What strategy have you set out to maintain productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our primary objective is to maintain the safety of our employees, shipments, and customers. We had a number of challenges to navigate every day, whether that was changes in government regulations that we needed to adapt to or customer and employees who were impacted. We had to initially adjust our operations and make sure that all our office employees were able to operate from home. This meant that there was a substantial amount of IT adjustments and infrastructure mobilization to ensure our staff could answer calls and access emails to support the front line. We also had some positive cases, but with the involvement of the Ministry of Health, we have been able to overcome that, through our constant support to our employees who are in quarantine.
How much has your business been impacted in terms of cash flow, and what was your strategy to manage liquidity?
We have a strong relationship with our customers, and 90% are customers who have been doing business with us for the last 40 years. We maintain dialogue with them using a process that our customers are familiar with. With any delays, we open up dialogue and put a plan in place that is favorable for both parties. We have also worked with our suppliers to ensure that we have some flexibility to align what is coming through versus what is going out. Liquidity is essential because without cash we will not be able to operate, so our proximity to our customers is important. We are reaping the benefits of being truly transparent with our long-lasting customers, who continued to trade with us.
How will COVID-19 impact the competitiveness of Saudi Arabia?
I do not think the pandemic will change the government's vision. Saudi Arabia is well positioned as a country to serve and connect Europe, Asia, and Africa, and the infrastructure and planning is well on its way. As an operator, we have been active in our investments over the past five years to fulfil and play our role in the country's vision. We have invested heavily in our air site gateways with dedicated facilities at each of the three international airports. We are the only player today with dedicated branded aircraft coming into the Kingdom, and we work hand in hand with the government, which has an in-house customs presence at our facilities. This is another breakthrough in the industry. We are trying to fulfill one of the requirements of the plan to make sure Saudi is an exporting market. We have been authorized to fulfill break bulk solutions that comes in from Asia through Saudi Arabia for re-exporting to the rest of the world, mainly the EU and the US. We are focusing on this lane during the pandemic. This success is due to our close proximity and open dialog with the various Saudi government authorities.
What has the COVID-19 crisis taught you about managing a business through a crisis?
Every day is a learning day for us. COVID-19 has managed to bring us together and help us appreciate the small things in life from a personal and business perspective. From a business perspective, it makes us appreciate our number-one asset, which is our people, and the importance of having our people with us on the ground. It has also expanded our ability to use technology; we are becoming increasingly reliant on technology. Most of our customer meetings are done virtually, and most contracts are signed online. We are doing so because we have to pay greater attention to the safety of our employees, shipments, and customers. We need to ensure that other aspects of the business such as cash flow and shipment security receive closer attention and scrutiny with tighter governance.