As seen in Entrepreneur Middle East
The Asyad Global Logistics Challenge, a three-day event held at the Dubai Exhibition Centre during the Material Handling Middle East running from November 2-4, 2021, provided 57 data analysts, startups, and entrepreneurs from 15 countries a chance to showcase their skills and share ideas on how to solve real-world logistics problems.
Organized by Asyad Group, an Oman-based global integrated logistics solutions provider, and Hypermotion Dubai, a German-originated exhibition addressing the transformation and future of the transport, logistics and mobility sectors, the Challenge included two fast-paced competitions, the Asyad Global Logistics Hackathon and Asyad Global Logistics Startup Challenge, both of which were tasked to identify data-driven, industry-transforming solutions to some of the issues faced in the sector today.
“We need new ideas,” says Eng. Abdulrahman Al Hatmi, Group CEO, Asyad Group. “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 will get some great ideas out of this hackathon, and some good minds will come up with fantastic proposals that we can adopt and integrate, and hence make a difference in our business and to the bottom line.”
Asyad Group has already positioned itself as an integrated logistics solutions provider and a logistics hub in the Middle East and North Africa region, but now, it is investing in research and development in order to employ big data and emerging technologies to develop sustainable solutions and future-proof a more resilient global supply chain.
“We see ourselves as a logistics frontrunner in the region in terms of integrating solutions, whether it be shipping, land, or air solutions, and of course, free zone offerings to provide customer with a unique proposition that serves their purpose,” says Al Hatmi, adding that the idea for the Asyad Global Logistics Challenge originates from his belief that technology will help the whole industry to provide the best offering to its customers.
In more detail, Al Hatmi explains that he is taking the lead on the technology front in a hope to offer fit-for-purpose solutions to customers and the economy. “We want to couple technological offerings with a cost benefit analysis to help the economy in terms of employment,” he says, adding how technology can help overcome cultural obstacles.
"For example, working on logistics jobs wasn’t attractive for young people. 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 Group. 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 adds.
Apart from technologically enabling itself, Asyad Group is looking to become a global player by first tapping into the Indian subcontinent and Africa. “We need to expand our targeted markets beyond the GCC,” Al Hatmi explains. "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."
India is quite a promising market, he adds. "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 the right time to support these growing economies. I think that, if we succeed in positioning ourselves as a service provider to these countries, it will be a win-win situation.”
The GCC region, 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.
“Competition is tough, let’s not shy away from that fact,” Al Hatmy says. "Everybody around us has the same aspirations. Everybody's driving the diversification agenda to turn away from oil and fossil fuel whether it's 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 that the COVID-19 pandemic has showcased, it is that logistics is a ‘make it or break it’ test for economies. And I think that is probably the key message to take away from this situation.”
Expanding on how the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted global supply chains, causing a lack of products and parts available in the market, Al Hatmi says, "We simply cannot 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 a 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 decentralization will be the name of the game for logistics,” he says. "With the ongoing geo-politics, trade wars and tariffs, decentralization is the only solution.”
Another issue, he reveals, that is plaguing the industry is the lack of talent. “The competition for 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 enabling highly intellectual, highly demanding careers. Now, you need different sets of skills, such as commercial and technology related skills, to enter the market.”
At the end of the day, Al Hatmi believes that the road ahead is going to be challenging, but it also brings with it opportunities. “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 concludes.