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Meet the Elite: Kapil Madhok

Expeditors’ Country Head for India on opportunity, challenges and why the learning never stops

Tell us about yourself

I have always worked in cargo. I started out in Delhi on the airline side back in 1995. In 2002, I moved to the forwarding side, working for a variety of competitors. I managed air exports and operations in Delhi and then Dubai, as well as a number of roles in a number of other countries. I joined Expeditors in 2015 and was based in Delhi to take care of India. In 2016, I was given the additional responsibility for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, looking after air freight from these countries.

What are your main shipments and flows?

We’re a US-based company, so there are natural flows there, plus Europe and Asia Pacific, both on the import and export side. We’ve been strong on retail, which is mainly garments out from the Indian subcontinent, with healthcare and automotive supporting our growth. We also have a number of technology customers too, both chips and complete goods such as smartphones. A lot of those goods are imports but we do see some exports in that sector too.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?

With Expeditors the most rewarding thing has been training a young team, getting them to understand the challenges and for them to get the results in a very competitive environment. We have about 160 people handling airfreight in India across six district offices. Of these Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai are the biggest.

On the forwarding side, the learning never stops, so it’s always interesting. Having an understanding of both sides of the business – airline and forwarding – has helped me a lot. The exciting thing is that it’s a fast-paced business and you need to move quickly, and the market dynamics can change just as rapidly. The moment space has gone, it’s gone.

What are the challenges and opportunities?

We can’t predict this business, but we do feel the global economy is in positive shape, which strengthens global trade and consumer buying power. We have had positive growth in our airfreight division over the past six quarters.

In terms of threats we can see some concerns that are increasing the cost of fuel, and the swings in demand are a bit erratic while capacity is static. That makes it challenging to adjust to customer requirements.

We see India becoming more and more of a centre for healthcare and from a technology perspective we see a lot of companies making investments in India, which help imports and exports. On a local level we have 22 sales teams across the country keeping us connected with what’s happening.

As the Indian economy develops, infrastructural developments are improving things. We’re looking forward to the new airport at Mumbai, and the new cargo handling warehouse at Delhi will be welcome too.

Kapil Madhok, Expeditors’ Country Head for India

What is the next big thing?

The big trend is digitisation and we see a lot of customers interested in the idea of end-to-end transparency, especially with issues like final-mile delivery. We have a special product offering this, for domestic pick-up and delivery across India, and worldwide for air and ocean shipments. The technology piece is ours and we work with our partners to deliver it. The technology alerts people at each milestone along the chain, and the tracking happens at a customer level.

Why Cathay Pacific?

We work with airlines all across the world, but Cathay Pacific is one of our strategic airline service providers, which is our highest tier. In India, Cathay Pacific probably offers the largest freighter uplift in and out of India. With the volumes we move we need to have an airline we can depend on for capacity, deliverables and the visibility. We measure all our partners on what they deliver, and we see Cathay Pacific helping us to grow our mutual business, and the team’s technical ability has enabled us to move some specialist shipments that we would not have otherwise been able to do. We have gone to discussions with the Cathay team so that we are able to better understand our customers’ requirements.

What do you do outside of work?

I dedicate a lot of time to my kids. I have a son who is 14 and a daughter who is nine, so family time is important for my wife and me. We like to travel up into the mountains, or play some sports. I also like to take part in a bit of sport too, such as swimming or badminton, which helps me to relax, unwind and stay fit.