When Mrs. HK Joshi took over as Chairperson and Managing Director of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) in December last year, it marked a historic moment for the country’s biggest shipping company.
A 35-year corporate industry veteran, who had been the company’s Director of Finance since 2015, Mrs. Joshi became the first lady to hold the top job in SCI’s 58 year history. She is also the first Director of Finance at SCI to be elevated to the post of Chairperson and Managing Director. The selection of the new incumbent by the Indian Government underlines the confidence it has that the state-owned shipowner is in a safe pair of hands with proven capability and plenty of inside knowledge and experience.
With considerable uncertainty swirling around all sectors of the shipping market at present, Mrs. Joshi is under no illusions as to the challenges that face her and SCI over the next few years. She says, “My top priority is to ensure that the company is highly resilient and capable of withstanding the market challenges which are coming. It is so difficult right now to predict global trade scenarios and all markets are very uncertain in outlook. It is a cliché that in shipping the only constant is change, and my task is to make sure SCI is ready to face whatever those changes turn out to be.”
Developing SCI’s human resources is also high on Mrs. Joshi’s agenda. “It is vitally important that SCI has the technical and managerial skills it requires to survive and prosper,” she says. “That means we must focus on upgrading the skill sets we have in-house to meet upcoming market requirements.”
Mrs. Joshi plans in particular to introduce the concept of change management throughout the company. “Having a culture based on this concept is vital if we are to increase our readiness to adapt to evolving global trade patterns,” she adds.
As the incoming chairperson and managing director, Mrs. Joshi has already set in motion a comprehensive review of all aspects of the SCI operation. “We have to do things differently,” she stresses, “And that means looking afresh at all our business models, systems, IT technology and much more besides. That review process is now underway.”
Mrs. Joshi takes over at the helm of SCI at a positive moment in financial terms. As she points out, “The financial year 2019-20 has been an exceptionally good one for SCI, as we performed better than in the corresponding period in 2018-19.”
Accumulated profits for the first three quarters of the 2019/20 financial year were Rs. 188.60 crores (US$ 26.31 million), compared with losses of around Rs. 122 crores (US$ 17.01 million) in the first 9 months of the preceding financial year. There was a particularly strong performance in the final calendar quarter of 2019, with net profits rising by 54% to Rs. 295.25 crores (US$ 41.18 million), up from Rs. 191.6 crores (US$ 26.74 million) in the last quarter of 2018. This was largely the result of strong market conditions for SCI’s tankers, with rates rising sharply in this period.
“We saw a big turn-around for the company in the last quarter,” says Mrs Joshi, “But it will not be sustained into the first quarter of the 2020 calendar year. Like all carriers we have been affected by corona virus, as well as some negative global trade trends, and that will impact our results.”
SCI currently operates a fleet of some 60 vessels, totaling 546,000 dwt, including 33 tankers of various types, and 15 bulk carriers, as well as passenger ships and offshore support vessels. According to Mrs. Joshi, “One of my priorities is to increase the size of this fleet, and some ‘deep dive’ studies into what types of tonnage we should be looking to buy are now underway. We will await the outcome of this detailed review before making any final decisions.” There is, she adds, “An intention to consider diversifying the fleet into new markets and also to enter into partnerships with other industry players.”