Wednesday 6 November 2019

Single window clearance required for cross-border movement of goods: RS Subramanian, DHL Express

Single window clearance required for cross-border movement of goods: RS Subramanian, DHL ExpressDHL Express is empowering the Indian SMEs in the cross border trade by hassle-free shipping services. The company is today present in more than 600 Indian cities and serves around 60,000 customers annually.

In a chat with ETRetail's Varun Jain, RS Subramanian, country manager of DHL Express, talks about the company's new initiatives to help SMEs with seamless trade experience, the challenges with cross-border trade and the company's focus area for future growth. Edited Excerpts

How is DHL Express empowering Indian SMEs to take on global markets?

As a global leader in express logistics, we connect Indian SMEs to our global network across 220 countries and territories. We have a direct presence in all the important SME clusters in India, which is critical as manufacturing bases have increasingly moved into Tier II and III cities. In addition to our direct network within the country, which is second to none, we also leverage the network of Blue Dart Express - a part of our parent company, to cover smaller towns. Together, we now cover close to 30,000 locations within India.

In the last two years alone, we have opened new Service Centers for direct coverage in 20 key Tier I and Tier II markets. We have a footprint of over 659 retail Service Points where a customer can walk in to drop off a shipment, and our door-to-door offerings ensure that everything, right from pick up to customs clearance processing and deliveries through our global network, is taken care of by us. We offer 24x7 customer service support and manage any delays and bottlenecks in international shipping, thereby offering SMEs a seamless and hassle-free experience.

Tell us about the Yellow Yatra initiative?
We launched Yellow Yatra, a multi-city series of events which is focused on equipping small, medium and micro businesses in different cities with the know-how to flourish in cross-border e-commerce. So far, we have held Yellow Yatra in Surat and Delhi. The program aims to be a single platform that connects entrepreneurs to a wider ecosystem comprising tax consultants, digital marketers, and experts with deep and enhanced knowledge of online marketplaces, payment gateways, and web development platforms. We are very driven to help SMEs expand their customer base beyond borders by helping them leverage e-commerce.

How fast is DHL Express growing in India?

Years ago, DHL Express was present in about ten cities in India, and we are now in 659 cities. Today we serve 60,000 customers annually, reach 220 countries and territories globally, and cover 33,000 locations across India through a network of 53 Service Centers, 8 clearance locations including 4 large airside Gateways, over 634 Service Points, a fleet of over 400 vehicles on the road, 19 weekly inter-continental flights, 67 daily international and 80 domestic commercial flights. We have substantially expanded the Delhi gateway to double the capacity of export clearances from India for the express logistics company and handle an additional 60% of imports.

Till about 20 years back we were largely carrying trade documents and small low-value samples for exporters – this has changed in the last two decades. We now carry a wide range of parcels and shipments from across industry segments – textile, garment, and leather exporters, engineering and manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, electronics and technology, chemicals, handicrafts, aviation – more importantly, the e-commerce platforms and retailers - there is no industry where express services are not relevant and critical today.

How many SMEs are availing services of DHL Express?

Our SME customer base has seen an incremental growth on a year on year basis. Today, 70 percent of our business comes from this customer set.

What are the challenges faced for cross border trade?

Trade requires a strong logistics backbone to support its growth and progress. However, there are a couple of roadblocks that need resolving in order to ensure that logistics is seamless. Currently, we are in a suspicion-based environment and it is essential that we move to an environment that is trust-based instead.

There is also a need to have single-window clearance for cross border movement of goods and also for permissions governing air cargo and at the airports. Most importantly, there must also be a single source of information that provides dependable compliance information to the information seeker. It can be related to duties, taxes, and controls or with respect to rules and regulations for service providers. A central unequivocal reference point is needed so that there is no room for dual interpretations, running from pillar to post just to get procedural clarity.

How is DHL Express tackling this issue?

At DHL Express, we are deeply focused on expanding our cargo handling capabilities across India. A case in point being the expansion of the Delhi gateway, which has now led to an increase in our export clearance capacity by one hundred percent. This has enabled a more efficient movement of SME shipments from the northern, eastern and western parts of the country by expediting the process thereby reducing the bottlenecks and increased costs that come along with it.

We are always working with trade bodies like EICI to ensure that there is a better interpretation of the law like GST or even the basic compliance like KYC. Besides, the EICI and DHL Express, along with the Government of India and the Customs Board have jointly and successfully developed the Express Cargo Clearance System. It has led to electronic customs clearance, ridding the archaic process of manual clearances. Not only is this in line with the Digital India initiative but it is also environmentally friendly by reducing the use of paper.

What are the future plans of the company in India?

Our vision is to be the logistics company for the world. Through our insanely customer-centric culture, we strive to connect people seamlessly by delivering consistent excellence. It is our constant endeavor to make business simpler for our customers, employees, investors, and society. We endeavor to provide the best in class customer experience to our ever-growing SME customer base in Tier II and III markets and connect Indian businesses globally through our network of 220 countries and territories. We are proactively looking out for and leveraging digitalization opportunities. We seek to achieve quality growth by delivering a superior customer service experience, growing our quality business with A+ customer experience, and empowering our teams to deliver success.

For the next few years, our focus shall remain on looking for new opportunities to benefit our customers and continuing our investment in hiring quality talent and upskilling employees.

What areas would you focus on going ahead to achieve the desired growth?
The wave of cross border e-commerce and increasing SME focus on going beyond borders are intended to be big growth drivers for us at DHL Express.

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