Today, we will talk with an industry expert “Randika De Silva” who has extensive experience in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. With more than 10 years of experience in various fields such as freight forwarding, aviation cargo, and commercial airliners, he knows a lot about what’s going on in the industry and what’s ahead.
Having worked with almost 17 airlines, there is usually nothing left that you have yet to see in this industry. Mr. Randika De Silva has worked with some of the famous airlines such as AirAsia Group, Lufthansa, and Sri Lankan Airlines in both passenger and cargo operations.
So without further ado, let’s start the interview:
Tell us about your educational background and what are you doing right now?
My name is Randika De Silva. I have the IATA (International Air Transport Association) training along with various certifications in the cargo & airline fields. To stay at the forefront, I also decided to do MBA and have just recently finished my MBA degree.
Despite working with various airlines, I am also an entrepreneur at heart. I had founded a company with the main focus on courier delivery in Sri Lanka and eventually sold it after receiving a good offer. Right now, my main focus is on managing two countries in the Middle East and the Southeast Asian region.
Over the years, I have seen many trends form and fade away in the shipping and logistics industry. To stay on top of my game, I continued to expand my skillset to make sure that I was offering the best in the world of logistics.
What do you think about the current challenges faced by the Supply Chain Industry?
Right now, the biggest threat faced by the industry is in the form of a microorganism that is wreaking havoc all around the world. Yes, I am talking about the COVID-19 virus, which has disturbed the supply chains of the entire world.
At the peak of COVID-19, restrictions on the borders of almost all countries and a major reduction of global trade caused many disruptions in the logistics and supply chain. But things have calmed down now, and the Industry is almost back on track. But the rates have definitely increased as the demand is rising once again while the supply side is still lagging behind due to the COVID-19 impact.
We can also not forget about the recent Suez Canal incident. The Suez Canal was blocked for many days, and the authorities had to spend a lot of time just to normalize the situation. That incident also had a major impact on the industry and even highlighted the fault lines as well.
In fact, the Suez Canal incident also highlighted the importance of the Airfreight industry. Since we are still living in the age of pandemic, I would say that its share in the overall industry is only going to rise… So for the players in the Airfreight sector, there are a lot of growth possibilities.
Fast forward to today, we can say that the Supply Chain industry has become somewhat pandemic proof as it has found a way to stay operational with all the restrictions and new challenges. It would not have been possible without understanding the customer’s expectations and then providing the best solutions for the problems.
Being in the industry for so long, what’s your outlook on the current Aviation Industry?
To say that the COVID-19 and the recent challenges didn’t affect the industry would be an understatement. But things have started to pick once again, and the aviation industry is also trying its best to make ends meet (generating revenue & covering the business expenses). During the pandemic’s peak, the industry was all about survival, but things have started to normalize now.
In fact, the recent periods of problems have also highlighted a positive aspect of the logistics industry: Resilience and flexibility… Actually, the industry managed to survive the tough times much better than the other sectors while still working within the regulatory framework.
I believe that the airlines have many opportunities and hidden potential that just need to be discovered. The recent tough times have also resulted in a lot of airlines filing for bankruptcy. But let’s not forget that almost a dozen new airlines have also started their operations in the European sector. So, it shows that the aviation industry is not only surviving but also trying to adapt to the new playing field.
Right now, the existing airlines should focus on those areas which were previously missed or not given attention. It is as simple as finding the problem and providing the solution.
I have also been stressing the need for airlines to have a direct physical presence in the areas where they operate for a long time. It seems that the airlines have started to focus on this aspect as well… I believe that by the year 2024, the importance and potential benefit of having a direct office will become more prominent to the airlines.
These days, it has become very easy for a handful of people to manage a station by using solutions such as eAWB. This also allows them to not form any partnerships with other parties for the airline representation.
Another area of interest that would gain popularity in the coming years is “Total Cargo Management.” this is a subject I’m very fond of. The aviation industry has always been welcoming of new technology, but there is always room for new products and services. I believe that to survive in the current conditions, the aviation industry as a whole will have to introduce new products and services. The reason for this is very simple: Their core products have taken a severe hit due to the pandemic. To make up for lost revenue, it is the need of the hour to expand and adapt.
What do you think of the forwarding business? What’s your outlook on this?
At its core, the forwarding business can be considered a very competitive and flexible business. The main service providers in this line of business are the airlines and the shipping lines… But if we look closer at the forwarding business, it becomes clear that it is a lot more complicated with more stakeholders at play.
COVID-19 also affected the forwarding business, just like it affected the whole industry. As a result, small players definitely suffered a lot which is very unfortunate, to be honest. But the industry managed to survive, and these days, it is all about providing faster solutions with reliability as the top focus.
Right now, the Middle East is definitely one of the biggest logistics hubs in the world, with UAE as one of the major countries. So I think that the organizations that shift their focus to these areas will find a lot of opportunities for growth. Especially the foreign investments in the UAE and similar countries are always incentivized.
So Mr. De Silva, let’s talk about your achievements for a bit. And what are your takeaways for industry professionals?
Yes, one of the projects that I worked on in 2017 involved revamping a loss-making GSA organization. Severe losses were at the core of the problem, and the products offered by the organization were simply not working. After analysing the situation, I found some of the very basic flaws where were hindering the company from moving forward.
For starters, the customer service was very bad, and the operational requirements for the Airport had also not been met. When I looked at the sales framework, I found there was nothing to look at.
In short, I managed to fix the inefficiencies and turned the loss-making product into a profitable one.
Flow to the next one is not smooth enough
In 2020, I was given a similar problem to solve: Severe losses for several years in a row. Once again, the same problems such as poor customer service, no sales framework, and poor pricing model were present. The company even failed to figure out its basic expenses and revenue to start with. After following my recommendations, the company managed to make a full comeback and is now consistently painting a healthy P&L.
From these 2 examples, we can easily understand that even small things can significantly impact the bigger picture. It may sound simple to correct basic mistakes such as customer support, sales work, or operational framework, but believe me, many organizations fail to look at these.
Are there any opportunities for the global industry as a whole? What’s your outlook?
This is a very interesting question… Being located in a major logistics hub, you need to understand the global business.
In the South Asian region, we have major countries such as China, Japan, Bangladesh, India, and Vietnam, which are considered major players in the logistics industry. Some of the other important markets in this region are Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Korea.
If we look in the European region, we have Germany, Italy, and France. In fact, the US is also a major manufacturing hub…
For any country, having a stable supply chain that continues to operate with minimum deficiencies is very important. It doesn’t matter if the economy is export-based or import-based; the need for a stable supply chain is of paramount importance.
That’s why I believe that the integration of new technologies will increase the transparency and efficiency of the logistics and supply chain. This integration will not only increase productivity but will also bring new opportunities as well.
Another benefit of modern technologies will be in the form of reduced costs as a result of automation.