Interview with Ayaz Admani –CEO, Seagold Pvt. Ltd
‘Logistics industry in Pakistan is highly competitive’
Ayaz Admani is a seasoned professional in logistics, freight forwarding and sales domains, having workedfor a number of leading shipping firms in Pakistan. Currently, Ayaz is the Chief Executive Officer ofSeagold Pvt. Ltd. and has been a part of the company since its inception. His journey in the company spans over 22 years. Under hisleadership, Seagold has bagged numerous awards including Top Cargo Agent by Emirates Sky Cargo,Best Customer by Hapag-Lloyd and Best Agent by Turkish Airlines.
Before joining Seagold, Ayaz served in Maersk Sealine from 1994 to 1999. Following are the edited excerpts of a recent conversation BR Research had with him:
BR Research: Tell us about your company and the kind of business you deal in.
Ayaz Admani: Seagold Limited is a leading logistics and freight forwarding company based in Pakistan. The company offers a wide range of services including ocean freight, air freight, warehousing, and transportation solutions to customers in Pakistan and around the world through its international partners.
Seagold Limited has established itself as one of the top logistics companies in Pakistan, offering cost-effective and reliable logistics solutions to its customers. The company has a team of experienced professionals who are well-versed in the complexities of logistics and are committed to delivering quality services to customers.
The company's ocean freight services are designed to meet the needs of customers looking for cost-effective shipping solutions. We have established strong partnerships with major shipping lines, enabling us to offer competitive rates for ocean freight services. The company's air freight services are also tailored to meet the needs of customers looking for fast and reliable air transportation solutions.
Seagold Limited's warehousing services provide customers with safe and secure storage facilities for their goods. The company has a network of warehouses strategically located throughout Pakistan, offering customers easy access to their goods. The company's transportation services are designed to provide customers with reliable and efficient transportation solutions, with a fleet of trucks and trailers to transport goods to their destination.
BRR: Where does the logistics business stand today when the country is hit by a foreign exchange crisis? How long has it been in this state of uncertainty?
AA: It is true that the prevailing economic conditions, including the foreign exchange crisis, have significantly impacted the logistics industry, affecting aspects such as transportation costs, import/export activities, and overall business operations.
The issues pertaining to foreign exchange started during the latter part of 2022 and are an ongoing complication that the relevant authorities are trying to sort on a priority basis. We are optimistic that a positive outcome will soon follow these efforts.
International trade is the backbone of the global economy and vital for our growth. I believe all stakeholders – the government, exporters, importers, financial institutions and others – are fully cognizant of this fact and are working both to lessen the negative impact of the crisis and to re-establish the norm. We are hopeful that there will soon be an upturn in the economic situation which will also lead to an improvement in the logistics sector.
BRR: How would you define the logistics industry in the country in terms of local and foreign players? Is there any interest from foreign investors?
AA: Pakistan's logistics industry is a fairly mature industry, with several companies being in the business here for decades. In this highly competitive sector, Seagold has rapidly emerged as one of the market leaders, and I attribute this to our strong customer-centric approach, the comprehensive ‘single window’ range of services we offer, and to the use of technology in all our operations.
The logistics sector is a critical component of the economy, serving as a bridge between producers and consumers, and facilitating the movement of goods within the country, and also to and from other countries. The sector is made up of both local and foreign players with a mix of large and small companies.
Local players dominate the logistics industry in Pakistan with a number of large companies operating across the country. These companies offer a range of logistics services, including transportation, warehousing, and freight forwarding. There are also many smaller, regional logistics providers that operate in specific areas of the country.
Some foreign players are also present in the Pakistani logistics industry with focus on international freight forwarding and express courier services, although they also offer domestic services in some cases.
Overall, the logistics industry in Pakistan is highly competitive with companies competing on price, quality of service, and range of offerings. The industry is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by increasing demand for logistics services due to economic growth and rising international trade.
BRR: Apart from the foreign exchange crisis, what other factors are affecting the logistics business in the country?
AA: There are several factors that can affect the logistics and international freight business in Pakistan, apart from the foreign exchange crisis.Poor infrastructure such as outdated roads, inadequate ports, and lack of proper transportation facilitiescan hinder the smooth movement of goods, leading to delays and increased costs. Political unrest, instability, and conflicts can disrupt the supply chain and create uncertainties for international freight businesses.Stringent regulations and complicated bureaucratic procedures can delay the shipment of goods and increase costs for international freight companies. Security concerns and threats such as terrorism, piracy, and theft can pose risks to the safety of cargo and personnel involved in the transportation of goods.
