Short in size, tall in stature. That aptly sums up N Sivasailam, the first special secretary to be appointed for logistics in the Ministry of Commerce on November 2018, the special arm created for the first time by the government. Though there has been a clamor for a separate ministry of logistics to catapult the Indian economy into a much higher orbit, it took the Narendra Modi-led National democractic Alliance (NdA) regime almost five long years to berth this long-felt need. Why this 1985 Karnataka cadre was picked for this niche slot is a million-dollar question that remains unanswered to this day.
Having said that, he has been creating ripples with his no-nonsense as well as hands-on approach to the critical department. he’s the single window bureaucrat blue-penciling the logistics matrix to take the economy to the US$5 trillion trajectory over the next five years: Circa 2024, the doubling of the present GDP. Tough call. What’s the point of fixing an easily attainable goal, he asked during our maiden meeting in his spacious Room Number 241 in Udyog Bhavan, a stone’s throw away from Parliament.
Sometime in July 2019, I received a message from him via WhatsApp group consisting of members of the Chartered Institute of logistics and Transport (CIlT): Can we meet at 11 am the coming Monday in my office? By the way, both of us are members of this august body. he was responding to my recent posting about my road trip to Morbi in Gujarat, the ceramic capital of India, where I had gone with colleagues to find suitable highway dhabas to provide resting facility for long haul truck drivers on the Mundhra/Gandhidham-Mumbai via Rajkot or Ahmedabad stretch on the specific request of an Indian ceramic giant. The meeting lasted almost an hour wherein he wanted to understand how and why TransportMitra Services Private limited, a start-up co-promoted by me along with an ex-Mahindra logistics vice president, is focused on truck drivers. he felt enabling a better working environment for long haul truck drivers is quintessential as part of supply chain from the ease of doing business angle. “I have been hearing from various stakeholders, particularly the All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), saying they have money to create wayside amenities but scouting for someone to operationalise,” he pointed out. he saw a synergy between what was needed and what was available to fulfill this crucial gap. That explained his desire to meet me. One of Sivasailam’s favorite statements is: logistics is not virtual, but a real business. More than the Ministry of Road Transport and highways, perhaps he understood the vitality of truck drivers to realise the US$5 trillion dream. TransportMitra’s on-ground experience in setting up truck driver-friendly highway dhabas, particularly in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for global oil giant Exxon Mobil, convinced the Karnataka cadre officer of our utility. What surprised me the most was the speed at which he moved in building bridges or connecting dots.
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