Retaining the spark

Making up 19% of the workforce, Indian nationals easily outnumber any other nationality in the Maersk organisation. Young women leaders of Maersk India are not only moving up the corporate ladder; they also illustrate a wider trend in society as a whole.

India senior
Rising through the ranks for corporate India, Maersk women are not looking for special treatment. They want to be assessed on their merit. Photo: Ritam Banerjee
Retaining the spark


  • Rapid urbanisation, one million people entering the workforce monthly and 40 million people joining the middle class annually.
  • For India’s economy to keep up with its vast and swiftly changing demography, pundits agree that the annual GDP growth rate must increase to 8–9%.

Maersk employees in India

  • Making up 19% of the total workforce, Indian nationals outnumber any other nationality in the Group.

“It’s a big challenge to motivate extremely capable female employees to aspire to the next level. They have a lot of personal responsibilities, so it’s natural to get comfortable in a position and easy to lose the spark,” says Kinjal Pande, Head of Ocean Product for India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at Damco.

Kinjal Pande adds personal experience to the fact that only 5% of working females in India, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap, have made it to senior leadership positions, compared to the global average of 20%.

For her it is important to create an encouraging environment where her ambitious and capable female team members have the opportunity to prosper.

“My role as a leader is to keep their ambitions alive with the right set of growth opportunities,” Kinjal Pande says.

160 different nationalities
The Maersk Group is made up of more than 160 different nationalities from all over the world. Making up 19% of the workforce, Indian nationals easily outnumber any other nationality in the organisation.

The Maersk employees work in the Global Service Centres, Maersk’s shared service centres in Chennai, Pune or Mumbai; at the port in Pipavav or the terminal in Mumbai; for Svitzer in Mumbai; for Maersk Training in Chennai; for Maersk Line, Safmarine or APM Terminals Inland Service at the headquarters in Mumbai; or close to customers throughout the country.

That is if the employees have not been expatriated to a Maersk entity in another country, anywhere around the globe.

Recovering millions
Another Indian Maersk employee is Trishna Mishra, Head of Operations Cost Recovery at Maersk Line India. For her, leadership is more diverse, and her responsibilities include the recovery aspect of terminal cost and inland cost, roughly USD 185 million a year. A total of 80% of operations are executed by external vendors.

“I can only deliver to the customers if I receive the right level of service delivery from the vendors. So we need to manage their performance and even partner with them in order to maintain market share and deliver on profitability,” she says.

Since Trishna Mishra took the position in 2011, the margin of this part of the business has risen from 7% to 17%, corresponding to a USD 12 million increase.

Focus on Indian conglomerates
Ruchika Kuthari is Channel Head of Emerging Stars at Maersk Line India. Emerging Stars are huge Indian conglomerate businesses that have been identified to have the potential to do much more business with Maersk Line. These include the Tata Group, the Mahindra Group and the Aditya Birla Group; huge Indian companies that within the past 20 years have had a tremendous growth in the global markets.

India leadership
Trishna Mishra, Kinjal Pande and Ruchika Kuthari are leaders of Maersk India. They elaborate on a trend amongst women in Indian society: increasing female leadership.

Each conglomerate has multiple business units with completely different supply chains, decentralised procurement and widespread distribution models. Similarly, Maersk Line has different sales managers handling the account from different locations.

“We want to consolidate and simplify, deliver cost efficiencies through group procurement and trigger change to the supply chain management mindset of these customers,” she says.

Female leadership rising
According to Adit Jain, an economic analyst and chairman at IMA India, a business information company, the situation in India is developing in favour of female leadership.

“Women are not just joining the workforce, they are taking strides into senior management as well,” Adit Jain says.

He points to changing value systems, rising aspirations and higher consumption, which sees many urban families needing a dual income, driving the development.

No special treatment
Within the past two years, Maersk Line India has seen maternity leave increase from three to six months, as well as options for flexitime and working from home.

Head of HR, Kavita Singh, explains:

“Women constitute additional talent, which is capable of forcing a different view. Hence we want to provide our talented female employees with time to take care of their personal priorities and return to work with conviction,” she says, leaving no doubt about priority.

“While giving consideration for personal priorities, women are still expected to deliver the same quality of work as the rest of the organisation. And what’s encouraging is that women here do not want to be given any special treatment. They want to be assessed on their merit.”