The rapid pace of technological advancements can also create challenges for the logistics industry, as companies need to continuously adapt to new technologies to remain competitive. We in Seagold have paid great emphasis on keeping pace of technological developments and incorporating these into our business to stay ahead. Environmental factors like climate change and natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and storms can disrupt supply chains and lead to delays and losses for international freight companies.
Moreover, Intense market competition can create pressure on freight companies to reduce costs and offer competitive rates, leading to thin profit margins and increased challenges in maintaining sustainable growth
BRR: What kind of margins do you operate at in normal circumstances, and how has the foreign exchange crisis and a government ban on imports impacted the margins of your company?
AA: Operating margins for almost all freight forwarding companies in Pakistan are as per market dynamics. The impact of a foreign exchange crisis and government bans on imports can have varying effects on the margins. For instance:
During the foreign exchange crisis, currency values have become highly volatile. This has affected the margins as we often deal with international transactions. Currency depreciation has also increased the cost of imported goods thus effecting imports.
Government bans on imports significantly reduced trade volumes which resulted in increased competition amongst companies and lower freight rates. Lower rates can impact profit margins.
BRR: How were you affected by the COVID pandemic, and did you recover from it in 2021-2022? Also, did you see increased activity in the sector during FY21-FY22 when exports reached the highest and imports also remained unabated?
AA: Like the rest of the shipping industry, we were also initially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to disruptions in global trade and supply chains. Lockdown measures and reduced consumer demand led to a decline in shipping volumes, especially for non-essential goods. However, the industry largely adapted by implementing safety protocols, prioritizing essential cargo, and adjusting routes. Additionally, e-commerce and medical supply and hospital related shipments increased, offsetting some of the losses. Essentially, it is always a question of forecasting future trends and developments accurately and in advance, and adapting to change and evolving in response to the evolving environment. This is what keeps any dynamic organization on the sustainable growth path, and helps it to mitigate negative impact in tough times.
BRR: How do you maintain quality and control over logistics operations?
AA: Maintaining quality and control over logistics operations requires a combination of effective planning, execution, and monitoring. We take some key steps to achieve this.
We set clear goals and objectives such as reducing costs, improving delivery times, or increasing customer satisfaction.
We maintain focus on choosing reliable logistics partners, such as carriers, agents, and warehousesetc. who have a proven track record of delivering high-quality services.
We use logistics technology systems such as Transportation Management Systems (TMS) and customized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to streamline our operations and provide real-time visibility to improve performance.
We regularly monitor performance using key performance indicators (KPIs), such as on-time delivery, inventory accuracy, and customer satisfaction, using this data to identify areas for improvement and make necessary changes to our logistics operation.
Where required, we have developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for our various logistics processes, including transportation and warehouse operations. SOPs ensure consistency and provide guidelines for employees to follow.
Also to be noted is the fact that we achieved ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certification in 2017 and we are CTPAT (Customs Trade Partnership against Terrorism) compliant as well.
BRR: Where do you see the economy headed? Do you foresee improvement in the business sentiments any time soon?
AA: The direction of Pakistan's economy and business sentiments depend on various factors such as government policies, global economic conditions, domestic reforms, and geopolitical dynamics. We believe that as soon as political stability is restored, momentum will shift and things would rapidly improve in a very short span to time.
BRR: What are your plans for the company over the next 5 years?
AA: Seagold is a progressive company and our plans over the next five years vary depending on geopolitical conditions. Our vision is to be the leading freight forwarding company and so our plans for the next 5 years are focused on technological advancement, digital transformation, sustainable practices, expansion and collaborative partnerships.
With the fast paced technological advancement, we seek to embrace digital transformation. We shall focus on investing in technology and digital solutions to optimize operations, enhance efficiency, and improve customer experience. We also plan to enhance supply chain visibility by implementing tracking systems and real-time monitoring. This helps in proactive problem-solving, identifying bottlenecks, and streamlining operations
We also seek to embrace sustainable practices to adopt any advancement in technology. This may involve optimizing transportation routes, adopting green technologies, and exploring alternate energy sources.
We are on the lookout for opportunities to expand service offerings and enter new markets. This may involve providing value-added services such as inventory management, order fulfillment via a complete turnkey solution.
And we seek to collaborate and form strategic partnerships with other logistics providers or industry players to leverage complementary strengths, expand market reach, and enhance service capabilities.
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