In an exclusive interview with Muscat Daily, TaarekHinedi, FedEx Express vice president for Middle East and North Africa operations, talked about expansion of their services in the sultanate. He said they are currently evaluating opportunities to introduce chartered flight cargo operations in Oman.
FedEx Express started operations in Oman in 1993, but it took you around 25-26 years to have direct presence in the country. What took you so long?
FedEx Express is the world’s largest express transportation company, providing fast and reliable delivery to more than 220 countries and territories. FedEx is much more than just moving packages across a country, We connect businesses to global markets, providing customers with optimum solutions making every experience with us an outstanding one. Our association with Oman started back in 1993 when we launched some select services in the country. It took a while to set up a direct office in Oman as we needed to see a certain level of volumes in operations before deciding to open an office in the sultanate. However, we believe that Oman is going to play an important role in global trade going forward. In other GCC markets, we operate through a mix of direct or associated companies. FedEx operates in around 72 countries in the region, between Asia, Middle East and Africa, out of which we have offices in 16 countries whereas in remaining places we operate through an agent.
What prompted you to plan a direct presence in Oman ?
We have been offering our services in Oman for the past 26 years though our partner Oman Postal Express. We started from a very humble beginning, as one can say. After listening to our customers in Oman, understanding their logistic and shipping requirements, and also looking at the steps taken by the government in accordance with the vision 2040 plans, we came to a conclusion that there is tremendous scope for growth of shipping business in the sultanate. All these developments indicate that it is the right time for growing non-oil businesses in the country, with trade and shipping requirements likely to grow in the future. Looking carefully at these developments, one can start seeing a pattern where goods will start moving rapidly between Oman and other GCC countries. As the demand for our services goes up in a country, we make decisions to increase our presence in that particular country. In short, the focus of the government, their initiatives to promote logistics sector in Oman is going to boost business activities in the sultanate.
Oman government’s investments in the aviation sector along with their vision to attract investments in all important sectors in the country, indicate that Oman is ready for promoting of businesses and trade. Now, we see their network of highways, which weren’t there until few years back.
What is the main difference you have noticed in Oman’s business segment now, which was not present in the past?
I have been visiting Oman for past many years, and I have noticed that things are moving in the right direction in much faster ways compared to the past. Oman is attracting investments in much more robust ways. I have been very impressed with the activities going on around port development, and on promoting tourism in the country.
Besides this, the Oman government is also working on simplifying procedures particularly in custom clearances, which will help businesses to grow in the Sultanate. All these developments indicate that Oman is very serious and committed about economic growth.
Keeping in mind the various developments taking place in areas such as Port of Duqm and free zone, what type of growth are you expecting in your line of business in the near future?
We have seen a lot of growth taking place in the e-commerce segment. Besides this, there are lots of activities happening in the industry segment, be it manufacturing, pharmaceutical or automobile. In short, we see many activities happening in Oman, which require solutions that are provided by FedEx, particularly in the aviation sector which is our main business. We have also noticed a number of initiatives taken by the government to promote air-cargo-corridor in the country. A dedicated air-cargo corridor could pave the way for promoting logistic business in the country.
Everyone is talking about development taking place in e-commerce segment in Oman, what is your outlook on it?
Definitely, e-commerce is the talk of the town. It is one of the factors, if not the main reason, why we decided to set up a direct office in the sultanate. However, we look at a number of factors such as ease of doing business, the ability to work and cooperate with government authorities, custom formalities before making a decision to expand operations in any country. We look at all these areas to make sure that we can provide simplified shipping solutions to our customers. Depending on consumer demand and growth of e-commerce in Oman, we may also look at bringing a whole range of additional services in future.
How do you see things folding up in Middle East, particularly when crude oil prices are most likely to remain soft for a while and the governments are trying hard to diversify economies?
Things happen in different ways in different markets. Similarly markets around the Middle East have different strategies and visions. Some are diversifying faster than others. We had experiences of different performance growth levels in various countries. Oman has actually performed well over the last year and we see the country slightly behind UAE, in terms of economic growth. We have witnessed second highest growth in our business in the sultanate. As per a report by Insight, Oman’s economic growth is expected to remain strong next year also, while globally there could be some softening of the growth rate.
What are your expansion plans in the sultanate in the near future and when are you going to introduce chartered aircraft services in Oman?
FedEx Express in the world’s largest cargo airline in the world. We have more than 680 aircraft, which operate through out the globe. We have around 450,000 employees around the world. We do have the ability to meet the demand of the customers if there is any requirement for a chartered aircraft. We can easily pull off one of the chartered aircraft from regular operations to meet the requirement of the customer. So, we have got an expansive fleet that can be made available on a specific requirement.
We are currently operating 65 flights per week from our hub in Dubai. Currently, we don’t have FedEx purple tailed aircraft deployed in Oman, but we are always looking for opportunities on how to connect customer base closure to the network. As the demand grows, we keep evaluating the opportunities. Some of the new services, which will be made available in the coming months are: Bigger and heavier cargo facility also known as FedEx Express freight cargo, some FedEx Economy freight products, and a full truck loading facility will also be made available to customers in Oman.