Prior to assuming this role, Mr. Al-Saleh served as Managing Director of corporate development, where he led the strategy and initiatives that contributed significantly to the development of new businesses, joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions, strategic sales initiatives and marketing. Mr. Al-Saleh has been with Agility since 1998 and has played a vital role in the company’s transformation into a leading global logistics provider and shaping the strategy and the execution of the acquisitions that make up Agility.
Agility’s story parallels the rise of emerging markets in the global economy. The company got its start as a local warehousing provider in Kuwait and grew to become the largest logistics company in the Middle East. It acquired more than 40 logistics brands around the world, investing billions to build a global network with a strong footprint in emerging markets. Today, Agility is one of the world’s largest integrated logistics providers with more than 20,000 employees and operations in 100 countries.
Agility has a truly remarkable story, with humble beginnings as a local warehousing provider in Kuwait to becoming the largest logistics company in the Middle East. How would you describe the main elements of Agility’s success?
At Agility, we pride ourselves on being the only global logistics company with roots in an emerging market. Using our first-hand knowledge of the unique manner in which an emerging market operates, combined with a strong appetite for entrepreneurialism and well-established relationships with local partners, our strategy of enabling businesses has successfully differentiated ourselves in the industry.
None of this would be possible without the long-term commitment that we make when we enter a new market. That strategy has paid off as we have progressed to become one of the top logistics providers worldwide. Today, Agility is a $4.8 billion business present in over 100 countries with 20,000+ employees.
As the Middle East continues to position itself as a global gateway of transport and logistics into emerging markets in Asia and Africa, what is the growth potential you see going forward?
Positioned strategically at the crossroads between the expanding economies of Asia and Africa, with close proximity to Europe, there is tremendous growth potential for the Gulf’s transport and logistics sector. Thanks to the government’s policies of diversification and associated investment, infrastructural developments in the Middle East have made it home to some of the largest and busiest multi-modal logistics hubs in the world, enabling the region to capitalize on the growing south-south trade – a trend which is expected to continue and grow.
One example of this trend is the growing trade between the continents of Asia and Africa, growth which industry professionals are increasingly optimistic about, according to this year’s Agility Emerging Market Logistics Index. With the Gulf conveniently placed between the two continents, it is perfectly located to leverage on the growth.
The Gulf is also ideally located to take advantage of the tremendous growth in Africa, in and of itself. Due to advances in the African economy driven by factors ranging from infrastructural developments to increasing agricultural demand, a growing energy industry and a burgeoning middle class with rising spending power, the inward and outward flow of goods to and from the continent is ever increasing. Today, the continent is home to 10 of the fastest growing emerging markets across the world, according to the IMF. Multi-nationals in turn are increasingly looking to take advantage of the mushrooming economy as demands for their products and services rise.
With this in mind, the Gulf has successfully capitalized on this growth, with the UAE now having overtaken South Africa as the primary hub for goods to sub-Saharan Africa. Gulf countries are also looking to invest in the fast-growing African economies, According to Ernst and Young the UAE alone invested US$41 billion in 2013 assigned across a number of sectors, including logistics, infrastructure, telecoms, agriculture and the oil and gas industries.
It’s not only goods flowing into Africa that is benefitting the Middle East but also the investments pouring out of the continent into the Middle East as African businesses look to the region as a base to access other markets in Europe and Asia.
Having focused your growth strategy mainly in emerging markets. What are your international expansion plans and countries of focus?
Agility Global Integrated Logistics (GIL) has set its sights on being Africa’s leading provider of logistics services. We have established our own operations in Kenya, Uganda, Algeria and Egypt to date through both acquisitions and green-field investments, and our business in
East Africa is making excellent progress. Today, the immediate focus is on expanding Agility’s footprint and growing our West Africa operations to service the growing Oil and Gas industry within Nigeria, as well as the growing consumer markets of Angola and South Africa. Elsewhere in Africa, we are represented by a network of strategic partners and agents.
How do you see the transport and logistics business evolving into the future? What will be the Kaizen and Just in Time of the year 2020?
Technological advancements over the past two decades have, so to speak, sped up time. Both individuals and businesses everywhere expect everything in a much shorter time frame, including their shipped goods. In a globalized world, this can prove challenging when for example, one is shipping goods manufactured in one part of the world to another.
What we are seeing is a growing trend toward ‘near-sourcing’, where businesses are increasingly locating their operations closer to the markets in which they are sold. With the continued growth we are seeing in emerging markets as seen through the results of our Emerging Market Logistics Index published earlier this year, the likelihood is that by 2020, we will see many of these hubs located increasingly throughout these emerging markets.
You were recently inducted into the prestigious Supply Chain Asia Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in Singapore. What does it mean to you to earn this award?
Receiving the Supply Chain Asia Hall of Fame award was a wonderful commendation to receive from the industry and certainly a career high. Though I think it’s fair to say that I owe much of my success to my peers at Agility – working with the industry’s most inspirational logistics professionals over the past two decades has contributed hugely to a wealth of knowledge I have amassed over the years.