Raju Anthony: An Experienced Leader Spearheading The Supply Chain & Logistics Sector
Raju Anthony, COO, Abrao Group, 0
In an exclusive interview with CEO Insights, Raju discusses Abrao Group's market position including his leadership stint.
Could you give a brief account of your professional background and experiences? What is the motivation that fuels your daily routines?
In the early part of my professional career I was largely the ‘numbers guy’ mostly over viewing the financial and accounting aspects of the group. Here, I grew from being a Senior Accounts executive to the Group’s CFO over the years. Then as the business expanded, I was additionally tasked with certain responsibilities with more bearing on strategy and operational aspects which exposed me to the business dynamics deeply. Later as part of business expansion for one of the Group’s verticals for container operations in India, was entrusted to lead as the Commercial Head and then went on to be the COO for the Group’s liner division.
It has been a phenomenal roller coaster ride and a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with some of the best minds that our industry had to offer.
Being so long in the group & the industry you are likely to experience challenging head winds. I was fortunate enough to not only witness but also contribute in navigating through those experiences. What excites me daily is the continuous challenges & opportunities in being top of mind of our customers.
You possess two decades of experience. How has your path to success been and what is your success mantra?
Our Group started with limited destinations and our product representations were mainly focused on the China, Far East, and South East Asia India containerized EXIM trade. This meant that any impact on the EXIM policies, bilateral trade, commodity restrictions or lower productions had the ability to dramatically shrink the business if not bringing this to a grinding halt. We learned to diversify into other regions with some additions to our product portfolios and started growing in strength to the Middle East, Japan, the US, and South American Markets.
Issues continue with container shipping witnessing oversupply in terms of tonnage while a contraction in primary demand areas of the US and Europe given some of the inflationary trends as a consequence of supply chain disruption caused during the recent pandemic.
Our learning curve largely came about from the Financial crisis in 2007-2008 and a decade later during the initial few months of COVID-19, which were some of the worst testing times for our Group as it destroyed our fundamentals of steady growth patterns and risk management.
The first time when we were hit by this downturn, we decided that digitalization with a 100 percent focus on customer centricity will be our 'success mantra'. The group started intensifying its investment in developing internal capabilities on the technology front. In our approach, we kept sustainable growth and practices over shortterm cost reductions or savings. This meant that we had to internalize our transformation thought process across our Human capital to not only focus on sales and marketing efforts but also operational efficiency through robust process audits, metrics for returns, and administration areas. We also learned to say ‘NO’ to unstainable practices with respect to working capital management and brought in necessary credit controls. Talent acquisition became another area of primary focus as we believed very strongly that the ‘Right mind sets the right course’.
How would you define Abrao Group as an organization and its position in the market? Also, do tell us about your flagship offerings and what value additions customers can expect from your offerings.
Recently, we redefined our vision statement to be an agile, innovative, and technology driven logistics company for our customers globally. There is a lot of impetus on digitalization.
As a planned strategy, we have our own software development team based out of Chennai and Cochin
Our flagship offering remains containerized shipping across more than 30+ countries from 20+ offices in India and overseas. As value offerings to our customers, we have totally digitized our customer journey for our services right from information on service offerings, KYC, inquiry up to container release orders, tracking, online digital invoices, payments & receipts, and more, on our in-house developed Customer Portals.
As guidelines, my leadership approach remains largely about ensuring that our customer experience both internal & external, remains unparallel & yes in the most ethical manner. Strongly believe the rest will follow
Our group is accredited with issuing the first electronic Bill of lading in India by an NVOCC as a progressive solution for the paperless exchange of the document of title from shippers to consignees globally. Our in-house developed CRM systems can provide valuable insights and record feedback on trends and customer demand for the equipment type, destination, and services. Along with the large strides undertaken in digitalization, the group continues to maintain its firm belief in the 'Human Touch' by providing a regular front line interface with the customers to understand evolving demands and manage service aspects.
Tell us about the sustainable practices that Abrao Group has adopted in its operations and the company’s visions towards a sustainable future.
Concerning sustainable practices, I’m personally inspired by this quote from Jennifer Nini - ‘We can’t just consume our way to a more sustainable world’. Our Group is tying up its efforts with the Association of Multimodal Transport Operators of India in redefining and resetting its sustainability goals. Currently, we are in the advanced stages of reviewing the key dimensions of ESG initiatives with impacts on environmental, Social and Human Capital. We are already sensitizing both our upstream and downstream partners toward sustainability practices. Our CSR initiatives focus more on reskilling women who are seeking to be financially independent. One of our recent initiatives is ‘The Skill Development Workshop’ for Self Help Group (SHG) women wherein apart from training in tailoring and embroidery, we also provide them with the necessary equipment to earn a dignified living. The organization also closely works with ‘GOONJ’ towards disaster and rehabilitation efforts by way of medical interventions, and supply of food kits & PPE kits to frontline workers. Last year we sponsored 300 Cataract Surgeries in Aurangabad District among our many initiatives.
Tell us about your leadership and governance approach. What are the guidelines you follow as a leader?
Our leadership largely focuses on making our co-workers more capable and valued. It attempts to ensure that through digitization and technology, we provide a better execution and experience to our customers. Sustainable growth remains the core of our approach methodology. Time to-time evaluation of resources both in terms of availability, deployment, and returns remains essential. We adopt very high standards of governance and do subject the entire business to various audits to judge the efficacy of our process and practices, i.e., our systems, financials, taxation, and our processes. Moreover, valuing the significance of competitive and collaborative insights, we have imbibed Data analytics into the bloodstream of our decision-making.
As guidelines, my leadership approach remains largely about ensuring that our customer experience both internal and external, remains unparallel and yes in the most ethical manner. Strongly believe, the rest will follow. I personally learned this the hard way Keep it Simple and don’t fix what ain’t broken.
What is the future destination you are heading towards?
For the largest time and a good share of our business, we were part of the supply chain which undertakes the Ocean freight piece. Having developed our strength in Ocean carriage the group today is moving towards a larger engagement with its customers to provide endto-end logistics solutions.
Focus will be to provide bespoke value added services in line with specific requirements of our customers, integrating existing services and capabilities of the group!
Raju Anthony, COO, Abrao Group
By qualification having pursued an MBA from SP Jain, Certified scrum product owner(CSPO), Six Sigma Black Belt and Advanced Management from IIM Bangalore, Raju Anthony holds nearly two decades of experience in handling a wide spectrum of responsibilities in the Group including that of CFO, Strategy & Planning Head, Process and Transformation Lead & VP Commercial. Currently, as the COO of Abrao Group, he oversees their liner operations in India.
•Hobbies: Mostly Reading, Travelling, and Cricket
•Favorite Cuisine:Traditional Indian
•Favorite Book: Built to Last by Jim Collins
•Favorite Travel Destination: