INTERVIEW: DHL Express MENA CEO Nour Suliman
With a wealth of experience behind him, recently appointed Middle East and North Africa CEO Nour Suliman outlines his vision for DHL Express.
What is your level of experience in the logistics industry?
I joined DHL Express more than 30 years ago with my most recent post being country manager of Saudi Arabia since 2007. I have also managed the business in Bahrain and worked with several countries in the Middle East region. Prior to this, I was the country manager for DHL International Bahrain for eight years. During my tenure with DHL, I have been involved in other various managerial roles including customer service manager, DHL Bahrain; country sales and marketing manager, DHL International Cairo; and commercial manager, DHL International United Arab Emirates.
What would you like to see DHL Express achieve under your guidance?
It is a very exciting time for DHL Express in the Middle East and North Africa and for the whole industry as well. There are huge opportunities which require us to be flexible, knowledgeable and quick off the mark, and that require a constant quest for the best way to do business in this extremely competitive industry. But in the midst of competition, we remain focused on helping our customers get their shipments to markets significantly faster than before, and to make it easier for companies to access key industrial production centers in the region and globally.
How has the Arab spring affected business, especially in Bahrain?
Operating in over 220 countries and territories, DHL always ensures that the business is well-prepared to adapt to all situations. In an ever-changing business environment, the firm ensures that it has the necessary contingencies in place to continually sustain high quality service and minimise any impact on customers, should there be a disruption due to unforeseeable circumstances. For example, during the recent unrest in Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia, contingency plans were firmly in place to ensure that we minimise the impact on our customers as much as we could. As a matter of fact, we were the only company clearing shipments during the unrest in Egypt. We were the first to get back to full capacity in Tunisia. In Bahrain, we did not cease operations at anytime.
Why is DHL Express investing so heavily in infrastructure in the Middle East?
The business in the Middle East is flourishing in nearly all sectors. We have to ensure that we have the operations and infrastructure capabilities to accommodate the expected growth in the industries for years to come. In our industry, we are expected to invest and expand ahead of growth. This way, we can fulfill customers’ needs effectively and efficiently. In January, we announced the completion of a US$4.2 million investment programme, in celebration of the 35th anniversary of DHL Express in Lebanon. The investment included the establishment of a logistics facility at the Beirut Free Zone and the expansion of the DHL Express Beirut Airport Facility at Rafik Hariri International Airport. The airside facility is the only logistics facility of its kind in Lebanon and DHL is the sole international express company operating such a capability. In 2010, DHL expanded its presence in Oman with the opening of the Muscat Gateway, a new logistics facility in Muscat’s prime industrial area. The company has now invested more than $220,000 in Oman and is the first express company to set up a fully-bonded gateway facility. Occupying a total land area of more than 510 square metres, the Muscat gateway, will provide bonded, or duty free facilities to customers wishing to import or export shipments across the GCC.
Will the firm be looking to expand the business further e.g. the Middle East, North Africa?
We are serving all countries in the region and serving almost all cities in those countries. Indeed, DHL has the widest coverage in MENA. Most recently in June, we inaugurated a $7.9 million gateway in Casablanca at Mohammed V airport, Morocco. Equipped with a cold chain facility and a dedicated strategic parts center, the 6800 square metre DHL Express Casablanca gateway is set to provide greater connections between Morocco and Europe, through a daily overnight flight to and from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International Airport. With the new gateway, customers will enjoy reduced cargo processing time and enhanced service quality, as their shipments are handled and delivered with maximum efficiency and security at the shortest transit timings. As the employer of choice, we will continue to invest in nurturing local talents within the countries in MENA as we invest in key markets to accommodate growth.