Buday: Courier Business Development Must be Hinged on Long-term Investment

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Country Manager, DHL Nigeria, Randy Buday, spoke with Emma Okonji on how best to sustain the courier business in Nigeria through long-term investment and commitment. Excerpts:
DHL has been into logistic business in Nigeria for so long. What impact has the business created on the Nigerian economy?
Yes, DHL has been in business in Nigeria for the past 30 years and its' logistics business has created a lot of impact on the Nigerian economy in several ways, which include support for education, job creation, and local initiatives, through our corporate social responsibility initiative.
Currently we have 800 Nigerian employees in DHL Nigeria and I am the only white man in their midst.  After my retirement, I am sure I will be replaced with a Nigerian to oversee the Nigerian operations of DHL.
The company became the first operator in Nigeria to set up logistic company and we developed the infrastructure for moving items such as parcels and documents around Nigeria and outside Nigeria and in doing that, we connected Nigeria to the rest of the world.
We have nine operational aircraft in Nigeria. We equally have hub and warehouse facilities with over 260 offices spread across the country. Our investments in the country have created massive job opportunities for Nigerians, which of course have impacted on the country's economy.
It appears government policies on courier business have been favourable to DHL, hence your continued stay in business. So what other policies do you think government should come up with that will further enhance courier business in the country?
The bulk of DHL logistic business is in Nigeria and we started when it was pretty difficult to do business in Nigeria. Today, things are looking up because of the favorable government policies on logistics business in Nigeria. In addition to what the government is doing, I think government should build more infrastructure like roads, and power generation. We are happy with our investments in the country and we will continue to invest as long as the policies remain favourable.
What is actually driving the steady business growth of DHL?
You are right to say we have been consistent in doing business in Nigeria and the reason is simple. From the first day we conceived the idea of doing logistics business in Nigeria, our focus was on long term business model and not the short term business model.
So right from day one of our operations in Nigeria, we were investing in long term projects and we were not particular about revenue generation in the shortest possible time, because we know, based on our initial feasibility study, that long term investment is best for the Nigerian market because of the peculiar infrastructure situation in the country.
Some multinationals that crashed out of business in the country may have had such ugly experience because they came into the country with a short term business plan, which they could not sustain because of the peculiar nature of the Nigerian market. I think the true game plan is to have a long term business plan and stick to it with much commitment, which DHL has successfully practised over the years.
What are your strategy for business continuity?
Our strategy is to continue to invest in the country because we have seen a lot of business opportunities and growth in other sectors of the economy like the consumer market, telecoms, eCommerce and pharmaceutical, among others.
In logistics business, most of the operators are involved in sharp practices that are inimical to business growth. Although DHL is not known for this, what could be the reason why operators embark on sharp business practices?
So many reasons could prompt a courier operator to embark on sharp practices. It could be that the operator has no clear vision of the type of business it is into, or that it just wants to cut costs, or may not even be a serious minded operator that is fully on ground doing the business.
In DHL, we have a clear vision about our logistics business and we are committed to it. We organise regular trainings for our staff, where we teach them the ethics of the courier profession, and what the DHL ideals are in courier business. We pay our staff good salaries that will discourage them from getting involved in any form of sharp practice and that is the reason our staff stay long working with the company because there is job satisfaction. Again, we provide a healthy and convenient work environment for our staff, and we give them the opportunity to share their ideas on how best to move the company forward.
What are the implications for sharp practices in courier business?
Any operator that is involved in sharp practices or whose employee is involved in sharp practices, is creating easy avenue for the collapse of the company. It will jeopardise business, it will open up room for litigation against the company, it discredit the company and could lead to loss of business, and above all, it could totally ground a company.
How has DHL been able to serve its customers better, considering the poor state of social infrastructures like roads?
Yes, we are aware of the poor conditions of some of the roads across the country, which has made delivery of goods and services pretty difficult. We operate day and night and it becomes very dangerous to operate at night on those bad roads. In order to address the issue of transportation and deliveries, we decided to invest in aircraft and today we have nine aircraft with which we use in doing courier business in the country.
We try to minimise the amount of trucks we have on the roads and use more of aircraft to transport parcels and documents as well as other goods to far distant areas within the country and this has helped us a great deal in addressing our delivery challenges in the country.
What is DHL market share of the courier business in Nigeria?
I cannot give you the exact market share that DHL control in Nigeria, however I can categorically say that DHL has the largest market share in the international courier business done in Nigeria. As for the domestic market, I will not say we have the largest market share because there are over 200 licensed local courier operators in the country, and most of them are doing very well locally.
On the international market, which is our core business area, DHL has the largest market share and we have invested so much in that area, especially in our aircrafts, in order to attain this feat, and our business is growing exponentially.
What is your take on the clamour for an independent courier regulator outside the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST)?
We have all agreed that the courier business in Nigeria needs an independent regulator that is outside of  NIPOST, which is the current regulator of the courier operations in Nigeria, through the Courier Regulatory Department (CRD) of NIPOST.
My take on it is that the clamour for an independent regulatory body is in the right direction and government should expedite action to make this come true without further delay.
Technology has been driving a lot of businesses in recent times. How has DHL been able to leverage technology in enhancing its business?
We have taken advantage of technology to further drive our business. If you look at some of our staff, they look like robots in their attire and this is the power of technology, which is helping them to do their business well and achieve results in the shortest possible time. They have on them, scanning machines, communications materials that connects them electronically.
With the use of technology, we have been able to trace and track our goods online to ensure safe and speedy delivery. From the points where parcels are received and delivered, we manage it using modern technology in such a way that no parcel or document or item, is lost in transit.
Again we operate electronic signing of documents, which provides adequate security to customers' goods. Our goods are delivered online realtime.
What volume of losses have DHL suffered in the course of delivery items to customers?
We have recorded very minimal losses, which are caused by either wrong addressing system on the parcel or in the community where we deliver the parcels. Periodically we may miss routes and then take parcels to wrong destinations because of wrong addresses, but this is corrected immediately it is discovered.
The loss is minimal because we track all parcels electronically, which makes it difficult to steal or to temper with.
Does DHL take responsibility for loss of items?
Yes we take responsibility for loss of items that are kept in our custody, hence we are very prudent in handling customers' items.
DHL recently donated a Toyota Van to Wecyclers, an environmental social enterprise. What is the interest of DHL in such partnership?
Our interest is about supporting a clean and heathy environment. As a global logistics company, we felt it was a good opportunity for us to make such donation to assist Weclyclers in removing and moving waste from the environment for recycling.
DHL became interested to assist because of the important role it is playing in managing environmental waste, which does not only clean up the society, but also helps in creating a healthy environment that is disease free.
Caring for our environment is something we are passionate about at DHL. Over the years we have participated in and supported several initiatives targeted at creating a sustainable environment. Our partnership with Wecyclers further affirms our position and commitment and we hope that this donation will serve as a major boost to their operations.
You have been in Nigeria for over 29 years. After retirement, would you want to remain in Nigeria?
Yes I will love to remain in Nigeria after my retirement, doing some consulting businesses in courier and related businesses, even though my home is in the US. The reason is that my wife is from Africa and my children are Africans and I have come to like Nigeria and the people of Nigeria, having stayed this long in the country.
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