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Lighthouse - February, 2021.

CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE


No one predicted that a pandemic would have the world reeling under its aftermath in the year 2020. COVID-19 was a black swan event like no other, sending ripples of disruptions across every business segment. It has altered the very business landscape that CSS operates in.  

However, it is highly heartening that the CSS family has acted intelligently and responsibly to ensure market continuity. We have once again proven our flexibility to overcome challenges and embrace new realities.

Growth in the Time of Crisis

While everyone around was tightening their belts by downsizing their operations, we decided to take this challenge as an opportunity. We extended our footprint by opening up a new branch within the Hamriyah Free zone to reach out to the untapped market in the northern emirates of the UAE. With 500,000 sq. feet of storage facility across the UAE, CSS can proudly say that we are among the top service providers in the warehousing industry. Further cementing our market position, we officially signed contracts with various big names in the transport, hospitality, Oil & Gas industry & Fabricators as direct vendors ensuring business continuity for the next three years.

2021 – The Year of Great Change

In 2021, CSS has decided to put in place changes in strategy. The Group has restructured its core businesses by hiving them into separate entities headed by able leaders. Our offices are the support pillars that will help develop the region’s key customer base and increase our market reach. We are geared to bring forth new offerings and solutions, building stronger bonds with our existing client base and fortifying our network partner relationships. 

Considering the challenges that we faced in the year 2020, tight capacity is likely to continue during the first half of 2021. However, e-commerce retail and the manufacturing industry will be one of the drivers for the business. The new market equations and business models with investment into digitization will help us stay on top of our game in the coming year. The opening up of the Israeli markets and the lifting up of Qatar’s trade sanctions are bound to bring in new business.

The exemplary CSS attitude where “I” really does not hold a stand; is what will continue to propel us towards reaching our vision to be a top logistics provider in this region and beyond.

Ending on a Note of Heartfelt Gratitude

I want to thank all our network partners for their continued backing. We also acknowledge the strong support of our customers, bankers, and business associates in 2020. We look forward to your strong support to help us to achieve a better 2021 and beyond. Lastly, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each member of Team CSS. Your dedicated services and support during the pandemic helped us stay resilient.   

As John F. Kennedy said, when written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters—one represents danger, and one represents opportunity.

The pandemic has revealed a crisis can set the collective adrenaline flowing, allowing minds to focus on bringing forth new and improved solutions. So, Team CSS, let’s go on and make 2021 a 202WON!


CSS AND ALSTOM SIGN AGREEMENT FOR FREIGHT FORWARDING


Consolidated Shipping Services LLC (CSS) and Alstom Transport SA officially signed a 3-year contract appointing CSS as a direct registered vendor of Alstom Transport.

The contract draws out the general conditions under which CSS will perform the freight forwarding services. This agreement enhances the responsibility of CSS in providing a seamless end-to-end solution for Alstom. Along with our offices and our worldwide network partner, C.H. Robinson, we will provide unhindered and flawless logistics processes for Alstom as a single-window solution.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Chairman, T.S. Kaladharan, Sreenath Viswanathan, Vice President OPS & Projects, along with Don Raveendran, Manager Warehouse Operations from CSS and Radjah Zouaghi, Supply Chain Manager and Willard Fortus, Customs & Transport Leader from Alstom Transport.

CSS has been strategically aligned with Alstom since the year 2017. The partnership between Alstom and CSS started with the warehousing and logistics service provided for the 2020 Dubai Metro expansion project.

Alstom Transport is a global leader in the transportation sector. By leading the way to a greener and smarter mobility worldwide, Alstom develops and markets integrated systems that provide sustainable foundations for the future of transportation. Alstom offers a complete range of equipment and services, from high-speed trains, metros, trams, and e-buses to integrated systems, customized services, infrastructure, signaling, and digital mobility solutions.

Both parties are excited about this new partnership. Mr. T.S. Kaladharan spoke on this significant occasion by saying, CSS brings industry-leading logistics management services to the table to deliver Alstom’s next-gen transportation technology solutions. We are confident that Alstom will benefit from the deep skills that CSS possesses in freight forwarding, and this partnership will work out to be a powerful combination that is uniquely complementar.


FROM THE DIRECTOR’S DESK


cssAs we celebrate the silver jubilee of CSS in this edition of the Lighthouse, allow me to start by quoting the line from the famous Billy Ocean song, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Over the past 25 years, our organization has been on an incredible journey of growth. The year 2020 was indeed a surprise. The magnitude of the pandemic impacted the global economy and even our business. However, I take immense pride in how our organization weathered this storm.

