Sitara Shipping director Sanjam Gupta is passionate about gender equality and has launched a project to boost diversity within the maritime sector
Gender equality within maritime is something that Sitara Shipping director Sanjam Gupta is passionate about. She has launched a project to boost diversity and inclusion within the maritime sector in India and encourage the numbers of women in leadership to rise.
Ms Gupta knew she always wanted to work within shipping as her father was a seafarer. Indeed, Ms Gupta is the second generation in the family shipping business started by her father Capt Satnam Singh Sahi. While Sitara Shipping has in the past owned and operated barges and vessels, it is currently involved in nvocc operations as well as freight forwarding for over-dimensional containerised and bulk cargo.
Ms Gupta said “We are a small team of 25 and have a turnover of US$100M. We undertake difficult to move shipments and have the honour of being the only Indian company to have executed shipments at the US Naval base Diego Garcia.”
Ms Gupta’s focus on improving gender equality for women in shipping is enhanced by her own experiences. “When I used to wait for meetings people used to assume I was the secretary and not the person they were meeting,” she explained.
Ms Gupta’s work to increase diversity in shipping has culminated in her winning a Sandvik India Gender Award in 2018. As part of her award Sandvik funded her project focusing on diversity and inclusion in maritime.
Ms Gupta also used her funding to conduct India’s first survey about womens’ employment and working conditions in the Indian maritime industry with support from Sandvik Group and United Nations Global Compact.
Ms Gupta said “With this background, conducting a survey was essential in India to identify the gaps in gender equality in the shipping and logistics industry.”
The office of Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India extended support to this initiative by issuing a letter to companies to take the survey.
The survey has now seen responses from over 200 companies, 700 women working onshore and more than 90 women working at sea. The report will be published in September 2019.
Ms Gupta said “This will help highlight best practices in the industry, identify the gaps in making their working life better and suggest more women friendly policies. We also aim to build a robust list of resources for the industry to use related to diversity. We will create recommendations and guidelines to the Ministry of Shipping for increasing the capacity of women in the industry.”
One of the findings is that there are very few women in leadership and CEO roles. Ms Gupta expanded “One evening while discussing this with my husband he lightly told me what the industry needs is SheEOs! And that’s how the idea began.”
SheEO is a leadership accelerator programme for women in maritime. Companies will identify women in middle level management roles that have potential and nominate these women to join the programme.
Ms Gupta’s project will also assist companies to make their procedures, policies and manuals gender neutral.
She summed up “I see it as a starting point in creating the next generation of woman maritime leaders. This is my way to give back to this glorious industry which we are lucky to be part of.”
When it comes to container industry issues, Ms Gupta is spearheading the use of digitalisation to make business transactions easier. She singled out the trend for “smart containers”. “Booking containers should be like booking a plane ticket,” she said. “This way of business presents huge challenges and huge opportunities for end-to-end logistics. Smart containers allow visibility for every part of the supply chain and this is especially important for high value cargo.”
Her company is in transition – it is moving the high-value cargo that it works with over to a smart container system.
The container ship sector has never been more competitive, with ever-larger shipping lines contrasting with smaller players.
Ms Gupta said “Being a small size means that we react faster to change. We are happy at this size, but it is important to be more profitable.”
Sanjam Sahi Gupta
Sanjam Sahi Gupta is director for Sitara Shipping and an advocate for diversity in the maritime industry.
She is a founder member of WISTA India, board member of WISTA International and a member of the executive board of directors of the World Maritime University.
In 2014 the International Womens’ Leadership Forum awarded her "Leading Woman in Shipping Business" and her company was also awarded Outstanding Family Business in 2014 by SPJIMR Business school.
As an ambassador of the Sailor Society in India she is committed to seafarers’ welfare and she was a major force in bringing out the Diversity Handbook in 2018 along with ISWAN and Anglo Eastern.
In May 2018, she received the Sandvik Gender Award for her outstanding contribution and commitment to gender equality.
Glenmark Pharmaceuticals awarded her Woman of the Year 2019 in March 2019.