READY FOR RECOVERY

Nigeria 2018 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Marc Abi Chahine, Managing Director of Unireach, on providing holistic and customer-centric services, supporting the logistics sector, and noticing signs of growth for 2018.

Marc Abi Chahine
BIOGRAPHY
Born and raised in Lebanon and a lawyer by profession holding a DPS in criminal defense law, Marc Abi Chahine practiced law in Lebanon for 7 years before moving to Nigeria in 2004 to explore business opportunities. In 2005, Chahine was appointed GM of a newly established logistics company. In mid-2007, he resigned and joined his brother in a JV with a well-known logistics company where they focused on projects-based business. After this JV ended in 2009, Chahine and his two brothers established Unireach, a family-owned business managed by a team of professionals.

How has the company evolved?

Unireach was established in 2010 by my two brothers and I. As co-owners and executive directors, we manage the day-to-day business together. I have been in the logistics and supply business myself for over 12 years. We started from a team of only 15 people and now have over 40 highly experienced Nigerian and expatriate professionals, some with over 20 years in the business throughout African and European markets. We seek to grow as much as we can even though Nigeria has gone into recession, and it has not been easy. We work on a project basis, which is our niche; we do not just approach potential clients asking to handle their containers customs clearing and airfreight shipments, but consider the entire supply chain as a turnkey project. We provide complete solutions for our clients' logistical needs. We are part of a major network abroad and can position any container for loading of goods or order any cargo pick-up anywhere in the world within 24 hours. We handle documentation, freight, customs clearing, and delivery to the final destination, and we have our own warehouse and distribution service. We have the complete supply chain under great management.
What gives you the edge over the competition?
Our differentiator is the personal attention to our clients. Clients require someone present, responsible, proactive, and trustworthy to handle their shipments; they want someone who can also make tough decisions on the spot when a problem arises. They want fast and immediate action on their shipments. Recently, we have been busy with a large project and were able to successfully import and deliver the first solar power solution system for further installation by our client on about 10,000 telecom towers across the country. We have handled the entire supply chain. People have started to realize we are a central player in the logistics industry and our volume has steadily grown.

What can be done to further boost Nigeria as a logistics hub?

Nigeria is in a great location; however, the ports need a great deal of work and expansion, and the road infrastructure needs to be improved. It is unacceptable to have no access to a port in a country as large and important as Nigeria. We receive regular updates from port and terminal handlers regarding volumes coming into Nigeria, and the numbers are so big that sometimes it is a wonder how containers are able to make their way out to importers' warehouses. However, it is happening, and we are one of the companies managing to push our delivery trucks through any accessible road. I am sure the government has a complete infrastructure makeover plan for all areas surrounding the port. They must keep on supporting importers as revenues from duty payments are massive and definitely support the construction of a mega port in Lagos to accommodate the imported volume. Also, a company cannot trade without foreign currency, and this has certainly crippled imports.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

By 4Q2017, we expect things to be better. Things were tough in 2008 and 2009; however, things came up well in the end, and I hope 2018 will be a great year. I already noticed the increase in existing clients' volumes and new inquiries from new clients. This is a healthy and positive sign for the coming year. We believe in Nigeria's ability to overcome such hard times; this has been proven in the past, and there is absolutely no reason why a total recovery cannot happen again. This strong belief and faith in a better business environment have pushed us forward despite the general negative business mood in the country, to expand this business and diversify by establishing new businesses in 2017.