Viren C Dayal, Director, Federation of Freight Forwarders´ Association (FFFAI), says that the introduction of the single-window system has been the most important change for the industry.
Tell us about the Federation of Freight Forwarders´ Association (FFFAI).
More than 90 per cent of India´s inbound and outbound cargo is moved by the freight forwarding industry. Our association is the apex body and is a national body for this industry. We are a very important link between the trade and the government as we represent the interests of the trade to the government and assist in bringing the relevant policies to the trade. We interact with the government on various forums on equally various issues such as customs, warehousing, rail transport and other issues. We engage with the Railways Ministry, as well as the Ministries of Shipping and Commerce on all topics under their purview and which impact the trade.
What are the basic challenges you face with respect to freight movement and multimodal transport?
One of the most basic problems is infrastructure. Second, both rail and road transport are not fully organised. Inefficiencies in transportation drive up the freight cost which the customer has to eventually bear. We expect the Goods & Services Tax (GST) to come in soon and that will ease to a great extent, the various tax barriers across different states. The government´s initiative to broaden and highlight India´s presence on international forums is now very visible but we have these internal challenges that we must first overcome.
What are some challenging aspects in movement of freight?
On April 1, the government initiated the single-window scheme, bringing all participating government agencies on a platform with Customs so that there is no human interaction with the department, to a very large extent. This was a very big issue earlier. Across the board now, the government is trying to bring down costs and simultaneously facilitate the ease of doing business. This has already begun to help. In South Korea and Singapore, single-window has already been successfully implemented. More than 90 per cent of the cargo is going through single-window within a few hours and that is what we are also trying to achieve. From April 1 till now, the government agencies, FFFAI and the entire Customs fraternity in India have been in regular talks - in fact, on a daily basis. We´ve met them, they´re solving the problems and it is all going fairly well.
This single-window system is the most visible and tangible improvement that has taken place which has actually brought out ease of doing business and faster clearances. This is going to continue to be a huge boost for the trade.
That being said, the government is also working on improving transport and infrastructural development because the importance of both of these to the logistics industry cannot be overemphasised. In coming years, India will certainly be much better placed with respect to both infrastructure and cargo movement than what we have seen and been used to in the past.
- Rouhan Sharma