are you taking forward the family’s legacy?
HT: Yes, ours is a family business and is, perhaps, one of the older logistics companies as we celebrate over 75 years of dedicated service to our customers. The company was started by my grandfather and thereafter looked after by my father and now my brother and me. Our success has been that we have come to the forefront with our customer demands and delivered to their expectations. Integrity and selfless service is the basis on which we have survived for so many years.

FT:  How strongly do you feel would the future logistics workforce accelerate gender equality, create special roles, and give opportunities to more women?
HT: From where I sit I do not see any gender inequality – in fact I love what I do and promote women in logistics as and when I get the opportunity to do so. Logistics is not only a “men only” business as far as I am concerned and neither have I felt threatened by any gender bias during my years of service in the industry.
Tirthankar Ghosh

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