Think People, Think Progress, Think Intangibles.
In this latest Introducing feature, we have the opportunity to say hello and welcome to the new General Manager for our Singapore Operation. Having joined Gantrex earlier this year, Sureskumar Sinnadurai was only too happy to share his insights on leadership and customer delight with our team. So, let’s find out what he thinks good leadership looks like and why quality in everything is the best recipe for success.
Sureskumar Sinnadurai – Quick Facts
Position: General Manager – SSC Singapore
Industry Experience: Worked within the industry since 1991 across a range of verticals including Ports, Mining, Airports, Steel, Aluminium and General Industry
Guiding Principle: Good leadership isnt about advancing yourself, it’s about advancing your team.
Sures, you have a vast amount of experience and expertise gained over many years working in the industry. From the factory floor to the board room, is there a central theme that ties your career path together?
You’re right. Looking back over my career I have held positions from Field Technician to MD and Board of Director, and everything in between. And I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced our industry from all angles. From manual tasks such as welding, to acting as Assistant General Manager on a €50 million project, there’s not much that I haven’t been involved with. But across all of these roles and responsibilities, wherever they have taken me in the world, the one thing that has been at the heart of everything is people. As a Regional Sales Director, I visited 17 countries in 27 days, meeting with customers ranging from agents, contractors, consultants and end users. In another role I ran the manufacturing plant of STS and RTG Cranes in Malaysia and was responsible for more than 500 people including sub-contractors. And a third example would see me being posted to various countries as a Site Manager to offload Cranes, manage Testing Commissioning and look after the client hand-over process of the cranes before closing the project successfully and returning home base. Whichever role I have had, and wherever I have worked, people have been at the heart of it.
Gantrex is known for its customer-centric approach, how will you put your stamp on the customer experience for your region?
The reputation that we have in the marketplace is one of the things that drew me to the role, as I could see that my values would align with the Gantrex culture and vision. We have a superb reputation, great quality, well-engineered products, unparalleled technical expertise, and our customers know we won’t let them down. These are the keys to our ongoing success. I think that in terms of my focus, I will be working closely with the team to really drive home our reliability, proven technology, excellent after sales service and glocal capabilities. When a customer calls, we will be there with immediate support and outstanding service and in fact, one service characteristic that I also want to really build is that we become known for being proactive. Customers who have worked with me before will know that I do not wait for a live project before I visit a customer. Every 3 months I pencil in an appointment, and I travel to meet them on confirmation. Regardless of there being a live project in play, I really believe that it’s that personal connection and relationship that makes the business relationship and the trust really work.
You touched on technical expertise and quality. Why do you think these are such critical factors for crane rail operations?
There’s no getting away from the fact that there are, and always wll be cheap products on the market. We see competitors who are willing to waive their margins for the sake of just getting the job, others who try to copy and manufacture our product and sadly, a level of dishonest practice which is bad business. We will never be able to eradicate these kinds of companies, but we can continue to prove why quality counts, and demonstrate the real value of quality and technical expertise to the industry.
Taking quality at its most basic, the trolley or rails on a crane system are fundamental to its operation and any weakness or poor performance in this foundation will lead to operational failure, performance issues, lost time and cost. To make sure that the entire system works at optimum performance, you must have the very best track system and confidence in it and the team that are providing it for you. Without the highest level of quality and expertise no crane rail supplier can achieve this. If you compromise on the quality of the products or the expertise to install them correctly in the first place, then you will definitely need to find the expertise to be able to resolve problems once they occur after installation. When quality is compromised, as it sometimes can be for cost, there is a greater chance that something will go wrong. Working with the right supplier, with quality products and appropriate technical expertise in house, these issues can be avoided, and if things do go wrong, which they sometimes can, things can be resolved swiftly and efficiently.
And when you talk about quality how does this tie back to your ‘people’ theme?
It’s about trust. It’s about building confidence amongst your customers and it’s one of the main factors in building sustainable business relationships. The cost of poor quality on a project for a customer can be massive. The very real impact this has on loss of revenue, increased operational downtime and reputation for the customer can be far reaching. It can affect their long-term business, their potential growth and their market position.
In my opinion, it’s the products and the people that a customer will assess. And we have to show quality across the board, from a single product component to an in-depth customer interaction.
