Meet Chitra Shinde, Vice President of Operations at DHL Express New Zealand, who has been with the company for an impressive tenure of 24 years. Chitra’s dedication and commitment to learning have played a pivotal role in her rise to her current position. With a passion for continuous improvement and sustainability, Chitra has been focusing on creating long-term value for customers while navigating times of change with her team.
In this exclusive interview, Chitra shares her intuitions on leadership, growth, and creating a positive impact on the environment.
Where did you start? Draw us a picture of your educational and professional journey.
I am originally from a picturesque town situated on the banks of the Malaprabha river in Belgaum, India. I pursued my education at Karnatak University in Dharwad before taking up a Trainee position at DHL Express in Mumbai. During this time, the logistics industry was experiencing rapid growth and I was fortunate enough to witness the introduction of automation, scalable software, and innovative processes. Over the course of fifteen years, I have worked in five different countries, including India, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. After gaining valuable experience overseas, I returned to India and worked with Gati Limited for five years as Chief Business Chain Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and eventually President and Board Member of Gati-KWE. I was fortunate to return to DHL Express, Globally the No 1 Great Place to Work, as Customer Operations Group Manager in Australia and currently hold the position of Vice President Operations in New Zealand.
How has been your journey so far with DHL Express and what drives you today? What inspired you to become a Vice President and/or lead a company?
DHL has provided me with the ideal environment to develop both personally and professionally as a leader. Our purpose of Connecting People, Improving Lives deeply resonates with my personal mission to make a positive difference. I am fortunate to work alongside a team of passionate, dedicated individuals who inspire me every day to go above and beyond. Collaborating with my colleagues and leaders has helped me to build my competence and confidence, allowing me to take on larger projects, execute our global strategy locally, and make decisions that have a positive impact on our people and customers.
Throughout my career, I have benefited from the guidance and mentorship of many role models who have invested their time in my development and encouraged me to strive for excellence. I am grateful for the support and hard work of my team, without which success would not be possible.
What solutions or services does DHL Express offer to its clients?
DHL Express offers time-definite international express services to 220 countries and territories worldwide. Although we began as a document carrier in 1969, we have since expanded our capabilities to transport almost any type of shipment.
Our customer base spans a wide variety of industries and includes large global and multi-national corporations, SMEs, and B2C shippers, including start-ups operating out of their garages. Many of these businesses start with a single market and aspire to expand into other areas, and we help them achieve this by providing fast, high-quality service that makes global markets more accessible. We take care of customs clearance and provide door-to-door delivery, giving our customers peace of mind.
As a global logistics leader, we believe it is our responsibility to set the standard for our industry and be a sustainability leader. We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and maintaining the highest social and governance standards. Our comprehensive green product and solution portfolio helps our customers reduce emissions throughout the logistics value chain and achieve their sustainability goals through clean fuel and technology, certified climate protection projects, green optimization, and carbon reports.
What are your key roles and responsibilities as the Vice President of Operations at DHL Express New Zealand?
As Vice President of Operations for DHL Express, my responsibility is to drive our strategy and ESG objectives in New Zealand. This entails receiving input from my team, including our front-line employees, as well as our customers, through the voice of the customer or the voice of our business. Based on this input, I am tasked with making decisions that are aligned with our strategy and promote our three bottom lines of being an employer of choice, provider of choice, and investment of choice. I then initiate actions in the form of projects or investment business cases and coordinate the execution of approved activities to ensure they are delivered according to plan while continuously improving our employee and customer experience.
Tell us something about your team and the culture of your company. How are you keeping them motivated in current times?
DHL Express is an established company for over 50 years and has achieved success by placing the customer at the core of our operations. Our straightforward strategy revolves around our motivated employees delivering excellent service quality, which results in the creation of loyal customers and ultimately a profitable network. We believe that emotionally connected employees are essential to creating emotionally connected customers.
To ensure that our leaders understand and align with our values, we prioritize delivering results without compromising on respect and encourage them to lead with head, heart, and guts. This leadership culture is consistent throughout the company. We have a strong feedback culture where we continuously give and receive feedback to boost the confidence and competence of our employees at all levels. This was achieved through the introduction of a Global Certified International Specialist program (CIS) and 21st Century Successful DHL Express Manager, Certified International Manager CIM and other programs on Inspirational Leadership and Coaching for Success and Enabling a Coaching culture. The beauty of these programs is that they provide us a common understanding of leadership behaviours across the globe and across the divisions of the DHL Group. As experienced Senior leaders we are not professional trainers but DHL Invests in the development of these skills to be a certified facilitator. In doing so, we not only relate content to application in our company but also must be authentic and role model these behaviours, competencies and attributes. This is our secret sauce.
Our coaching culture enables our employees to come up with solutions, which makes everyone feel included and valuable. We foster teamwork by sharing common goals and rewards. We continually adapt to changing market conditions, harness technology as an enabler, and scale up through investments in aircraft, infrastructure, last-mile capability, and resources. We leverage the strengths of our group companies, suppliers, and partners to be flexible and responsive to market changes. We also adapt to demand fluctuations by reducing excess capacity, waste, and continually improving and innovating. Our team is made up of passionate, committed, smart, positive and innovative individuals.
As a leader, how do you maintain the perfect balance between your personal and professional life?
It is crucial for leaders to be “Fit to Lead,” to maintain a balance in all areas of their lives, including physical, mental, financial, and personal. Changes in one area can affect the others. Over the past decade, I have made it a deliberate priority to maintain this balance. I set SMART goals each year and make time to work towards them. I integrate my personal life demands with my professional life to ensure that important aspects and milestones receive the attention they require. Achieving balance requires good planning and a clear understanding of priorities. While it is not always easy, it is possible. I began by making changes in my own life, overcoming my fears, limitations, and thought patterns.
What are the key milestones you have set for your company for the year 2023?
At our company, safety is a top priority, and we strive to continuously improve our policies and procedures to create a safe working environment. To ensure that our workplace is a great place to work for all, we recognize the importance of including everyone, especially our younger workforce. Our journey towards making a great team better is an ongoing one. We are committed to making incremental continuous improvements.
As part of our efforts, we are increasing the number of electric vehicles in our last mile fleet in New Zealand and investing in our e-facilities of the future. During periods of slower growth, we focus on new business, new industries, new products, optimization, training, continuous improvement, standardization, waste reduction, and digitalization, to be well-positioned for the next period of growth. We are committed to the long haul and are dedicated to creating a safe, welcoming, transparent, fair, providing equity and most importantly an inclusive workplace for all.
Going forward, what are the changes in market behaviour that you anticipate, and what are the opportunities that you foresee?
In these uncertain times, forecasting or predicting the future can be challenging due to multiple macro-economic factors and local challenges. However, despite these obstacles, we have seen a 25% increase in shipment volume and 50% increase in shipment weight in 2023 compared to 2019, indicating continued strength. As healthy cross-border trade is a lead indicator of economic recovery, we are encouraged by the improving outlook. Additionally, we have observed that B2B shipment growth is stronger than B2C. We anticipate that technology will continue to evolve and rapidly transform the way we collaborate, automate, innovate, and digitize supply chains.
If you want to share a message or give a suggestion to our readers, what would it be? What is the life or success mantra you live by?
Environmental sustainability, social inclusion, and equity, as well as governance with trust, transparency, and compliance are critical components of our collective consciousness. As we continue to improve our understanding of these issues, ESG will take centre stage. Companies that can effectively futurize, humanize, and digitize will be well-positioned to outperform. Personally, I believe that doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons will always stand the test of time.