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Securing the future of logistics

Oman-based Asyad is technologically arming itself to meet market needs and empower a more future-proof sector

Positioning itself as an integrated logistics solutions provider and a logistics hub in the Middle East and North Africa region, Asyad Group is investing in research and development to employ big data and emerging technologies to develop sustainable solutions, and future-proof a more resilient global supply chain.

Jochebed Menon speaks to Eng. Abdulrahman Al Hatmi, Group CEO Asyad Group, on what are in the plans for the company. “We see ourselves as a logistics frontrunner in the region in terms of integrating solutions. Whether it be shipping, land, or air solutions, and course of free zone offerings to provide customer with a unique proposition that serves their purpose.”

Adding further, he says: “To make sure this whole ecosystem system is more efficient, we believe technology is the differentiator to provide the best offering to our customers. And therefore, we’ve come up the hackathon.”

The company organised a three-day Global Logistics Hackathon in Dubai at the Dubai Exhibition Centre during the Material Handling Middle East event which is running from 2 to 4 November. The hackathon is providing 45 data scientists from Oman, UAE, Belgium, India, Turkey, Australia, Morocco, Belarus, Brazil, Ukraine, Iraq and Pakistan, a chance to showcase their skills and share ideas on how to solve real-world logistics problems.

“We need new ideas,” says Al Hatmi. “I think the world is full of talent and it needs to be tapped. There is a multitude of intellect in the world. Hopefully, we get some great ideas out of this hackathon, and some good minds that bring us fantastic proposals that we can adopt and take back to integrate to make the most difference in our business and to the bottom line.”

Fit-for-purpose solutions
Asyad is also taking the lead on the technology front and hopes to offer fit-for-purpose solutions to customers and the economy.

He explains: “We want to couple technological offerings with a cost benefit analysis to help the economy in terms of employment. Technology has always is seen as a threat, which is not the case. For example, in Oman, earlier the Omanis were reluctant to take on crane operator jobs, they felt it was below them to do such duties. We then automated the cranes which are now operated through a control centre. Now, these jobs have become very popular with the locals. It’s a slightly uplifted job that is intellectually challenging. This is a very good example of technology enabling jobs.”

The company is also focusing on employing robotics at fulfilment centres and last mile delivery. “We’re looking at blockchain technology and unified trading solutions where all customers and service providers can access a single platform to meet their needs,” Al Hatmi notes.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another area of interest for Asyad. It hopes to use AI to provide commercial information to its teams. “We’re looking at all sorts of technologies that can be put together and hopefully provide a great product, which is a standout solution to our customers and our employees,” he explains.

Going global
Apart from technologically enabling itself, Asyad is looking to become a global player and tap into the Indian subcontinent and Africa. Al Hatmi explains: “The market footprint in the GCC is quite limited. We need to tap bigger markets. We all know that logistics is a very tough business with small profit margins. Therefore, we need to deal with larger volumes to scale up the business.

“The subcontinent, particularly India, is quite a promising market. The GDP growth is going to be pretty good. I think you’re looking at 7% year-on-year. Africa is emerging market; they’re still upcoming and now is when we can support these growing economies. I think if we can position ourselves as service provider to these countries. It’s a win-win situation.”

The GCC with its 40 million residents is considered a small market for the logistics sector. Additionally, the region is home to some of the largest logistics firms. This has made competition even tougher for a sector that is already tight on profit margins.

Al Hatmi notes: “Competition is tough, let’s not shy away from that fact. Everybody around us has the same aspirations. Everybody’s driving the diversification agenda to turn away from oil and fossil fuel whether its regionally or globally. It’s easy to turn to logistics as a source of diversification.

“But we cherish good competition because it makes you sharper. It makes the industry much more attractive. And to be honest, if anything COVID and the pandemic has showcased is that logistics is ‘make is or break it’ for economies. And I think that is probably the key message to take away from this situation.”

A break in the supply chain
With the pandemic drastically impacting global supply chains every industry is bearing the brunt right from manufacturing to construction. There is a lack of products/ parts available in the market.

“We simply cannot to get access to products as there is a break in the supply chain,” says Al Hatmi. “Freight rates aren’t going to get better for a year or more due to the chaos. It’s going to take time to settle the chaos. And it’s not just freight rates. It’s lack of supply. You can’t get enough boxes, containers, or enough ships to move the products. It is affecting the availability, which is worse. So even if you want to pay, you can’t get material because it’s not available anymore.”

Al Hatmi is of the opinion that there is going to be a global shift in the industry. “I think decentralisation will be the name of the game for logistics. With the ongoing geo-politics, trade wars and tariffs, decentralisation is the only solution.”

Another issue he reveals is plaguing the industry is lack of talent. “The competition to finding the right resources and talent is enormous. We need to find great talent. The sector is redefining itself from offering mundane jobs such as truck driving and warehouse storekeepers to highly intellectual, highly demanding careers. Now, you need different sets of skills, such as commercial and technology related to enter the market.”

“The logistics sector is undergoing a major overhaul with technology at the forefront, and we need to be prepared for it to succeed,” Al Hatmi said in closing.

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