On that point, how do you see your role impacting your customers’ business?
I have an incredible team who are all experts in their respective roles. So, I would hope to see my role as one that compliments my team, the customers business, and operations. As it’s my style to be in regular contact with my customers, I hope that my honest and transparent approach will be one that provides a supportive role on each project. It’s not my intention to be seen as demanding or pushy, rather working in partnership with my team and each customer to deliver the very best outcome for them.
The impact of the pandemic on travel has presented us with some challenges and especially on the way in which I have traditionally worked – in person, face to face and side by side with a customer. However, we have worked together to find solutions, to use new technologies to stay in touch and to make sure that customers still feel that they are getting a personal service from our teams.
Turning then to your team, how do you motivate them to make sure quality stays a top priority?
It’s still very early days in my role having been here less than 6 months so far, but even at this early stage I can see that the team are responding really well to regular, open and honest communication. I communicate directly with my Managers every day, and with the wider team on a weekly basis. We work together to find the most efficient way to stay on top of communication, and as an example, have a WhatsApp Group set up so that we can get updates and answers quickly and efficiently out through the teams. For me, making everyone in the operation feel connected, engaged and ensuring they understand the contribution they make to our success is key. One way I do this is to share our results with key personnel at our factory in Malaysia so that they have ownership of their input and can cascade down to the shop floor, so everyone has pride in the role they play. This allows everyone to realize the importance of efficiency, quality and productivity and helps drive these bottom up and top down.
There is also a strong sense of pride, especially now that we have the local warehouse in the region, meaning we are able to react even more swiftly to orders and provide quicker lead times for delivery to site. Having a local Malaysia Hub is great for our sales effort as it gives our teams a regional advantage for delivery times and cost, yet again reinforcing our glocal ambition.
There are some exciting projects on the horizon for my team and our operations throughout Asia. Sadly, it’s too early to share them with you now but I will look forward to announcing them as soon as we can.
You seem to have a very open and honest leadership style? Is this what good leadership means to you?
I have been fortunate to have held several leadership roles during my career. And in that time had embraced to a couple of principles that I think sum good leadership up.
Firstly, good leadership isn’t about advancing yourself, it’s about advancing your team. Secondly, leadership is a moving target, and it always will be. If we want to be better leaders, we need to get comfortable with change. And if I want to lead up, I need to think like a leader. And finally, leadership is about learning and growth, I sincerely believe that leaders must be able to take the new thing learned today and use that to build upon what was learned yesterday. It never stops. There is always more to learn.
And what about winning projects? How does your business style lend itself to that?
I’ve worked on a number of projects since joining Gantrex; Dong Do Project in South Korea, West Swanson Dock and MCD Hay Point in Australia, Port Panjang Indonesia, ATI Philippines, SH Design Singapore, Penang Port Malaysia and the list goes on. But what I realise is that every job in every country is unique. One is for rail, clips and pads as a package, some only rails, some only Gantrex HingeGuardTM Short Rail, some only Inspections and for some, a complete package including turnkey solutions with Installation.
You can never use the same approach in Singapore as you might in Australia or the Philippines. Every country has its own business protocol, and we must adapt to deliver different solutions in different countries for different types of customer. Different countries have different cultures and different styles of negotiating and closing a deal.
This is one of the reasons that I love working for Gantrex. My experience over the years in the region, coupled with my inquisitive approach and genuine desire to give 110% customer satisfaction and delight, means that I and my team can really get under the skin of a project, and the needs and outcomes of the people behind it.
As I said, there are unprofessional people in our Industry, and this we cannot do anything about. But if we are truthful, honest, genuine, provide good quality, with reasonable lead times, and having a good relationship – the order will be ours.
Sures, it certainly sounds like you have hit the ground running! What’s next on the horizon for you and your team?
As mentioned, we are hoping to announce a number of significant project wins shortly, but in the meantime, we will continue to work hard to ensure that we are providing the very highest level of customer satisfaction, that we are operating efficiently and therefore remaining competitive in our marketplace and that we are setting ourselves some challenging targets for the future which we are all very excited about reaching. The future is really positive for our operations in Asia and I am really looking forward to helping drive the Gantrex brand onto even greater success in the region and building lasting relationships that give our customers real commercial success.