THE FREIGHT OF THE WORLD

Nigeria 2017 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eric Opah, Managing Director & CEO of Fortune Global, on the reasons behind the company's success, international expansion, and human resources.

Eric Opah
BIOGRAPHY
Eric Opah started his career at Panalpina, rising to become the Customer Service Manager. He also has expertise in air cargo handling operations, contributing to the establishment of China Southern Airlines in Nigeria, where he rose to become Director of Cargo Operations. In 2013, Fortune Global won the Nigeria 50 award as the 10th fastest-growing company in Nigeria. Following this recognition for excellence, Opah was nominated to participate in the All World Network Executive Program at Harvard University. Opah holds a BA in marketing from the University of Calabar, Cross Rivers State. He is a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Logistics and the Nigerian Ports and Terminal Management Academy of Nigeria.

In 2013, Fortune Global was named one of the 10 fastest-growing companies in Nigeria. What have been the main reasons behind the company's success?

Fortune Global started as a freight-forwarder focusing on SME clients and grew to handle multinational clients in more organized sectors of business. In 2010, we launched ourselves into oil and gas logistics and port operations. That meant we started handling a larger portfolio and major accounts. We brought Fortune Global into the limelight as a business that provides solutions to major oil and gas companies. Today, we provide end-to-end logistics and global freight-forwarding services. We have redefined the way the supply chain is handled. We enhanced our processes and brought services up to speed. What contributed to our success was that we had a bigger portfolio in terms of brand, cash flow, and revenue. Our transparency and our depth of knowledge about international freight forwarding and logistics also contributed considerably to our success.

Fortune Global has already expanded into the US and China, and is looking to open an office in Belgium. Why did you choose these markets and what is their relationship with Nigeria?

First and foremost, Africa and Nigeria remain markets that are not tapped yet. Europe and America are saturated but nevertheless Europe and Africa and America and Africa have a trade relationship that is robust. Fortune Global has had a presence in the US since 2013, and now we are focusing on developing the business on the African coast and within Central and Sub-Saharan Africa. We are reopening our office in Ghana, where we were incorporated in 2006 and moved into Nigeria, where we focused on building our headquarters. In the US, we are based in Houston and we also have an office in China. Our business is all about strategy and our trade relationships with these countries. Rotterdam has the largest seaport in Europe and Antwerp has the second largest. We want to strategically position ourselves in Belgium in such a way that we can interface with the rest of the African countries we trade with. We want to be the partner of choice strategically located in Europe and interfacing with Africa, the US, China, and Nigeria.

Fortune Global services its clients by road, air, and sea. Which business lines are reporting more revenue for the company at the moment and which segments are you focusing on?

We carry out port operations, oil and gas logistics management, port agency services, port call vessel operations, and we manage crew. Our major revenue segment is oil and gas logistics, which includes crew management and marine support logistics. We also have a global forwarding business, which is growing and through which we are operating with multinationals such as Nestlé.

How has the profile of your human resources evolved over time?

Recently, we have been incorporating new people into our team. Most are from Europe with experience from countries such as Belgium and Australia. We are infusing our team with people who understand the business. Unfortunately, there are few Nigerian locals who understand the global logistics business; therefore, we are reliant on expatriates to bring in knowledge and experience. We want to be the first indigenous logistics company to go to the capital markets and raise money there. We have the vision to raise the bar and have people that believe in what we do.

How could railway change the transport and logistics sector in Nigeria?

We will need infrastructure to support the railway system, our links to it, and the loading-unloading process for the goods being carried. There should be a good rail transportation system; however, the government needs to bring the stakeholders together to properly plan where the inland container terminals and logistics support bases will be.