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“I want to build a strong interface between air cargo industry and government”

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In conversation with Sunil Arora, President, ACAAI on the sidelines of ACAAI’s Annual Convention in Phuket

Air cargo agents are all geared up to participate in Air Cargo Agents Association of India’s (ACAAI) 45th annual convention which is scheduled to be held from November 21 – November 24 in Phuket, Thailand.

The convention will be held on the theme ‘End to end logistics – The way forward’ as an air cargo agent’s role now is not confined to booking space in airlines or handling documentation but also playing an important role in the end-to-end supply chain processes.

The newly appointed President of ACAAI, Sunil Arora in an interview talks about the key highlights of the event and how the convention is going to be different this year. Excerpts:

Q) What role does ACAAI play in facilitating growth and enabling smooth functioning of the air cargo industry and in achieving the export targets of India?

Air Cargo Agents Association of India (ACAAI) is in its 50th year and one of the oldest associations in the industry. The association has seen an era of change in the Indian logistics ecosystem in its 50-year-long journey. As ACAAI is affiliated and recognized by various ministries of the Indian government the association has always been upfront in taking up industry issues before Indian government for the betterment of the industry.

The association raises grievances of the importers, exporters, freight forwarders, whenever the need arises. Also, our association participates regularly in international level meetings of various associations and federations where we vociferously raise industry issues.

ACAAI also plays a significant role in the EXIM trade of the country by coordinating with interrelated organizations like FASSAI, ADC, Export inspection agency, Plant and Animal Quarantine, Wildlife controller etc. The association also conducts conferences and seminars to address and contribute its part to bring change in the industry with the help of our members.

Q) ACAAI is an apex association of air cargo agents in India having a strong member network of 600 members. So, how does the association address the problems being faced by the low rung companies in the air cargo supply chain?

Concerns being faced by SMEs operating in the air cargo industry are very important for ACAAI. We have been taking up issues of Small and Medium Enterprises aggressively, a lot of knowledge being imparted, skill development initiatives are being taken up, training classes, the introduction of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) are some of our efforts towards empowering SMEs.

We also put up issues of SMEs in front of various ministries. And, we regularly get inputs from our regional chapters to ascertain ground reality and problems which our members are facing in
each region.

Q) You have been associated with ACAAI since the past 2 decades and recently you have been appointed as the President of the association. What will be the key area or issues where you are going to focus during your tenure in ACAAI as a president?

I have been associated with ACAAI since the past 17 years as a managing committee member. I have become ACAAI’s president as per the association’s policy in this year.

My foremost objective as a president would be to create a very strong interface between the industry players and the government. I would like to bring most of the associations together whose concerns and cause are the same that is to raise industry issues with cohesion.

We also want to bring up a white paper on the industry issues with the support of all related associations. Also, I would focus on skill development initiatives in the logistics sector and address issues pertaining to reforms and policies.

Q) As a president of ACAAI, what initiatives do you expect from the Ministry of Civil Aviation for the betterment of air cargo industry?

Earlier we used to run after the Ministry of Civil Aviation but now the government’s approach has changed a lot. The ministry is putting up various proposals at a very rapid pace for the betterment of the industry.

Finally, the government has realized that supply chain management and logistics play a significant role in the development of any economy. The union government has been working pro-actively and access to Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Commerce has become easy. Such measures of the government have infused a lot of confidence among our members.

We look forward to more support from the government’s side while from our side, we will keep on providing industry inputs to the government.

Q) ACAAI is going to organize its 45th annual convention in the month of November in Phuket, Thailand. What are some of the key focus areas that the association is going to brainstorm on this year?

ACAAI has been bringing industry players on one common platform to discuss several industry issues from past 45 years. The 45th annual convention is being organized in the same row on the theme “End to End
Logistics” from November 21 to November 24 in Phuket.

In our six business sessions, we are not going to discuss just air cargo in the convention but are expanding our horizon from the first mile to last mile. Our members are not only air cargo agents but are also handling a lot of sea cargo, e-commerce. So, a lot of issues would be discussed for the first time like we are also going to discuss sea-freight in the convention.

The convention will talk about some key challenges on the technology front on digitalization like cyber-security and debt recovery. ACCAI is now thinking of talking about issues beyond mere air cargo. And, I am sure this will bring in great and fruitful development.

Q) Presently, air cargo business is going through a patchy phase and global demand is showing no signs of improvement. In such a scenario, can we expect discussions on the revival of air freight demand in the convention?

The revival of the air cargo business is inevitable. Any developed or developing economy goes through ups and downs at some point in time. The Indian economy is going through a little tough time and so is air cargo business.

I am sure and very optimistic that the economy will rebound soon and air cargo business will fly high again. In this phase, we should re-introspect, re-channelize and re-energize our organizations for a very bright future ahead.

And, I am sure India has a bright future, not only is it strategically located but also it is at a favourable position in world tariff disputes. So, we are going to take full advantage of that and will provide the best service to our exporters and importers the best services at a minimal cost.

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