The Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) — a public sector undertaking of the ministry of railways — has survived the global economic slowdown despite the handicaps: Choked freight tracks on India’s rail network and shortage of adequate number of “flat wagons”.
The freight business (both international and domestic) can make a quantum jump only when the Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) are put in place, observers feel. For the present, the CONCOR has been doing moderately well, while private container operators are bleeding.
Corporation managing director Anil K Gupta spoke on a range of issues concerning the container freight business in an interview with Srinand Jha. Excerpts:
CONCOR has established itself as a market leader but majority of private Container Train Operators (CTOs) are bleeding. Some are even on the verge of shutting shop. What explains this situation?
The CONCOR share in container freight movement is still small: against nine million containers moved by the Indian Railways last year, the CONCOR share was just a little over 2 million. This share should go up to at least 50 per cent (5 million). The business potential is huge. Private players need to invest in infrastructure creation and set up terminals. They also have to work at bringing “incremental freight traffic”. Often, they are being accused of trying to “poach” on traditional cargo carried by the railways.
CTOs say that railways policies are too heavily skewed in favour of CONCOR. Comment.
Policies do not favour CONCOR. But things have not gone right for the private operators. The global recession impacted the Export Import (EXIM) business within a year of the opening up of this business in 2007. Also — and this is my personal view — 16 is too big a number (referring to the 16 CTOs that have obtained licenses).
What new initiatives are being attempted?
The most significant is the setting up of the inland container depot at Dadri in Greater Noida, which is designed to handle over one million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) and is spread over an area of 110 hectares, largest in Asia. The Fresh and Healthy Enterprises Limited — a fully-owned subsidiary of the CONCOR — aims at revolutionising the cold storage infrastructure in the country. The Corporation has also set up the “Himalayan terminal” in Nepal.
The CONCOR has also been firming up strategic alliances and joint ventures. What is the progress?
We have a JV with Ms Maersk for operations of the third berth at the JN Port at Mumbai and a business arrangement with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the operations of a container deport and air cargo business at Nasik. We should be seeing some activity soon.