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HomeWOMEN INTERVIEWSExclusive Interview: Meet Inspiring Passionate Business Women Chaitaly Mehta

Exclusive Interview: Meet Inspiring Passionate Business Women Chaitaly Mehta

Give us a bit of background about yourself and your company.

EKF Global Logistics Pvt Ltd is a 46 yr old young company. Started in 1977 in Mumbai with offices spanning across India. We are IATA accredited, licensed Customs broker, MTO and Break-Bulk agents. We handle both imports and exports by air and sea from and to all major airports, seaports, ICDS in India.

For Me- I am a 3rd gen customs broker because of my grandfather and a 2nd gen freight forwarder because of my father. I just completed 26 years in this beautiful industry last month. I am a TEDx speaker and my talk entitled, “The Accidental Entrepreneur” – my journey into this marvellous industry can be found under the TEDx Versova series. I am a diehard fan of this industry and consider myself to  

be the child of the logistics industry. I am a proud recipient of several awards and truly cherish each of them but my first award – Star Woman of the Month by Bhandarkar Publications along with being felicitated by Mumbai Air Cargo Customs under Honourable PM’s Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav and being the recipient of the Future Face of Cargo Award by India Cargo Awards are very dear to me.

Where does your interest in entrepreneurship come from – how did you start?

I am as my TEDx talk titled – The Accidental Entrepreneur. I am in this industry purely by fluke but I guess I was meant to be here because I can’t think of doing anything but Cargo. I live, eat and breathe cargo 24/7. I was never ambitious, infact I was extremely protected and sheltered geeky living in her own world child. Being a ranker throughout school, bad results in my TYBCom set up on this path. I was 20 when I joined, completely naïve of this industry. The only thing I knew was my dad travelled a lot and worked very hard. My first day in office was on a bar stool like chair and 12 hrs. The determination of not proving my parents right that I was quitter (I have a history of starting something and leaving halfway not anymore!) and to prove that regardless of your looks and body shape a woman could succeed working with the airlines (again another story) made me stick here and then after a couple of months there was just no looking back. Logistics flows in my blood; I have concluded after so many years.

Give us insights into the major offerings of the company. And, how does the company support people with its offerings?

  • Regular
  • Customs Clearance – air and sea- imports and exports
  • Freight Forwarding
  • IATA Accredited Air Cargo Agent
  • Licensed Multimodal Transport Operator
  • Customs registered Breakbulk Agent
  • Door to Door Logistics Solutions – DDU/DDP/DAP
  • Global Logistics Solutions
  • Cross Trade – 3rdcountry shipments
  • Trading
  • Sourcing
  • Insurance
  • Buyer’s consolidation

Who are your clients? How do you keep your clients happy and satisfied?

Our clients are a mixed bag – from Fortune Five Hundred companies to family-owned businesses to MSMEs to Start Ups to Mom & Pop Establishments. Keeping clients happy is tough in any sector or industry but we seem to be doing a decent job considering we are here thriving. I think what works for us is that we are really honest and transparent in every way and I mean really, the Top Management is accessible and available to all 24/7 and most importantly should we ever make a mistake we own up.

We are flexible on certain things and extremely rigid on certain so that helps the client know what we are willing to do and what we aren’t. I have been taught no matter what happens our reputation and integrity can never be taken lightly or compromised with in our journey to growing and becoming bigger.

What makes your company stand out in the market?

To be honest every company in the logistics sector is working hard to serve their clients and maintain them. We all offer the same products but what distinguishes us from each other are the small personal touches each one offers. For the longest time, our new clients came through word of mouth. We are considered lucky for start-ups so around 45% of our clients join us from their first shipment, they grow and we grow with them. It also helps that we have an international reputation of being no nonsense and remit funds on time. The accessibility that clients have with everyone in office, good communication and providing solutions for difficult, sometimes impossible shipments and being present I think works in our favour.

How do women feel in the male-dominated industry?

You know this question has been asked so often across so many forums, stages, mags etc but I should tell you for the longest time the narrative was the same but now it’s changing. Everyone from the Govt down the line are recognising diversity and inclusiveness is the way. Women had already broken through the male dominated bastions and created their own space. When I say we have created means we have earnt it and not just through fluff. Of course, there are some areas where is it male dominated but it is fine, we have inched our way slowly and now we are walking not the slow but the brisk. I think all of us are loving it here. When I joined, we didn’t have women in Top Management handling operations – I did because my father -Shri Haresh H. Mehta was very clear – I wouldn’t be molly coddled but would have to earn everything and that’s what my sister Phoram and I have done. Earned every bit of our success, fame and money through sheer hard work. For a long time, there weren’t women Pan India in the air freight industry at the Top Level so when I would travel and attend parties it would just be me and like 100 men!

This industry is safe for women at every level. Cases of sexual harassment aren’t heard of, safety is provided for women and genuinely anyone who says this industry isn’t safe for women, pls come talk to me. I will be happy to prove that this is just myth.

What do you think is the toughest problem for businesswomen?

Business Women in my opinion and this purely my perspective from my experiences of myself and women around me have the following difficulties: of course, would vary from industry to industry.

  • Pre-conceived biases.
  • Being judged everywhere and for everything.
  • Top Management and Women Bosses especially cannot show they are human at any time except when their employees want something.
  • Patronising Attitude sometimes.
  • Some places there is gender bias, acceptance of a woman as a figure head, being heard and being taken seriously.
  • Sometimes, it’s the surroundings and social issues which will not let a woman lead.

What’s a day in your life like as an entrepreneur?

A day in my life is definitely worth a Reality show! It a full-fledged roller coaster or an aircraft flying smoothly and suddenly faces turbulence due to air pockets and its horrible then but then everything is back to normal like there was never an issue. Never a dull moment.

How do you achieve a balance between your personal and professional life?

I have to be honest here, I didn’t have a work-life balance until I probably touched 40. I took my first proper vacation 18 years into work. My sister Phoram teaches me about this frequently but now with my nieces I have learnt quite a bit.

What have you learned about entrepreneurship in your journey?

Entrepreneurship is a beautiful journey only if you are NOT a Quitter because it is also one of the most difficult journeys. I have learnt that the unvarnished truth and uncomfortable is that not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur.

What advice would you give to other businesswomen who want to thrive in a male dominated industry?

My advice to the women who want to Thrive is as follows:

Pls become a survivor first to thrive later on.

  • Don’t have a chip on your shoulder because of what you may have heard or seen because everyone’s journey is different, the people you meet are different and the industry is different.
  • Don’t ever forget to help other women reach the top
  • Don’t have to change yourself or your habits to fit in to get acceptance
  • Men are not enemies they just are clueless what to do about powerful women.
  • Wear your power as a cape but always remember you are a mortal at the end.
  • Never ever forget to be humble, be real, be kind when and where required and always repay to the people who supported you and stood by you.
  • Don’t every backdown from a challenge or an argument or anything if you are 500% sure you are correct
  • Don’t try and be a Multitasker if you can’t, it’s ABSOLUTELY ok if you can’t multitask.
  • Not every time it’s about bringing you down, sometimes we have to accept we are not valuable enough to be thrown under the bus

Are you a decision maker & risk taker?

I am both Decision Taker – quick infact and a risk taker. One of our biggest success stories came about because of the risk I chose to take.

Describe the most memorable incident of your professional life.

One memorable incident- several come to mind but what is etched forever is when we handled our first helicopter shipment, yeah, I am also known as the Helicopter Lady of India. it deserves an article by itself but truly the lessons learnt and the losses never to be forgotten.

One word that describe you’re the best…

One word- Versatile

 

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