ON THE ROAD

Lebanon 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

The Net Holding has become one of the leading providers of freight service in Lebanon, taking advantage of the country's geography and international clout.

Mourad Aoun
BIOGRAPHY
Mourad Aoun is the Chairman and CEO of The Net Holding Group (TNH). Under his leadership, in 25 years, TNH grew from a small local agent for Skynet Worldwide Express into a leading regional express and logistics group in the MENA region. He has also been the president of the Air Express Association in Lebanon (AXAL) since 2002. He is also a member of the board of the Lebanese Businessmen Association (RDCL) and SkyNet Worldwide Express Global's Board of Directors since 2007.

What change is the company undergoing for its 25th anniversary?

The company started in 1994 and is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019. Today, we have almost 200 employees spread across six countries in the region, offering a complete spectrum of logistics services from domestic and international express courier and clinical trials logistics to freight forwarding for general cargo, energy, and military projects. 2019 is a year of strategic milestones, as the holding will see the consolidation of all its brands, including Net Express, Net Critical, Net Logistics, Net Projects, and Skynet, under one commercial brand, Net. The rationale behind this move is to embrace the disruption brought by the new digital age. It is essential that we cope with the new generation of digital customers and incorporate their needs and expectations into our business model by moving all our services online. Besides the current focus on B2B and B2C, the future of this industry will be anchored to C2C, connecting customers with each other. This aspect of the business is still underdeveloped in Lebanon, and through our rebranding, we have a great opportunity to serve this need and grow. As part of this move, we will launch a unified website in July 2019 that will be a one-stop shop for all types of services, including national and international express and freight forwarding with online payment. We will innovate the customer experience by managing all aspects of the operation online.

How can you profit from Lebanon's strategic location?

We are a Levant-based company; thus, we see Lebanon as the natural gateway for international online markets looking to access this region. Once stability returns to Syria, Lebanon could serve as a hub, as it did in the 1970s, and assist in the process of the reconstruction in Syria. AXAL is now building an Air Express Terminal of 3,600sqm at Beirut airport, and Net will have 1,800sqm bonded to operate it as a hub. All these could turn us into a leading company at the regional level, offering all types of services such as express, freight, critical, and project, competing with other multinationals.

How can Lebanon develop into a regional logistics hub?

Lebanon should shape its maritime strategy to differentiate the services offered by its two main ports. The ports of Beirut and Tripoli are a mere 80km away from one another, and rather than competing, both ports can serve different needs. We need to expand the transshipment activity in the Port of Beirut to serve the growing needs of the region, the main economic and demographic hub of Lebanon.

What is your involvement in e-commerce?

E-commerce has great potential to be part of the solution to Lebanon's trade deficit by connecting producers and creators with sellers and buyers across the world through an international market platform. Lebanon possesses great talent and productive capabilities but lacks access to a sufficiently large market of consumers. E-commerce will help Lebanese producers extend their market reach to broader international markets, connecting them to the Lebanese diaspora around the world. However, in order to have a vibrant e-commerce platform, we need to develop the necessary enablers, such as excellent internet service, digital customs clearance, online consumer data protection laws, and the necessary reforms and legislations for its success. As President of the Express Association (AXAL), my objective is to present a national strategy for e-commerce, while lobbying for the involvement of the government on this project, through the ministries of economy, telecommunications, transport, and finance. Today, there is a maturity in the country for such a project, largely due to the desperate need for reforms and growth. Parallel to the budget reforms, the government should seek to capitalize on the development of e-commerce, as it holds the potential to boost trade and transform the economy.