Nour Suliman, CEO of DHL Ex­press MENA, speaks about the courier in­dus­try and how the rise of e-com­merce has catal­ysed the growth of the seg­ment.

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Nour Suliman, CEO of DHL Ex­press MENA, speaks about the courier in­dus­try and the rise of e-com­merce that has been a cat­a­lyst to the growth of the seg­ment.

In the last five years, e-com­merce in Qatar has wit­nessed an es­ti­mated 40% year-on-year growth with forecasts to reach QR4.6 bil­lion by 2015; this trend is set to con­tinue with the pres­ence of more in­ter­net users and the ev­i­dent rise in SMEs es­tab­lish­ing a pres­ence in the mar­ket. Nour Suliman, CEO of DHL Ex­press MENA, is bank­ing on this seg­ment as he sets sights on fur­ther growth for the courier seg­ment.

DHL Qatar started with just one of­fice in 1979 and is now present in 10 lo­ca­tions across the coun­try with two more to open by the end of this year. “In terms of our op­er­a­tions, we have grown to over 50 ded­i­cated couri­ers op­er­at­ing a 53-strong ve­hi­cle fleet cov­er­ing the en­tire coun­try. Our strong air net­work and con­nec­tiv­ity also serve the lo­cal mar­ket through ded­i­cated daily flights,” rec­ol­lects Suliman.

Cur­rently, DHL Qatar holds over 50% of the coun­try's mar­ket share and is wit­ness­ing over 20% year-on-year growth in rev­enues. “The past decade has seen the coun­try trans­form into an eco­nomic pow­er­house with mas­sive in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture, hy­dro­car­bon, tele­com and lo­gis­tics. Sim­i­larly, the growth of new-age in­dus­tries such as e-com­merce, and more re­cently m-com­merce, and the surge in SMEs have all been a cat­a­lyst to DHL's thriv­ing op­er­a­tions lo­cally, with no signs of this slow­ing down,” he says con­fi­dently.

Is on­line shop­ping or e-com­merce the main rea­son be­hind this growth in business?

Qatar's boom­ing econ­omy has sparked a rise in the coun­try's e-com­merce seg­ment, which has been one of the most prom­i­nent changes wit­nessed by the lo­gis­tics in­dus­try in the coun­try and DHL has made sure to cap­i­talise on this trend by study­ing the lo­cal mar­ket and pre­sent­ing in­no­va­tive prod­ucts and so­lu­tions to max­imise speed, ef­fi­ciency and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness. As a re­sult, DHL's pen­e­tra­tion in the Qatari e-com­merce seg­ment cur­rently stands at over 80%.

How much of your business growth is at­trib­uted to SMEs?

DHL's SME seg­ment in Qatar has wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant jump in the last five years, and this is a re­flec­tion of the rise in smaller en­ter­prises set­ting up in the lo­cal mar­ket. Our growth in this sec­tor has ex­pe­ri­enced dou­ble digit num­bers year-on-year, with many of our new cus­tomers out­side the oil and gas in­dus­tries.

We are con­fi­dent this trend will con­tinue as Qatar moves ahead with its vi­sion to di­ver­sify its econ­omy and en­cour­age en­trepreneur­ship.

What is your opin­ion on the SME sec­tor in this mar­ket and how do you see this sec­tor grow­ing?

Small and medium-sized en­ter­prises are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing the back­bone of Qatar's econ­omy; the gov­ern­ment is fully aware of the tremen­dous im­pact the smaller play­ers can have on na­tional growth and has in­vested in cap­i­tal in­jec­tion and a solid na­tional ecosys­tem to help SMEs flour­ish; this comes at a time when fo­cus on di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion is at a high and there is a con­scious ef­fort to move away from Qatar's de­pen­dence on oil and gas and embrace a more di­verse, sus­tain­able eco­nomic model.

Qatar is also fo­cused on em­pow­er­ing its youth and build­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of pri­vate sec­tor lead­ers to drive the econ­omy for­ward. The gov­ern­ment is con­tin­u­ously tap­ping into its dy­namic, in­no­va­tive pool of en­trepreneurs to en­cour­age start-ups in or­der to turn SMEs into the pil­lar of Qatar's econ­omy of to­mor­row.

