How do you assess the quality of the infrastructure in the Dominican Republic for DHL's operations?
OLMAN CASTILLO The Dominican Republic has very sound infrastructure compared to other countries. The highways are in very good condition. You can travel to Santiago from Santo Domingo in two and a half hours. Six months ago, it took four hours to get to Punta Cana, but now with the new highway it takes only two-and-a-half hours. This helps us give the customer in Punta Cana and La Romana a better service. We collect materials in La Romana, and they can fly the same day to the US. We are very happy with the highways and ongoing road works. Regarding the airports in Santiago and in Santo Domingo, we are generally happy with the service. The air cargo area in Santo Domingo requires import renovation, which the administration is already working on a project to improve. The information platform used by customs has had some quality improvements and is still progressing, and I know we are heading in the right direction in developing an integrated system that reduces red tape and transfers greater responsibility to the operators. The taxing and tariff processes are managed very well here as well. I was very impressed when I came to the country to see how easy the taxes and tariffs were processed.
What special services are dedicated to your corporate clients?
JOSÉ VELA PELLERANO We currently handle over 275 corporate customers, from banks to telecommunications companies. We offer a wide variety of services to those companies, such as shipping services and exports via FedEx, UPS, and DHL. We also provide document services. If a large company has a training program scheduled, we handle its trading material—binding and laminating—and ship it to its corporate office, hotel, or convention center. Thus, if an international company comes from the US to conduct a seminar here, we can do all the shipping, receiving, and document reproduction.
What opportunities are there for the Dominican Republic to serve as a regional hub?
OC If you think about the Caribbean and Central America, the Dominican Republic has many excellent facilities to make it a hub for the region: a strategic location, free trade agreements (FTAs) with many countries, good infrastructure, and the willingness of government. The project to improve airfreight at Las Americas airport will help, especially in terms of increased warehousing facilities, which is the next step to becoming a regional hub.
Being part of an international company, did you encounter any specific challenges while working in the Dominican Republic?
JVP As far as a franchise goes, it is really not the same as starting a business from zero, because you come with know-how. I went to a six-week training course in California and completed my training in Venezuela. Our opening was as smooth as could be for a new business. We recently sold a franchise in Santiago, for example. The city is very excited with its new store, with high expectations and excellent potential for the business model in that market. MBE has currently over 1,350 stores worldwide in over 30 countries. This concept has worked all over the world. We have the know-how and the experience. When we started the first Dominican Republic franchise, we had three people. I first worked in the store at 21 years' old. Now, we have over 70 employees with 10 stores—growth has been good and steady. We have basically opened one new store every year. We are happy, and believe that this market has tremendous potential.