- Customers can count on our simplifying single window solutions
- Partnering with Retailo will help solve entire supply chain needs
- Pakistan’s economy is on the road of success, but more right actions can significantly impact the growth
- Covid 19 adversely affecting function of demand and supply but Maersk taking best steps in this challenging time
Interview with Ms Aruna Hussain — Managing Director, Maersk Pakistan Pvt Ltd
PAGE: Please tell us briefly about your company’s history in Pakistan and how successful has it been?
Aruna Hussain: Maersk is a leading integrator of logistics and the only company in Pakistan offering end-to-end logistics services to its customers with multiple solutions and digital offerings. Not only is Maersk focused on providing the right solutions, but is obsessed with delivering a top-notch customer experience to ensure that all our customers’ needs are addressed. Maersk Pakistan is playing an important role in enabling international trade for the country. In 2020, Maersk moved over 315,000 containers in both imports and exports and is working to help improve the infrastructure of Pakistan to facilitate and liberalize trade and investment to support the local economy. Maersk is committed to offering trade lanes and opportunities to the local producers of Pakistan and help them reach out globally to set up Pakistan’s footprint across the world.
PAGE: Please tell us about the integrated services offered by Maersk Pakistan?
Aruna Hussain: Maersk embarked on a transformational journey few years ago to become an integrated container logistics company. As a part of this journey, we have strengthened our capabilities beyond ocean shipping and invested a lot of efforts in building capabilities for end-to-end logistics for our customers. This means that we can support our customers’ logistics requirements right from their door to the final destination of their cargo. Our end-to-end logistics offering includes supply chain visibility and management services, landside transportation of cargo, storage of cargo, documentation and customs clearances, cold chain logistics, port-related activities etc. Further, we also give our customers value added services such as Value Protect, which covers the risks faced by the cargo during transportation. With all these services, we aim to provide our customers with a single window access to all their logistics requirements.
PAGE: What do you think about the investment climate in Pakistan and what is Maersk’s plan to further invest in Pakistan. Is it favourable as compared to other countries during the COVID-19?
Aruna Hussain: Despite the pandemic and its implications on global economy, Pakistan’s economy has shown resilience in these challenging times. Government’s resolve to strengthen economic foundations of the country has resulted in increase in exports, large scale industrial growth and boom in construction and allied industries. The automotive, textile, FMCG and pharmaceuticals sectors have clearly shown growth. Maersk being an integrator of container logistics and the only player that provides end-to-end solutions is equally excited to play its role in simplifying our customers’ supply chains and to provide them with single window solutions. Maersk plans to invest in logistics infrastructure across the country, systems, processes and most importantly people who will be managing the operations to help our customers across different industries thrive and succeed.
PAGE: How well are the logistics infrastructure improving in Pakistan and what are the current bottlenecks to efficiency?
Aruna Hussain: Vision Pakistan 2025 aims to enhance the local logistics infrastructure by establishing an efficient and integrated transportation and logistics system. National initiatives in infrastructure development are likely to contribute in better road networks, expansion of the railway and growth of warehousing and transportation. Priority should be given to the development of integrated road/rail networks between economic hubs and high capacity transportation corridors connecting Pakistan with major regional trading partners. While the logistics infrastructure is improving, there still are some bottlenecks that need rectifications for a smooth process flow of the goods nationwide and cross borders. Specifically, the room for improvement revolves around the development of not just infrastructure but also related technologies, digital solutions and regulation. The right actions can significantly impact the growth of our country, both domestically and internationally.
PAGE: How has COVID-19 changed your business model in Pakistan?
Aruna Hussain: With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Maersk set ourselves three priorities – to ensure the safety of our employees, to support our customers’ supply chain needs and to help the society fight the virus. While we immediately shifted our office-based employees to work from home, we ensured that the IT infrastructure was capable to support all our business needs without any disruptions. Strict adherence to social distancing protocols was ensured to keep essential services running. Our vessels continued sailing, ports operating and all the infrastructure around our logistics and services functioning throughout the period of the pandemic. We made sure that our customers’ cargo kept moving despite the lockdowns across geographies around the world. Further, our digital platforms and mobile app were available for our customers to carry out all the necessary tasks from the safety and convenience of their homes. We also facilitated digital payments and released digital documents wherever possible. The industry as a whole faced disruptions across entire supply chain in 2020, owing to the lockdowns, port congestion, transportation blockades, distribution and delivery delays, maintaining international operations and storage issues. But it is evident that the companies, markets and regions that adjusted to the pandemic the quickest, are those using digital technology to collect data, share information, get supply chain visibility, and to stay connected with customers and stakeholders.
PAGE: With more people used to being in lockdown we have witnessed a surge in e-commerce and as such a surge in demand for containers with higher freight rates — do you see this continuing for long?
Aruna Hussain: The pandemic has put e-commerce at the forefront of retail. With cities going under lockdown, businesses closing and people adjusting to isolation and uncertainty, one of the huge changes identified was in people’s buying behaviours and spending habits. From essential goods to nonessential items, most shopping was being done online, resulting in a surge in e-commerce, with more and more businesses offering e-retail services to stay in business. The global demand for goods has surged amid COVID-19 crisis and it may take weeks for consumer demand to return to normal. With shortage of containers globally and port congestion in many locations, the entire logistics sector globally is facing unprecedented challenges. Freights rates, which are a function of demand and supply, have been adversely impacted due to this situation as well. As consumer patterns and consumption trend suggests, it is safe to say that demand has been the highest in the last 10 years and the situation may remain same for the first half of the year. Globally, Maersk has deployed all containers in the network, and ensured that there are no idle assets in order to help customers resume their supply chain without disruption. The challenges in the network are slowly getting resolved. But predicting when normalcy would return is a little more complicated and depends on a lot of external factors.
PAGE: What are the challenges for Pakistani women to be the part of logistics and e-commerce business?
Aruna Hussain: The shipping and logistics industry has traditionally been male dominated, and while this is changing as more females are making headways into the sector, there is still a lot of work to do to encourage women to step into the supply chain and logistics field. There are positions available and many opportunities for growth. It is crucial to focus on improving the gender ratio in the industry, and employers have a big role to play in creating the right culture, environment and opportunities. Maersk has been leading on this metric in the industry. We lay a lot of emphasis on diversity and inclusion within the organisation, and consciously work to improve this continuously.
PAGE: Would you please put some light on as recently signed strategic partnerships for warehousing solutions in Pakistan? What were the thoughts behind this?
Aruna Hussain: Maersk, as a part of its integrated logistics solutions, has been offering its customers with services that cover their entire supply chain needs. Expanding our footprint to serve customers better specifically in the warehousing landscape, Maersk is creating dedicated warehouse solutions for Retailo, among other customers, starting in Karachi. Inefficiencies within the retail sector have long since hindered the retailer’s business and profits. Procurement and supply chain channels within the region are entirely informal and pose significant challenges. Retailo’s unique business model, with systematic logistics, and beautifully uncomplicated technology are revolutionizing the retail industry and to serve the demand, Retailo now uses several vast warehouses in the region already. The partnership with Maersk will help Retailo manage their large inventories as per specific requirements. At Maersk, our ambition is to connect and simplify our customers’ supply chains. Our partnership with Retailo strengthens our commitment towards this ambition. With our experience in warehousing and distribution business and our strength in the end-to-end logistics sector, we are confident of creating a reliable solution for Retailo and support their expansion vision.