TBY talks to Raman Kumar, Acting Managing Director of Al-Futtaim Logistics, on the ins and outs of the logistics business

01 March, 2015

What factors contributed to your growth in 2014?

If you look at the growth of Al-Futtaim Logistics, we have moved both vertically and horizontally. In terms of our vertical growth, our fashion design services and solutions have expanded considerably. One solution we have developed for our customers ensures that their products do not stay in storage for a long time; the retailer orders the product, which is shipped out immediately to the store as soon as it arrives at the loading dock. With the assistance of advanced technology and software, we can reduce storage time through the ways that we configure the variables involved. This has been one of the big successes of 2014 and we expect the fashion design line of the business to grow from here. In this case, we add value to the service that we provide to the customer by developing an understanding of their real needs.

How do you adapt your solutions to customers working in different countries?

Customers in different countries naturally have different requirements, which can present a challenge when you have shipments travelling to different regions of the world. For example, we have many customers shipping from Europe to the Middle East who require labels in Arabic, for which we have developed internal systems to simplify much of the process for the customer. Our solutions meet the principal's, the customer's, and the relevant government's requirements, as well as those of the end consumer. We aim to add value for all customers, whatever their requirements, by not only providing solutions, but by understanding the available technology and applying it to their needs.

“Customers in different countries naturally have different requirements."

Recently Al-Futtaim Logistics opened a 50,000 sqm warehouse, distribution, and office facility, which includes a 30,000 sqm distribution center for your home delivery fleet. What has the impact of these developments been on your business?

These two developments were a part of our 2014 strategy, and we made these moves to meet our customers' requirements in the fast moving retail division. Customers are looking for solutions dedicated to minimizing handling problems. These facilities have given our customers an advantage in a market in which lead times of over 10 days for delivery are not unusual, whereas in reality we know that customers want no more than three days. Once you learn what the customer wants, you have to find new supply chain and logistics solutions to make it happen, which is what we have done. We have fine-tuned our operational efficiency to increase productivity, and we deliver on time to satisfy customers. These days, the end consumer is more vocal about their requirements, meaning that our customers, the retail companies, understand more clearly what they need to do to address them. We take our responsibility seriously to listen and to respond, and to go much further than simply delivering products, but to give them the best solution to fit their needs.

How do you accommodate customers from a wide range of industries?

Whatever goods you are transporting, the customer wants to reduce the lead-time from the manufacturer to the end recipient. Each product sector has different service requirements; in the automotive industry you can store a car for a number of days, for example, but whereas the fashion industry operates seasonally, you cannot keep winter clothes for the summer. You have to look at all scenarios, and for each one you have to understand the product and the customer's demands in order to meet their requirements. A team of experts within our management team reviews every aspect; by selecting our products and methods, they control and adapt each solution to make sure that all possible scenarios are considered and prepared for.

Al-Futtaim Logistics is the leading automotive logistics service provider in the UAE, and serves a range of other industry solutions such as retail, industrial, and project cargo. How do you see this dynamic going forward?

During 2014 we expanded our verticals in the fashion and home delivery sectors, and are now looking at market movements very closely as we plan our expansion into food and other sectors. We foresee positive trends in the next few years leading up to Expo 2020 in the UAE. As an organization, we are well positioned in terms of starting sizeable projects and our expansion into new verticals.

What is Al-Futtaim Logistics' regional expansion strategy going forward?

We are looking for expansion and business growth as we expand geographically from our home market into new markets in the MENA region; including Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, East and North Africa, and then into Egypt.

The Business Year.

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