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Exclusive Interview: Hussein Hachem, Aramex

From Arabian Supply Chain

Hussein Hachem, CEO, Middle East and Africa, Aramex discusses 2011, corporate social responsibility, Turkey and the way forward in 2012.

How would you rate Aramex performance in 2011?
I’m happy with what happened in 2011. We have seen growth in the third quarter – in the top line, this was in the range of 19 per cent, and in the bottom line we have seen growth in the range of 3 per cent. Taking into account what has happened in the region such as; the Arab Spring; the slowdown of business in Syria; along with the shutdown of Libya and Egypt; even then, we still had 19 per cent growth in most of our services. We have just entered the fourth quarter and we are closing November now. October was a good month and the indications are that business looks very positive for 2012. We are quite confident we will have double digit growth in both top and bottom lines.

What was the thinking behind joining the ‘Care by Air’ initiative?
This is part of our support community. Aramex has been heavily involved in CSR initiatives and we would like to leverage our infrastructure to help support such initiatives. Before the Care by Air initiative, we’ve been involved in deploying our teams to the tsunami that happened in Sri Lanka, and the Pakistani earthquake which happened a few years back. In Sri Lanka, we managed along with other players, the flow of aid into the airport and then the distribution to the affected areas. Over the years, we have been active in leveraging our infrastructure for a good cause.

How have your two Kenyan courier firms performed since you acquired them?
We have merged the two firms since we acquired them and we now have around 118 employees on the ground. We’ve just rebranded and upgraded our infrastructure. If you are a customer of ours in Kenya, you can expect the same service level and same service quality compared to if you are a customer of Aramex in Dubai, China or New York. We have upgraded our infrastructure to cater for the Kenyan business man; the small to medium businesses; and the multinational companies; so we can connect and offer a full range of intercity, international express, freight forwarding, or 3PL services.

Aramex has been quoted as interested in acquiring interests in Turkey. How is this progressing?
We are definitely interested in Turkey. If you look at our strategy we are interested to grow the company and become the leading company of choice in emerging markets. Turkey is a key market for us because it connects Europe to the Middle East. With growth in its GDP over the past five years, it has a lot of potential. Our positioning in the country will act as a hub into the Middle East and a hub in to central Asia. We are still in talks, but at the moment I am looking at a company that will allow us to have a domestic network. From this we can start our e-commerce and then we can connect our international freight forwarding company and international express services and reach most of the Turkish citizens.

What were the major challenges for Aramex in 2011?
What’s happening around us in terms of political instability. I think the Arab world is changing, which is taking time and is in turn affecting our business. In the long run it’s positive I think, and having a sustainable political model in the Arab world is good for growth because it will increase investments in our region − we are confident we will emerge much stronger. There are a lot of challenges that are affecting us, but over time I think it will settle down and having active public/private partnerships that will tackle all of these issues is important. At the moment, the main challenge that affects us is unemployment. Unemployment is a major issue which is causing some turmoil and some social frustration.

What aspect of the company will be your focus in 2012?
We’re focusing on our core markets where we generate a good chunk of our business. At the same time, we are expanding into new emerging markets. We just want to make sure the acquisitions that we are doing make sense − that they fit into our culture and offer a total integrated solution to our customers globally.


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