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Darshan Ghodawat, a self-made entrepreneur from a lineage of business pioneers, exemplifies innovation and resilience. With a Business Management degree, he scaled edible oil manufacturing to 3,00,000 Metric Tons and led AVA Global Logistics LLP in supporting complex projects like the Dangote Refinery and Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals in Nigeria.
With 15 years of experience in multi-commodity trading and global exports, he brings expertise in agricultural commodities and speciality chemical manufacturing. Beyond business, his philanthropic endeavors, from animal shelters to feeding sick children, showcase his commitment to social responsibility, making him a prominent figure in both business and philanthropy.
In his conversation with Icy Tales, Mr. Darshan Ghodawat shares insights into his remarkable entrepreneurial journey as the CEO and Managing Director of AVA Global Logistics LLP. He also shares his deep commitment to philanthropy and his unique perspective on balancing business and social responsibility.
Q) Darshan, for our audience who may not be entirely familiar with your background and the vast operations of AVA Global, can you walk us briefly through your journey?
Darshan Ghodawat: Certainly. I began my professional journey shortly after completing my undergraduate studies in BBM, joining my family’s diverse business, which spans 22-23 different sectors. For seven years, I gained hands-on experience, starting from a junior level to ensure a solid foundation. This experience, especially in the commodities and global financial markets, shaped my understanding of market dynamics.
My collaboration with PepsiCo, where we established a manufacturing plant for their snack food business in Kolhapur, was particularly educational. In my family’s agri-commodities sector, we faced tough competition from multinationals. Our edge lay in our sourcing capabilities and maintaining lean costs. However, I noticed disparities in logistics and supply chain costs, which piqued my interest.
That’s when the idea of AVA Global emerged, initially as a solution for our internal logistics needs. By December 2014, AVA Global was established. In 2015, I transitioned fully to focus on this venture, relocating to Bombay. Now, within eight years, AVA Global manages logistics for approximately 350 companies, with a majority being listed entities. Our success, I believe, is largely due to my prior experience as a shipper.
Understanding the gaps in the logistics industry from a client’s perspective, we integrated solutions like real-time information, container tracking, and personalized services. This unique approach, coupled with technological advancements, has been instrumental in our growth.
Q) As you said, you come from a business background, how has the family legacy shaped your approach towards entrepreneurship and influenced your decision-making process?
Darshan Ghodawat: My upbringing and exposure to my family’s work ethic, especially witnessing my father’s unwavering discipline, significantly shaped my approach to entrepreneurship. For instance, my father’s punctuality, consistently arriving at the office at 8:30 for over three decades, instilled in me the importance of routine and commitment.
Observing his work become an integral part of his life influenced me similarly. The discipline, work ethics, and empowerment I received from my family were foundational. Initially, I was put through rigorous training to understand the nuances of the business. But soon after, they entrusted me with significant decision-making responsibilities.
Being given this trust and authority at a young age, around 22-23, bolstered my confidence. It enabled me to independently analyze situations, make informed decisions, and understand the consequences of those decisions. These early experiences and lessons played a pivotal role as I expanded my business across various parts of the world.
Q) Darshan, you have successfully scaled edible oil manufacturing to 3 lakh metric tons and established a partnership with giants like PepsiCo India. What challenges did you face during these expansions? And how did you overcome them?
Darshan Ghodawat: When I first ventured into the edible oil sector, my initial couple of years were largely about learning. However, I soon started anticipating India’s trajectory a decade into the future. I recognized the potential challenges associated with India’s low yields, particularly due to the non-GMO approach in oilseed cultivation.
Predicting that India might eventually become reliant on edible oil imports, we strategically expanded our capacity. My forecast proved accurate as today, India stands as the largest importer of edible oils. This highlights the importance of foresight in business, being able to envision the landscape 10 or 15 years ahead.
Collaborating with PepsiCo was enlightening, especially in contrasting our family business model with their corporate structure. Their professionalism, structured hierarchy, and decision-making processes were insightful. What I learned from them, and now aim to integrate into AVA Global, is the significance of building systems and processes that outlast individuals. Companies, after all, are built for longevity.
In working with such industry giants, you realize that while people might come and go, well-structured organizations endure. This realization influenced my approach towards creating a resilient and long-lasting company.
Q) So amidst your busy schedule, how do you find time for yourself? Are there any hobbies or habits you have cultivated this far?
Darshan Ghodawat: Traveling is a passion of mine, and fortuitously, my logistics business often aligns with this love. Since we operate across multiple continents, I find myself traveling frequently. I’m inherently sociable and maintain a robust network of friends globally and in India. So, during my business trips, I make it a point to conclude my work during the day and spend evenings reconnecting with acquaintances and friends.
Engaging with diverse individuals from various cultures and industries provides a wealth of learning. Given the nature of the logistics sector, which intersects with nearly all industries, these interactions are invaluable to me, allowing me to keep a pulse on various sectors.
On the recreational side, tennis and cricket are my go-to sports. Whenever I can carve out some free time, I immerse myself in these activities. Additionally, I have a fondness for reading. Given the extensive traveling I do, taking almost 300 flights annually, I’ve found that flights offer the perfect uninterrupted environment for reading.
Q) So Darshan, innovation is at the heart of AVA Global. Can you share an instance where the company’s commitment to innovation resulted in a game-changing solution or service?
Darshan Ghodawat: Certainly, when we began our logistics venture in 2015, one of the major pain points for many companies was container tracking and obtaining real-time information on shipments. At that time, it was customary for businesses to reach out to their logistics provider, who would then communicate with the shipping line and await updates on container locations.
However, we at AVA Global identified this gap early on and proactively sought out the best software solutions from around the globe, integrating them into our systems. From the onset, we provided our clients with real-time container tracking and updates. Moreover, we recognized that logistics often involves repetitive tasks, especially with multiple team members potentially working on similar processes or ports but for different clients.
To address this inefficiency, we implemented technology to reduce redundant tasks. For example, if one salesperson has already obtained a quote for a particular port, that information is made available to other salespeople who might be working with different clients but need the same port details. This not only saves time but also ensures consistency in the information provided to clients.
Incorporating technology to enhance human effort and ensure efficient communication has always been integral to our operations. It’s our belief that the synergy between human expertise and technological innovation can revolutionize the logistics industry, as we’ve aimed to demonstrate with our practices at AVA Global.
Darshan Ghodawat’s journey from legacy to leadership exemplifies the transformative power of dedication and innovation. His commitment to philanthropy and a sustainable future underscores the profound impact a visionary leader can have on both business and society, leaving an enduring legacy of inspiration and success.
Check out the whole conversation with Darshan Ghodawat on our YouTube Channel.