This year, I saw the CSS family band together more than ever before. We worked even harder and stayed focused to reach our goals. Even as global businesses slowed down, we survived because of the dedication and commitment of my team. There are no words that can encapsulate my admiration and gratitude; for the sheer dedication and diligence on display during the last financial year. 

I say with pride that my team is my strength!

In this edition of the Lighthouse, we want to mark our thanks for our clients and business partners as well. We also place on record the singular support extended to us by the local authorities that kept our boat sailing. Now, the storm is past us, and we have learned valuable lessons from this adversity. Let us march ahead with confidence to attain fresh victories for CSS!


CHANDRAKALA HOLDS THE REINS OF THE NVOCC WING


cssMy CSS career began as I stepped into the hallowed portals of the CSS HQ in the year 2010. Since then, every year has brought in new challenges and opportunities, and I have seen myself do several mantles to reach where I am today. 

 As I handle the LCL Consolidation division along with my able teammates, we have come to realize this vertical is purely dependant on the mutual and strong cooperation with our partners and relentless local sales service. If the right synergy is not maintained, the consolidation will cease to thrive. 

A Season of Shifts & Changes

Over the past decade of my tenure with CSS, I have seen a dramatic shift in consolidation behaviors and patterns. Who would have guessed that a primarily prepaid market would turn into largely an import market? 

 We would have never predicted that congestions and void vessels would make customers consider LCL movements to ensure that their cargo reaches the destination. Today, the buyer has full control over building a successful import consolidation box. Today’s customers demand more direct services rather than having their shipment being re-handled at a transshipment hub.

With several factors to consider, from local and overseas compliances, LC requirements of our customers, carrier policies, customs policies, our checklists have become endless. We have often found ourselves stretching our limits by being creative, having to jump over the innumerable hurdles to avoid the business’s pitfalls. 

Having taken many calculated risks by introducing new strategies and out-of-the-box thinking, we have grown the consolidation business despite the many variables that came in our way. 

Our Outlook for the Future

Not for a moment should you consider that this is a message of negativity, instead, by understanding that our ever-evolving environments, we should work together as a team to follow the stratagem to success.  

With the Israeli market opening up with the landmark Abraham Accords’ signing between the UAE and Israel, we can predict a surge in trade ties between the two nations. The revival of trade ties with Lebanon also presents a positive outlook for the future. 

With plans in the anvil for UAE to become a manufacturing hub, we can naturally expect an increase in export consoles. As the GCC region’s nations thrive, it translates to the Jebel Ali Port’s growth, a win-win for all!

A free-market economy, the business culture of UAE enables ease of business, which in turn leads to the mushrooming of other players in the field who offer ludicrous prices to capture the market.  

The congestion might linger on for the first quarter of 2021, but it should ease from then on. We will continue to offer our clients flexible solutions that cater to their specific needs and requirements. 

Even though the “invisible enemy” wreaked havoc in 2020, we succeeded in achieving the same business volume as in 2019. In 2021, we hope to double the current volumes and service unique sectors. 

The 3-point strategy for the year ahead will be to:

  1. Sell smart
  2. Refine our customer service 
  3. Build up the network synergy

Nurturing a Culture of Positivity

At CSS, we practice an open-door policy. We encourage our colleagues to talk to each other. If the manager or team leader has caught the vision, the teammates are bound to follow suit. As a practice, we will not wait for our teammates to reach out to us, but we will communicate the vision to them to see it come to fulfillment. 

The inception of the CSS business was with consolidation. We have to strive hard to ensure that this division will continue to remain the very heart of CSS and drive growth for the company. To achieve this goal, CSS will move ahead by making path-breaking decisions out-of-the-ordinary and not always the norm. 


CSS OPERATIONS, PROJECTS, AND OIL & GAS VERTICALS RARING AHEAD WITH SREENATH AT THE HELM


cssPresently working as the Vice President for Operations & Projects, Oil & Gas, I joined CSS in 2002. Having been given the great opportunity to lay the foundations of the CSS Branch office in Bahrain, I later moved to the sales department at CSS Dubai. 

