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Monday, May 27, 2024

Sudheer K: The Marketing Executive who Built a Rs. 2,700 crore Cargo and Freight Empire

Kerala-born Sudheer K. created a cargo and freight company empire from his humble beginnings as an entry-level marketing executive earning Rs. 1,000 per month.

Sudheer founded and chairs Navio Shipping LLC in Dubai and Navio Shipping Pvt. Ltd. in Mumbai aged 54. These enterprises have a staggering Rs. 2,700 crore turnover.

Sudheer started his extraordinary success story in 1993 in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, where he obtained shipping expertise. After moving to Dubai, he worked at a logistics company for seven years before beginning his own business.

Navio Shipping LLC and Navio Shipping Pvt. Ltd. ship goods worldwide via sea, air, and road.

They handle textiles, food, metals, autos, electronics, and agricultural products for a varied clientele.

Besides the UAE, the two organizations have offices in Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain, China, Thailand, Japan, Germany, the US, France, and Italy, employing 500 people.

Sudheer grew up with his younger sister in a humble home in Kollayil hamlet, 25 kilometers from Trivandrum, Kerala, to a housewife and an ex-army guy. His Subedar father retired.

Sudheer remembers his childhood, “I graduated for Class 12 in 1985 from Dhanuvachapuram rural school. I walked 1 km to school every day since owning a bike was a fantasy.”

Sudheer graduated from VTM NSS College in 1988 with a B.Sc. Later, he dropped out of Shree Vidyadhiraja College’s MA in English literature before examinations. He earned a PG Diploma in Mass Communication & Journalism from Trivandrum’s Bhavan School of Management in 1991.

Sudheer’s father, a Subedar, resigned from the army, and the family relied on his little pension.

Sudheer recalls his early professional struggles: “I completed a 1992 German language course at the University of Kerala. Not a job despite trying. Pressure to earn and trouble asking parents for money weighed on me. I took every job I could find.”

He worked at Arebee Shipping Company in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, for Rs 1,000 in 1993 thanks to a cousin.

After a year and a half in entry-level marketing, he moved to Kochi to work with A V Thomas & Co. Ltd.’s sales and marketing department till 1999.

He met his future wife Angeli, another employee, there. “We fell in love and wanted marriage,” he added. However, Angeli’s orthodox Christian parents disapproved of our decision.

We both come from humble households and had obligations at home. We earned to sustain our families.”

Angeli relocated to Dubai in 1998 to work in customer service for a better life. Sudheer followed suit in 1999, seeking improved professional opportunities and a sales role.

Dubai was hard for them both. “I’ll never forget walking 5 km in Dubai to save just Rs. 40-45,” adds Sudheer.

“When Angeli and I were single and working in Dubai, she brought the night’s curry. We bought 5-6 store chapatis for Rs. 40-45 and ate them in the park.”

After great convincing, their parents agreed to their marriage in Kerala in 2000.

“If you can’t convince your parents to approve of your marriage, then you’re clearly not a good sales and marketing guy,” he jokes.

Despite their low wages, the newlyweds supported their Indian relatives. Sudheer states, “We lived in a shared apartment with other residents in the other rooms.”

Everyone utilized a shared bathroom. Our first son, Sachin Sudheer, was born in 2001. He was named after Sachin Tendulkar since I love cricket.”

The turning moment occurred in 2007 when Sudheer became an Assistant Manager at Caravel Logistics.

“Company owner Saju Chako believed in my potential and gave me a lot of freedom to work. I became General Manager in seven years, he says.

“In April 2014, I left Caravel to start my own logistics company.” Sudheer appreciates his initial investor, who gave him Rs. 1 crore and commercial chances.

“That person is like a god to me,” he adds. “The investment returned to him in three years.” Navio Shipping LLC was founded by Sudheer and four others. After one partner left in 2021, three partners run the firm.

Sudheer established Navio Shipping Pvt. Ltd. in Mumbai in September 2014.

The 2000 sq ft leased space for the Dubai office has been replaced by an 8000 sq ft location on Sheikh Zayed Road. The Mumbai office is in Navi Mumbai.

Navio has rented warehouses in Jebel Ali, a port town 35 kilometers from Dubai, and plans to establish 16 Amazon warehouses in India by April 2023. Amazon, Tata, Reliance, Sony, and Samsung are prominent clients.

With their two boys, Sachin, 22, and Aryan, 11, the couple rents an 8000-square-foot property on Jumeirah, Dubai’s shoreline. “I deferred buying houses and reinvested my earnings. Sudheer says he’ll purchase a Dubai family house this year.

Personal, Sudheer is close to his parents. His sister in Trivandrum cares for them. He pays for everything and visits Kerala for a week every month.

Sudheer explains, “I spend three weeks in Dubai and the fourth in Trivandrum. Parents are valuable, thus we must spend time with them. My father is 87-years-old. Angeli and I assist our family in every way we can.”


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