Oman is aiming to position itself as the main hub for logistical operations in the Gulf region. To what extent is Khimji Ramdas involved in and benefiting from this objective?
One of our four verticals has to do with shipping logistics and transport. We're already well entrenched in that sense, operating at three ports. We have an air cargo facility at Muscat Port. We are also in the trucking and warehousing business. We haven't ventured out into third-party logistics (3PL) because we are short of warehousing space, but once the infrastructure is up we'll move into that area. We'll also go into 3PL in Sohar and Duqm once they're ready.
How important is Duqm for the expansion and consolidation of your activities?
I'm one of those people who is extremely bullish on Duqm. I think that Duqm can be the natural entry point into the region. When you consider the whole broader region, be it the subcontinent, East Africa, or Yemen, Duqm is the most natural transshipment port. It's not that India or Africa don't have good ports, but in terms of congestion time, draft facilities, and infrastructure, none of them compare to the vision of Duqm. Once Duqm's vision is realized with the extension of the port within the next three years, and the completion of the container terminal, we'll have a port with a huge capacity on offer. Ship building, ship repairs, and dry-docking also all have huge potential. We're already providing tugboat services via a joint venture with Ocean Sparkle, the largest ship services company in India. In that respect, Khimji Sparkle is already providing tugboat services in Duqm, with about 30 of our people living and working there right now. We have a 50% share of all ships coming into the port. We're also the tugboat service provider to the Duqm Drydock Company.
Can you tell us about your other joint venture with DB Schenker, which is the world's second largest logistics and transportation provider?
We had already represented DB Schenker in Oman for the past 15 years. Then, we realized that with Oman's increasing significance and importance, we needed to establish a joint legal entity, which we did two years ago as DB Schenker-Khimji. There's so much more happening now, with so many more roads and railways being built, and DB Schenker is, without a doubt, a world-class expert in rail cargo. We decided to get into this area using their expertise, even if it was only in the field of rail logistics. Now, we have 30 people working at DB Schenker-Khimji, and we'll also have a dedicated Schenker warehouse, where we will be doing some 3PL.
How does Khimji Ramdas import and apply the IT technology that's needed for this sector?
We've made a huge investment in IT over the last four years. First off, we implemented the SAP system, from finance to human resources to processes. That was a huge move. Then, we put in a warehouse management system and a huge warehouse out in Barka, which is 27,000 sqm under one roof, making it one of the biggest warehouses of its type. It also has 6,000 sqm of office space. We recently rolled out the new state-of-the-art warehouse management system. With the full integration of that into our finance and banking system, and by connecting our suppliers through that single network, it will create a seamless paper-free organization. The Royal Oman Police and the Ministry of Commerce are both working on their own software and their own paperless applications, which should be implemented over 2015, but why can't we have all that under one system? We need a single seamless network that connects all the ministries. We've done this in our organization, and I think Oman needs to do that, too. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said's decree for the formation of a logistics strategy for 2040 is a crucial move. The Sultan of Oman's Logistics Strategy 2040 will be the cornerstone of which the country's overall economic strategy.