With opportunities galore for everyone, CSS has provided not just vertical growth but also a lateral growth experience. From sales to operations to supply chain management, transport, and Projects Oil & Gas, I have been allowed to handle various aspects of freight forwarding industry. That’s the secret of success behind the CSS growth story, and there is always an opportunity for all! It’s now been 18 years with CSS & 27 Years in the industry and I believe I am still as young and vibrant as the day I joined CSS. 

The Projects, Oil & Gas Vertical

The Projects, Oil & Gas vertical is at the heart of logistics for turnkey projects. The division specializes in handling long-term contracts and heavy lift loads, and out of gauge cargo. We consider every project as a whole new experience. With very experienced colleagues to handle any aspect of the project at any point of its handling, we are proud to be under the CSS group umbrella. Strictly adhering to the latest ISO & HSE policies, Team Projects provide our customers with seamless solutions with zero incidents from start to finish.

Looking ahead in 2021

2020 presented many an obstacle with the pandemic, yet we performed better than 2019! We have realized that we are more or less dependent on a set of key clients to sail us through. This needs an imminent change.

In 2021, Team CSS plans to have drastic changes in strategy. We are keen to develop the region’s key customer base by increasing our market reach beyond the U.A.E to the Middle East with our offices as support pillars. By expanding our reach, we will be sought after for projects in the region. The support provided by our valuable partners will allow us to achieve this. This will be our first step for 2021 towards our long-term vision for the next few years.

 As the markets open up after a disastrous 2020, several stalled projects are coming back into active mode. Team CSS is working to be at the forefront of things when the market opens.

Rising competition is a given in the project logistics arena, but an increase in project forwarders with little or no capabilities to perform is the real threat. Being a niche segment, the opportunities are immense, but forwarders with little or no knowledge can turn out to be the real spoilsport.

Propelling the CSS Vision

The CSS vision is to take the organization to be the leading integrated freight forwarder in the region. The Projects division will not take a back seat in this vision’s fulfillment, but we will be the propellant force in bringing CSS towards our common goal. By connecting our vision statement to the team, we will encourage each player to take responsibility in achieving our common goal. 

It’s All About “US”!

At CSS, “I” really does not hold a stand. Working shoulder-to-shoulder to achieve the common goal, we have always called ourselves Team CSS. This is what sets CSS apart from the rest and will continue over the years to come.

With a stronger and more confident Projects Team, we will sail the roughest of the seas by following this AAA diktat. Acknowledge our shortcomings, Aspire towards the shared vision and work towards its Achievement.


RAKESH MENON – GROWING UP WITH CSS


cssWith my 23-year tenure with CSS, my growth story has been in tandem with the company’s evolution from the initial days till what the company has grown to be today, a multinational company with offices across the GCC region, the Indian sub-continent, and beyond. From starting as a sales executive to being Sr. Vice President, it has been a phenomenal journey.

Ushering in Winds of Change

The year 2020 ushered in much change in our industry. New technology and market equations and rising customer expectations, and newer business models presented opportunities and risks.

Adopting and adapting to new technology is the rule of the day. The best way to conquer the highly competitive market is to focus on customer service.

New Technologies, New Market Equations, New Business Models 

The pandemic has brought several threat factors in its wake. It has increased competition and tightened margins. Our focus for the first half of 2021 will retain our existing traditional customers with hands-on customer service. 

The recent trade forecasts predict that freight and shipping volumes will rebound in 2021 as the world is slowly recovering from the economic recession caused by the pandemic. With the Middle East opening to markets that were closed for years, the next few years look promising with many opportunities. This is the hour to come up with “out-of-box” solutions that will invariably produce organic growth.

The new market equations and new business models with digitization will create a highly competitive market scenario. These new digital business models have the strength to seize the industry leadership, leaving the traditional forwarders far behind. We have always managed to stay ahead of CSS’s curve by adopting new business models and investing in digitization.

CSS Values and Culture

At CSS, I value the feeling that I belong to a “big family” and the infectious team spirit to reach the common goal. The open-door policy allows anyone from bottom to top to access the management team to share their suggestions or concerns.

I believe in leading by example. By inspiring and motivating a team with a clear vision and passion for work, we can steer the ship to the pinnacles of success. 

Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress and working together is a success. This is the mantra I stand by when you combine the energy, knowledge, and skills of a motivated group of people, we can surely accomplish any goal.


VIVEK NAIR SPEARHEADING THE FINANCE VERTICAL


cssA finance professional with 15 years of regional and international experience, my expertise lies primarily in Financial and Performance Project Management, Treasury Management, Corporate Taxation, Corporate Structuring, Business Consulting, Restructuring & ERP across a broad spectrum of industries including Construction, Manufacturing, Trading, Real estate, Service. I joined CSS recently to harness the skill sets acquired over the period to support its vision and mission.