The fu­ture for SMEs in Qatar is very bright; with the gov­ern­ment's solid Na­tional Strat­egy 2030 and the huge eco­nomic in­vest­ments cur­rently tak­ing place in the coun­try, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for SMEs in Qatar are end­less.

How can lo­gis­tics help SMEs grow? What are the key chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties?

In the glob­alised world, set­ting up shop lo­cally is no longer enough for smaller play­ers to suc­ceed. In­ter­na­tional trade has be­come a vi­tal com­po­nent to the long-term sur­vival of SMEs. This is where lo­gis­tics comes into play.

Trad­ing across bor­ders can be a time-con­sum­ing, com­plex and risky business; is­sues such as cul­tural dif­fer­ences, high ad­min­is­tra­tive costs and in­ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­ture can be daunt­ing for smaller play­ers. Lo­gis­tics providers present so­lu­tions for small busi­nesses and can grant them ac­cess to the world's big­gest con­sumer mar­kets, mak­ing it a fun­da­men­tal part of their ser­vice and giv­ing them an edge over the com­pe­ti­tion. We know that the right lo­gis­tics part­ners can pro­vide crit­i­cal support in over­com­ing cul­tural bar­ri­ers and in­fra­struc­ture chal­lenges while man­ag­ing costs in or­der to com­pete.

With a boom­ing GCC econ­omy and in­creased trade vol­umes be­tween the Gulf and key play­ers in Africa and Asia, Qatari SMEs are per­fectly sit­u­ated to ride the wave and take their business beyond home bor­ders. Sim­i­larly, for­eign com­pa­nies look­ing to tap into Qatar also re­quire a help­ing hand. At DHL we have the lo­calised mar­ket knowhow and a global in­fra­struc­ture in place to help them achieve just that. Our strength as lo­gis­tics lead­ers lies in our com­mit­ment to find so­lu­tions that make our cus­tomers' busi­nesses more suc­cess­ful.

What are the next lev­els of in­no­va­tion in this field?

Our aim is to set in­dus­try bench­marks and in or­der to do that we have to be in­no­va­tive; in­no­va­tion plays a big part in our global strat­egy which fil­ters down to the in­di­vid­ual mar­kets; we are al­ways in search of new and im­proved meth­ods to en­hance our op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties and we adopt unique, cut­ting-edge-tech­nolo­gies to im­prove our speed and ef­fi­ciency.

Our fo­cus in Qatar is three-pronged; we are in­tro­duc­ing new e-com­merce tools to make shipping eas­ier for our clients, es­pe­cially SMEs; we are look­ing to de­velop SME-friendly so­lu­tions to help this bud­ding sec­tor flour­ish; and we are im­prov­ing our track-and-trace sys­tems to en­able greater vis­i­bil­ity on ship­ments. As an ex­am­ple, re­cently we up­dated all our fa­cil­i­ties with the lat­est tech­nolo­gies and in­tro­duced elec­tronic pods (e-pods) in Qatar and most Mid­dle East mar­kets, en­abling cus­tomers to re­ceive cus­tomised ship­ment track­ing re­ports straight to their email or phone.

All this is fur­ther sup­ported by con­tin­u­ous en­hance­ments in our re­gional and global con­nec­tiv­ity through new HUBs, route de­vel­op­ment and in­creased ded­i­cated flights into Doha.

Qatar is a boom­ing mar­ket, there­fore we have to be proac­tive in our ap­proach to in­no­va­tion – it's all about mon­i­tor­ing in­dus­try trends, an­tic­i­pat­ing client needs and de­liv­er­ing the best ser­vice pos­si­ble to ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions and give them the best the mar­ket can of­fer.

What are your ground rules in lead­ing the team in Doha? Your core val­ues?

The ground rules are the same across all of DHL's mar­kets; we al­ways strive to stay ahead of the game and to do so we need to stay in top form. Our peo­ple are our top pri­or­ity, if they are happy this is re­flected in their work. Which is why some of our core val­ues in­clude mak­ing sure the team main­tains a bal­ance be­tween work and fam­ily. ––This is not just a DHL Qatar ap­proach; it's a cor­po­rate ap­proach firmly em­bed­ded in the company's global val­ues. This is what makes DHL the ‘em­ployer of choice' across the world

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