WISTA India kindles an invigorating flame within the global shipping industry: new association gets off to a shining start, By James Brewer
A traditional lamp-lighting ceremony has launched the new WISTA India on a trail-blazing path that has quickly evoked an enthusiastic response across the country’s maritime centres.
Symbolising the conquest of darkness, and the spreading of enlightenment, the observance marked a further bright chapter on a global basis for the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association. The number of national WISTA associations currently totals 31, encompassing 1, 875 individual members. The formation of WISTA India has been especially heartening, coming on the heels of the establishment of a WISTA association in China in 2011. India and China had been notable gaps in the WISTA network during its 38-year history.
A leading personality in world shipping, Mr Sabyasachi Hajara, performed the lamp-lighting honours for WISTA India just ahead of completion of his term as chairman and managing director of the Shipping Corporation of India. He warmly congratulated Ms Sanjam Sahi Gupta, director of Sitara Shipping, who is WISTA India president, and her core team. Welcoming the impressive early progress of WISTA India, Ms Karin Orsel, WISTA International president, said: “For many years we have tried to set up a WISTA chapter in India; the fact that Ms Gupta devoted so much to time and care to gathering the right people prior to starting up shows true leadership and vision.
“It makes me feel humble and proud at the same time to witness the quick development of WISTA India. Sanjam and her team are paving the way for the rightful recognition of the contribution women can and will make in current and future generations of young maritime professionals in shipping. It is their enthusiasm, their positive energy and personal commitment that makes the difference, “ said Ms Orsel.
Underlining the potential for WISTA to expand rapidly in the world’s second most populous nation was the presence at the launch event in addition to members from Mumbai, of representatives from Delhi, Chennai, Surat, Goa and Baroda.
Since the launch, WISTA India membership has grown to 68, from many parts of India. A Chennai sub-chapter already boasts at least 15 members, and further sub-chapters including North India/Delhi and East India are in the works.
In his keynote address, Mr Hajara expressed pleasure that WISTA India was being launched at the SCI auditorium, and stressed the importance of the continuous upgrading of knowledge and expertise, one of the aims of the WISTA women. He emphasised that there was tremendous scope for women professionals to shine and reach the pinnacle of success in the sector.
SCI has been to the fore in appointing senior lady executives. In addition, it was the first Indian shipping company to employ female cadets, chief engineer and ship’s master. SCI’s training institute, MTI, offers special rates to girl cadets, Mr Hajara said.
In an interview with www.allaboutshipping.co.uk national association president Ms Gupta told us how she came to join the industry. “I belong to a family of ‘shippies.’ My father, Capt Sahi, a master mariner, would enthrall us with his experiences at sea, and I decided I wanted to be a part of this profession, ” said Ms Gupta.
“Certain that I would join my father one day in his business – my father left sea very young to set up his own business – I completed my MBA (the family-managed business programme) from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research and pursued my Diploma in Shipping Management from Narottam Morarjee Institute of Shipping.
“In 2001 I joined the business. A few years into the Industry, on a particularly frustrating day when I faced a lot of bias being a woman, I wondered why there was no association for women and Googled the same. Voilà! I was directed to the WISTA page. At that time, the chairpersons of both the Mumbai port trusts, JNPT and MBPT, were women.”
Ms Gupta contacted the WISTA ExCo (the international executive committee), but her hopes were dashed by a seeming lack of response from women in India. “In April 2012, I decided once again to try to establish WISTA in India. With the help of my mentor Irene Lim of the WISTA ExCo, I started the groundwork for setting up WISTA here. The legal formalities are very time consuming and it took us another seven months to get our Certificate of Incorporation. I was lucky to have my father, a veteran in this industry, to guide me through this process.”
The making of WISTA India during 2012, though challenging, was a very enriching experience, said Ms Gupta. “I have had the opportunity to interact with some of the extremely accomplished women in the industry.”
One of the key objectives of WISTA India, Ms Gupta told the launch audience, would be mentoring and spreading awareness about growth opportunities, which will be done through a mix of workshops, seminars and knowledge sharing sessions involving eminent speakers. Among the first such initiatives, Capt Dinesh Gautama is to hold training workshops at Narottam Morarjee Institute and Ms Shantha Martin has arranged to have training programmes with IIM Ahmedabad.
One of the guests of honour, Ms Nafeesa Moloobhoy, managing partner of AS Moloobhoy & Sons, declared: “Women have arrived in the Indian maritime industry and are here to stay.” Women were taking up jobs in both the nautical and engineering streams, more women were joining maritime courses and attending maritime conferences and seminars, and the entry of women was no longer restricted at certain facilities, said Ms Moloobhoy.
Mr Anil Devli, chief executive of the Indian National Shipowners Association, offered the assistance of his association to WISTA, an organisation which he felt could give an impetus to efforts promote Indian shipping.
Ms Jyoti Kumari, second engineer with Great Eastern Shipping, explained how she had come from a non-shipping background and achieved success as a seafarer. She pointed out that there were a lot more opportunities for women in shipping today given that the modern, technologically advanced vessels required more brain power and less physical prowess.
In one of their first membership events, in January, WISTA supporters visited Mumbai port and the modern heavy lift vessel Trina, owned by SAL Heavylift GmbH (a member of the K Line Group). A month later, there was a seminar on logistics at the Worli auditorium of Great Eastern Shipping Co, when the speaker was Mr Raghunath Medge, president of the Mumbai Dabbawalla Association. Formed in 1890, the MDA is famed for its pinpoint delivery of home lunch boxes to office workers, and has a six sigma rating and an error rate of 1 in 16m. “Quite a lesson in supply chain management that was!” commented Ms Gupta. March saw a dinner for members to celebrate International Women’s Day.
WISTA India executive members include Ms Sumeet Sahi, director of Sitara Shipping and Astral Freight Forwarders; Ms Rukhsana Vohra, director of Sai Maritime & Management, Ms Anjali Kumar, deputy general manager, corporate finance and investor relations, Great Eastern Shipping Co; and Ms Shantha Martin, chief executive for the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East, Allcargo Logistics.
This is turning out to be a gala year for WISTA India president Ms Gupta. In February, along with Ms Sumeet Sahi, she received the award for the Outstanding Family Managed Business 2012 from the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. At the award ceremony, they attributed the success of Sitara Shipping to the inspiration of Capt Sahi “who taught us to excel, with determination, hard work and will-power.”