As 2011 draws to a close, the express delivery services industry can look back on another year of growth in the Asia-Pacific region. The market’s yearbook is impressive. Trade flows within the region, as well as those to other regions, increased; large investments were made in improving infrastructure; and network connectivity and e-commerce took off.
The year did have its fair share of anxieties, from the economic uncertainties in North America to the European sovereign debt situation. Fortunately, the Asia-Pacific market remained fairly resilient. The focus for many economies in the region was on growth, and the express delivery industry was a cornerstone in facilitating that expansion.
Express services supported the transport of world and regional trade, as companies increasingly demanded rapid, guaranteed delivery. These services will become even more important in the uncertain future. To be sure, opportunities still abound in Asia. China has a lucrative, but complex market; India is improving its national connectivity; and Indonesia is seeing a rise of small and medium enterprises and a subsequent increased demand for express delivery services.
However, economists are predicting a new normal for 2012. The Asian Development Bank foresees slower growth. Against this backdrop are other operational issues from non-tariff trade barriers to real and perceived security threats. These matters make it challenging to ensure that goods arrive safely, promptly, reliably and at a value.
Continued success in the region depends on express companies adopting a fresh approach to how business gets done. In recent weeks, I have made my rounds to customers, and they have reminded me what they expect in an express company.
Develop true partnerships
Today, our customers are looking for supply-chain partners to be collaborators who will help them minimize risk and maximize transparency. Businesses operating global or even regional supply chains also have a range of other factors to consider, including Customs and the environmental impact of their decisions.
Traditional business planning cycles are becoming obsolete. Technology, the Internet and the globalization of business mean that our customers revisit their investments in product development, manufacturing capacity, technology and inventory more frequently.
The express delivery industry must be willing to invest in developing partnerships with their customers across the entire business value chain.
Consider bespoke services
Too often, we as an industry ask customers to fit their activities into a menu of set services according to our business models. Our best customers, however, are looking for express delivery companies that can create innovative, bespoke solutions to help them use express delivery as a tool to sharpen their competitive advantage, open up new markets and stay ahead of the game.
Quickly grow capabilities
Companies need to actively leverage their expertise in getting things done correctly, in improving efficiencies through internal collaboration, and in refining the quality of their services. More important, however, is growing local market knowledge.
Any company that has been in Asia long enough will recognize that one size does not fit all in this diverse region; each submarket presents different business and cultural dynamics.
Overall, the coming year can offer the express delivery firm operating in the region a wealth of opportunities if we keep the customers’ point of view in mind. First, we need to get the “common sense” part of the business — the basics, such as speed and reliability — right.
We also need to have the passion to develop real partnerships with our customers. Finally, we need to become the game-changers our customers are looking for, and then perhaps, we will change the game for ourselves.
— Lou Milicevic is general manager, Asia, of Toll Global Express