By Rajiv Ranjan Kumar
From services to essential services, Covid19 has changed the logistics industry’s role in the economy. Apeejay Logistics Parks have been fully operational throughout the lock down, kept commerce in their regions moving, responding quickly and efficiently to the requirements of MSMEs and large customer supply chain demands. Not until this pandemic did we or anyone realize the critical role logistics plays to keep other sectors going.
Since we are a part of essential services, we never closed down. From day 1 of the lock down, we have been handling imports and exports of all our existing customers at our Container Freight Station (CFS) in Haldia, West Bengal and Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Kalinganagar, Odisha. Smooth synchronized actions were put in motion by the team members, be it going to the customs office for getting approvals, communicating with clients over calls, coordinating with the shipping lines on a daily basis and coordinating with our frontline workers at our Logistics parks. Since Haldia was identified as a Covid19 hotspot and is close to the port, we ensured all preventive measures were put in place following the protocols for combating the pandemic.
I knew that 100% Work From Home is not possible for everyone if we are to keep the parks operational and client’s supply chain moving. Hence a rotational approach to WFH was put in place, technology was used to connect face-to-face with our partners and customers, Skype meetings with our team members and team conference calls as and when required. We were also in constant touch with all the shipping lines and used to send them reports twice daily, apprising them of the export and import containers coming in.
I was extremely conscious of the fact that while some of us were working from home, most of my team was on the ground during the lock down. It was imperative that they not feel disadvantaged or unsafe. So, one of my most important tasks was to keep my team members motivated and also ensure that they are safe from the pandemic. After the corporate office reopened on 4th May, I along with my HO team started coming to office regularly to give a sense of normalcy to our frontline workers who had been dedicatedly working throughout the lock down. I also drove down to Kalinganagar and Haldia in my own car, along with our Sales and Operations Head, to meet the teams to motivate them to perform better and to make them feel that we are with them.
When cyclone Amphan struck, there was huge damage to our logistics park in Haldia but our team put in a Herculean effort to bring everything in order and restore normalcy within 24 hours. Communities nearby had been ravaged and deprived of their shelter, food and belongings. Looking at the plight and misery of these people, our team members at Haldia and one of our partners came forward and distributed puffed rice, dal, potato, onion, oil, soya bean, hand wash and such other essential commodities to almost 200 families living in nearby areas as well as daily wage labourers working at the Haldia CFS.
There are no words to describe our frontline heroes who worked and are still working tirelessly with extended periods on all days, including weekends and holidays. Their hard work is paying off. In this season of despair and despondency, the revenue of our 8 year old company is at an all-time high. Business volumes have been retained and market share increased. Our Q1 has seen a huge upsurge in our business volumes and in Q2, we are expecting the trend to continue to be better year on year.
Personally, this lock down has taught me a lot. I see a change in myself – earlier I used to tell people what to do but the lock down has made me empathize more with my team members who were working at the sites. I have learnt to be more cooperative rather than authoritative. I also managed to see a web series for the first time in my life. The lock down period was also the longest time I had spent at home ever since I left college. So, I got to spend a lot of time with my family, listen to their demands, share old stories which my children brought up and had a great time with them. I could also connect with my school and college friends, whom I had not spoken to for 20 years.
When I go through the accolades received from various clients for our work and support during the lock down, I feel every cloud does have a silver lining. This is US – Standing tall when adversity strikes – Like our parent, Apeejay Surrendra Group – Solid.
Rajiv Ranjan Kumar is Chief Executive Officer, Apeejay Infralogistics Private Limited