Global Financial Facilitator

Finance is always a support function, and we are primarily responsible for facilitating all the organization’s financial operations. To explain our roles a bit further, our vertical will provide financial leadership across the organization to facilitate rapid growth in liquidity constrained environments, focusing on strategic & tactical planning and corporate governance. Our role would also extend to risk analysis and mitigation strategies, systems, structures & procedures implementation, cash flow & working capital management, margin improvement & cost containment, credit negotiations with client & financial institutions with special emphasis on relationship & team building.

As a vertical, we would be focusing on maintaining the right financial mix to support the CSS growth trajectory with weightage given to generating long term value to the stakeholders. Our focus would be to maintain transparency of financial initiatives undertaken and monitor and control the organization’s health.

CSS Finance Vision

The mission is to provide leadership, operational oversight, and system coordination of financial products and services. We intend to add value with accurate, insightful, and timely information, analysis, and solutions that promote informed decision-making. The vision of our vertical is to be known as a “model for organizational efficiency and effectiveness” that leverages:

4 Integration of risk considerations to enhance decision-making processes and operations;

4 Benchmarking to improve accountability, transparency, and performance; and

4 Professional expertise to deliver service and results on behalf of our stakeholders.

Risk & Mitigation Measures

The macroeconomic situation has worsened with the ongoing pandemic, resulting in a higher risk that the business carries in credit, liquidity, and operations. The Finance team intends to bring a more structured approach to strategic management by documenting and implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to deal with financial and operational risk. 

Risk analysis would be undertaken for each of the business’s key segments on a periodical basis with balance and checks to ensure that the risk is mitigated. External stakeholders in the form of bankers and financial institutions will be involved to achieve higher operational leverage. Margins continue to remain under pressure, which we believe could be assuaged partially by Value GAP analysis.

Forging New Partnerships & Commitment to the CSS Vision

Inspiring and motivating people to do their best to achieve the organization’s goals remains the very fabric of CSS culture. We believe innovation, being the CSS vision’s crux, can only be achieved by right and empowered resources. 

To augment the said vision, we would try to inculcate the CSS values by getting our hands dirty, respecting the chain of commands, deliver the promised results, and appreciating the people contributing to the organizational success. 

Our vertical aims to achieve the following goals:  

  1. Steward: Protect the vital assets of the company, ensure compliance with financial regulations, close the books correctly, and communicate value and risk issues to investors and boards.
  2. Operator: Operate an efficient and effective finance organization providing various services to the business such as financial planning and analysis, treasury, tax, and other finance operations.
  3. Strategist: Influence the company’s future direction by providing financial leadership and aligning business and finance strategy to grow the business.

I believe in leading the team by example rather than managing the activities. It creates a picture of what is possible as leading by example and makes it easier for others to follow suit.


GLOBAL FREIGHT FORWARDING BUSINESS HEADED BY ROSHMON MANOLI


cssHaving begun my CSS career in 2000, I have had the opportunity to grow along with the organization and witness its phenomenal growth from close quarters. It has been a privilege to be a part of CSS’s successful journey as it completes 25 years in the shipping and logistics business this year.

CSS has evolved to become one of the most innovative service providers in this region and with offices across the GCC and the Indian subcontinent and extensive global coverage through its international network partners.

Marching onwards

In my new role, I look forward to growing the global freight forwarding business at CSS and the experienced team of product specialists in each of the verticals – Air, Ocean, Supply Chain & CHR Network / Key Account Management. Considering the challenges the industry faced in 2020 amidst the pandemic, tight capacity has been a key characteristic for both air and sea freight forwarding markets. This is likely to continue during the first half of 2021. However, our team is geared to tackle this by offering new solutions and services to customers, building stronger customer relationships, and our key partners. Over the next three years, one of our focus areas is balancing volume growth with revenue sustenance across all the verticals.

New market segments

The E-commerce retail and manufacturing industry will be one of the big drivers for the logistics business. We see this as a potential opportunity for revenue growth moving ahead. The strong work ethic and ‘customer-first’ culture of the CSS team will eventually propel the strategies and plans for the next five years as we surge ahead on full steam towards completing three successful decades in the business.


