TBY talks to Raymond Rizk, CEO of Agility Lebanon, on the company’s operations, its worldwide network, and Lebanon as a transit hub.
TBY What is the extent of Agility’s operations in Lebanon?
RAYMOND RIZK Agility Lebanon was first established in 2004, when its name was Public Warehousing Company (PWC). At the end of 2006 we changed the name globally. We offer freight forwarding, airfreight, sea freight, overland transportation, imports, exports, warehousing, and distribution services. We deliver to more than 3,000 points of sale to our customers in Lebanon. In terms of size, combining all of our products, we are number one by far in Lebanon. However, we face tough competition in every sub-segment we operate in. Having said that, we have a more developed end-to-end supply chain than most of our competitors. We perform cargo shipment, customs clearance, warehousing, and delivery regardless of size or weight. We are equipped to deal with all types of projects, plus the day-to-day business we are involved in.
What sectors create the greatest demand for shipment needs?
We see the greatest demand from the FMCG and electronics sectors. We cover a wide variety of sectors and provide our services across the entire country. Our key clients are among the top-10 companies in the country, plus of course a wide variety of medium-size clients.
What is the scope for domestic distribution services in Lebanon?
We own a full fleet composed of more than 60 pickups and trucks with different temperatures—frozen, chilled, and ambient—and we lease more than 20. This translates up to 100-140 domestic trips daily.
How much support and coordination is provided from Agility’s worldwide network?
There is a strong level of coordination, as Agility is present around the world and in the region. We also operate a backup system in order to avoid any disasters—a system that is also used in Kuwait and Singapore. If Agility’s integrated software receives updates, we receive those updates at the same time as any other arm of the company anywhere in the world. We are one of the very few global companies that has such a solution in the Lebanese market.
What is the capacity of your storage warehouses?
We have more than six warehouses in the country, all of them in Beirut or within the Greater Beirut area. In terms of size we are number one by far, more than 100,000 cbm. In terms of workforce, we employ more than 400 people totally including those in the warehouses.
What are the advantages of using Lebanon as a distribution hub?
Operating in Lebanon provides an advantage when distributing to the Levant countries such as Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. This is an excellent hub for these countries in terms of land freight and transit time. We have many projects and they have turned out very well for our clients and for us.
How has the company grown in Lebanon?
In 2010 we experienced tremendous growth. We grew more than 40% over the previous year. For 2011 we are hoping for nearly the same growth rate, with projections at 30%, depending on the economic situation in the region and neighboring countries. Border traffic hasn’t slowed down dramatically if we exclude the first month when the Arab spring started, despite the unrest in neighboring countries.
What makes operating in Lebanon unique?
One unique aspect to Lebanon is its sensitivity. During downturns the market is very susceptible to drops in confidence; however, when things begin to look up, the economy begins booming. This allows companies to make quick comebacks following crisis.
What are your main export destinations?
Our main export markets are Asia and Europe. We are definitely an import country, however, so for every export shipment there are 10 import shipments. Because of the volume our focus is on imports coming from Germany, Italy, and France on the European side, though China is definitely number one on the Asian side. And over the last couple of years we have noticed that the US has increased its market share in Lebanon.
What is Agility Lebanon’s strategy for growth?
We still want to grow and we still want to be dominant in the market in every single department, as we are not there yet. In the long term we see much opportunity. So far, we have made investments into Lebanon totaling more than $20 million. Our current project is for a new warehouse, which will be a state-of-the-art facility including frozen, chilled, and ambient capacities. Our appetite does not stop in terms of investing in the country. This is our commitment to our clients, key accounts, and future clients. Given complications in the market today, clients approach us and they see that we have the same service capabilities as in any other country. The large names approach us either because they deal with us in other countries or because they know the name.
How have you risen as a dominant player in the market?
We differentiate ourselves by the level of services we provide. We have management systems in every single warehouse, wireless connections, and radio frequency identity tag readers, so we can capture serial numbers and expiration dates. We also include our customers’ orders in our directory, allowing for instant access to their shipping needs.
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