By Sansarchandra Chaube, Associate Vice President, Operations
When I joined the Mundra port nearly 10 years ago, it was hardly known. By then I had completed 13 years of sailing and 4 years of piloting yet the location was not familiar to me. Despite the inherent uncertainties around the opportunity I took up the job. It was perhaps the words of my SBU Head who hired me which gave me the confidence to take the plunge. Being a private port it also presented massive opportunity to grow and the energy led by the promoters was infectious. The decision turned out to be a turning point in my life. The phenomenal success witnessed by the port is for everyone to see. I also grew immensely. From being a pilot, today I head the Marine Department.
The immediate challenges were to manoeuvre vessels amid tidal windows and strong cross currents. There are very few ports in the world which experience such strong cross currents in its approaches. The pattern was particularly unusual for me coming from ports such as Mumbai Port and JNPT. So it took me a while to get used to these rough waters. Meanwhile, we were catering to massive container vessels and any lapse at my end would result in a maritime accident which no ports can afford. Getting used to the diverse mix of ships which called Mundra Port also added to the challenge. Unlike other ports that handle one or two commodities, Mundra was a gateway for crude oil, containers, car carriers and much more. At the same time the port itself was also expanding with facilities coming up at multiple locations.
Despite the challenges the opportunity presented a great platform for anyone who wanted to do some challenging piloting. Our steady expansion along with capacity addition gave me the unique exposure of piloting at the different locations across the water front. With 26 berths and two Single Point Moorings (SPMs), the scale of our operations has more than quadrupled since the time I took up the job. In this tenure we have handled the biggest cape size vessels or container vessels calling at any port in India. Most importantly we are very confident today of handling any size and class of ship which sail the oceans today.
Over the years I’ve grown as a person, a pilot and most importantly as a leader. From regular piloting, today my role has largely transformed to training our pilots; honing their skills to make them better. Today we have a team of about 17 pilots, who I am sure, have the best on-job experience that any port could offer.
My role as a Marine Head today has matured as the port now handles multiple commodities at multiple locations within the port. I have to take care of the conservancy function which is related to safe piloting, the safety of the life and port’s assets within the port waters, security of the port’s water front area and to provide emergency services to vessels within port limits.
Today when I look back, I am filled with pride as I head the largest port in the country. While we are undisputed leaders in India, very few ports even elsewhere in the world are comparable to Mundra in terms of the scale of our operations. My journey also gives a glimpse of the Adani Group’s ambitions and the unprecedented expansion of our ports business from a single facility to 10 ports along the east and the west coast. Mundra is very special to me as it not only is the largest port in the country but also has India’s largest Power Plant, Operational SEZ and Solar Manufacturing site all of which are world class and operated by the Adani Group. It fills the heart with pride not only as an Adanian but also as an Indian.
Even from a career point of view I came in as a Deputy General Manager and have risen to become an Associate Vice President. During these years, I have been given the opportunity to develop myself by attending various short term and even week long programs on Management at Adani Management Development Centre. The faculty for these courses are exceptional and can greatly broaden ones vision and skills. The training program speaks volume about the trust invested by the management and the opportunity presented to develop professionally, academically and emotionally.
We have invested heavily in coaching and mentoring. I also owe a large part of my success to the people who groomed me over the years. Having inherited this tradition, my focus is also to nurture future leaders. In the past 6 to 7 years, Mundra Port has given Marine HODs for all our different ports engaged in marine operations. There is ample growth opportunity for everyone. For instance, Mr. Vijayan who was earlier working with the Marine department now heads the liquid terminal.
Secondly, very few ports or organisations can match the kind of resources available to us for execution of any function. At the Adani Group every step is planned meticulously and that is what gives us an edge over others. In 2007, we were barely handling 25 million tonnes of cargo but we had set our self a target to achieve 100 MMT of cargo by 2015-16. We were able to accomplish the mark two financial years ahead.
Similarly we had set ourselves a target of touching the 125 million tonnes by 2020, but I won’t be surprised if we achieve the benchmark this year itself. This shows the unparalleled vision in developing Mundra port. There are very few entrepreneurs who have the kind of foresight, willingness to invest seamlessly into their belief and dream project. So, for me working at Mundra has never been like any other job. It has been more of a dream which I have been able to live. For me, it’s a dream come true.
One day a fire tanker at the nearby Kandla port caught fire. Before anyone from its own staff could reach the spot our team was there. This place has changed the way we think. The call for duty is not just confined to the Adani group but for anyone who requires our help. We strongly believe in our chairman’s message that we are working towards nation building to help India become more productive, efficient and effective in any sector that we operate. Whatever we do today is geared towards helping the nation become a better place. We benchmark ourselves with the best in the world. Our focus is to offer constraints-free services that help the nation become much more competitive. The organisation gives us ample freedom to experiment because our end-goal is solution-finding irrespective of the nature of problems.
The integral value structure also plays a big role in motivating the staff here. Let me cite an incident to explain this feeling. Barely 5 to 6 months after coming on board at Mundra, one fine afternoon a 300 meter vessel approached the port. Until then 264 metres was the big vessel being handled at our port. I called up the then Marine Head Captain Joshi and asked him “Sir, can I pilot this vessel?” and he promptly said “Yes, go ahead”. This kind of confidence was unthinkable in my erstwhile workplaces. The warm culture of showing trust towards a new subordinate is unique about this organisation. I think it was a turning point in my career with Adani because it showed me that I could trust people, people could trust you and if you had the confidence they were willing to give a chance to you. Similarly there are several such stories that depict the humane side of the management. For instance, a tanker seaman’s child was detected with a defect in the heart which needed a surgery worth Rs. 3 lakh. We informed the matter to then COO for SEZ Mr. Mukesh Saxena who promptly put it across to our chairman Mr. Gautam Adani. Within just over two hours, Gautam bhai had approved the request and asked them to go ahead with the surgery. Our culture, the Adani culture is about the simplicity and care for our people. I take immense pride in sharing this incident with different people.
When we think of private ports, the usual stereotype is that we handle only cargo. But let me tell you that the Mundra port has been hosting a lot of coast guard vessels, the Indian Navy vessels as a gesture towards serving nation. Every month we have one or two coast guard on Indian Naval vessels calling our port. It’s a matter of great pride for me. I take a lot of pride and I think the group takes a lot of pride in being of assistance of help to our armed forces. But I have a more compelling story to share which truly resonates with our philosophy of nation building. I was the pilot for the first Adani cape size vessel which had bought coal from an Adani mine for Adani power plant at a newly developed Adani Coal Handling terminal. Our end-to-end integrated services are lighting up the lives of millions of people. For me this is the story of the Adani Group. We are helping light up a millions dreams which will help create a better, a prosperous and a developed India.