THE OCEAN FREIGHT VERTICAL HELMED BY SANTANU DATTA


cssMy leg of the journey with CSS began just two years back, in February 2021, as I stepped into General Manager’s role at the CSS office at Jebel Ali, Dubai, UAE. It has been a highly successful tenure with the key responsibility of developing business, particularly ocean freight export. 

 My career spans around 24 years in the shipping and logistics industry before joining the CSS Group. Having worked in various capacities across the Middle East, India & Europe, my experience encompasses both mainliners and forwarding companies.

Strategies, Opportunities & Challenges

With almost 70% of global transportation focused on ocean freight, there is a large potential market to tap. We can develop this service offering to our customer base. While the main focus remains on FCL Export, we also need to strengthen our import and x-trade ocean services while engaging our networking partners worldwide.

 Developing the volume would continue to be our prime focus. However, the right cargo and customer-mix will also be needed to sustain us in this vastly competitive vertical. Expanding our business horizons in this large industry vertical throws many opportunities vide RFQ and we would also focus on SME sectors to balance the risk factor.

Short- & Long-Term Vision and Objectives      

As the year 2021 unfolds, we intend to consolidate all sales forces’ efforts across the UAE and GCC region to create a larger basket to offer to the ocean carrier industry. We will focus on emerging and growth markets like Africa, South-East Asia, and the ever-demanding North American market for the next five years.    


RICHARD VARGHESE LEADS THE SUPPLY CHAIN WING


cssAs I look back at the past ten years of my journey with the CSS family, my heart swells with pride and joy at the immense experience and deep insights I have gained within the freight industry.

The Logistics and Supply Chain Management industries face an uphill battle this year, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unprecedented crisis has brought new opportunities to the transportation, logistics, and warehousing verticals across the globe. In the year 2021, my team intends to focus on Supply Chain development, and I foresee a good growth rate over the forecast period of 2021-2025. 

CSS is one of the major service providers in the warehousing industry in the UAE, with 500,000 sq feet of storage facility located within Freezones and also across Dubai Mainland. Our capacities include storage solutions for general commodities for both temperature and non-temperature-controlled products. 

Even though CSS has expanded to different verticals over time, warehousing has always remained a core CSS activity for years. With several long-term clients across a wide range of industry sectors, from electronics, apparel, spare parts, tools, furniture, and much more, we have built long-lasting relationships with our client base.

We look forward to developing upcoming services like last-mile deliveries, exhibition, and international relocations as part of our plans for 2021.

Reiterating the vision set forth by the company, our vertical has set our sights on providing the highest quality warehouse logistics, storage, and distribution services across the UAE and beyond.


ANITHA DISPLAYS HER PROWESS AT CUSTOMER SERVICE


cssWith 25 years in the logistics industry, I have had the privilege of covering almost every aspect of this industry. Operations and customer service to sales, special projects, and developing network partnerships – I have handled everything. The cumulative experience has shaped me to be the “right fit” for my current role. The best part is that I have hands-on experience from within the CSS Group itself.  

Customer Service – The Very Heart of Logistics

My current area of focus will be managing and developing the Customer Service division at CSS. My responsibilities will also encompass building relationships with our network of partners along with Special Projects. Critical and time-bound shipments across all industry segments, Special Projects require on-time completion and a keen sense of discretion, given the moves’ sensitivity.

Strategizing for Our Path Ahead

While we have a whole range of tactics and strategies planned for the way forward, the primary one is to increase my team’s strength. Secondly, we are keen on deepening the commitment with our partners worldwide. Engaging with our network partners will help us spread our wings, and in turn, this symbiotic relationship will fuel our partners’ growth.

 The management team has extended their full support to our plans and ideas, which helped implement them without much ado.

Africa and the Far East – The New Frontiers

There is a rising potential in the African and Far-Eastern markets. Working in tandem with our network partners, we can fuel growth in these regions. The signing of the landmark Abraham Accords has eased diplomatic relations between the Middle East and Israel. This strategic move has opened up a large market for the logistics industry. We are indeed living in exciting times!

We intend to expand our portfolio by including more challenging projects in remote areas, thereby further extending our footprint across the region.

Leading by Example

I work by the diktat, “Work Hard, Play Hard.” I believe in leading by example and letting my work and methods be a source of insight and motivation for my team. 

I want to empower my teammates to reach their maximum potential. Be fearlessly ambitious, be ambitiously productive, and productively positive. We can take CSS to the pinnacles of success!


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