TBY talks to Pankaj K. Khimji, Director of Khimji Ramdas, on its activities in logistics, expanding overseas, and his plans for the near future.

Pankaj K. Khimji
Pankaj K. Khimji graduated from Hammersmith & West London College in building construction engineering. He is a Working Group Member of Oman’s Logistic Strategy 2040, Chairman of the Oman-India Joint Business Council, Vice-Chairman of the Oman-Singapore Joint Business Council, Member of Oman’s Contingent to ILO, Founder Member of SANAD, Founding Director of Muscat University, and former Director on the Board of the National Bank of Oman. He is also Director of the Oman Cricket Club and Executive Board Member of the Asian Cricket Council.

What is your target market within logistics and how do you plan to increase your activity in this sector?

There has been a demographic shift in terms of logistics in Oman over the last two or three years. The new Sohar port being 250km away means that the old logistics cycle has shifted. For Oman, this is a major shift and we have been through the process of moving into Sohar and making it the center of our logistics business. Apart from the geographic move, the port has also introduced the new Bayan system, which is the government's online portal for clearing cargo and customs. It wants to incorporate various other things into the portal, including health and agro inspections. The shift has challenged us, but this is something that we had to adapt to and introduce our own IT system to interface with the system, train people, impart knowledge, and then transfer it into application. We need to make sure we are moving in line with the government in terms of upgrading our systems and that we are geographically present in Sohar to ensure that our clients get the service they require at all times and that we have enough choices of transport available for our clients to choose from in an efficient manner to move the cargo.

What role does your lifestyle and special products business play in your overall growth strategy?

If we want to attract foreign investment, then we need to make sure the country gives out as much to the market as an individual wants. When foreigners come, they not only want to see good hotels and restaurants, they also want good cafés, lounges, and bars to spend the evening in. What happens outside of those eight hours of work is as important as what is available during that time. A country may have good customs clearance and police mechanisms, but it also needs activities outside of working hours. We are also de-segmenting our megastore concept into small independent boutiques. The size of the megastore is decreasing but the number of outlets available to people is increasing. Lifestyle is as much of a contributor to the economy as the actual efficiency in government mechanisms.

As one of the biggest conglomerates in Oman, do you seek to expand outside Oman in the future?

We are careful with what we do. Dubai is an established, developed world as far as trade is concerned. Everything that we do over here is already in Dubai, and more. This leaves us with other choices such as Iran and India. Iran needs to stabilize and, until the banking regulations are fit to operate, it is difficult for a trader to go there and start operating. It is a matter of time, and Iran is an opportunity that is there for the taking. India is definitely an opportunity, but it is massive. We are wary about that and understand that India has complex trade practices. We have taken one initial step in India and focused on one small state, focusing on trade and distribution with Procter and Gamble, our most trusted and largest trading partner. We have done that and seem to be doing well, but we will slowly tread the waters.

What is your outlook for Khimji Ramdas over the next 12 months?

We will definitely keep our ears solidly to the ground on what the government intends to do. At this moment, government spending is being curtailed because of revenue restrictions, and we will make sure that we have our systems, which are geared to this decreased government spending and look at other avenues of growth, whether that is through organic expansion or through different services we want to go into. We could go into 4PL logistics or grow our existing business strengths and grow into different geographies. Organic growth is something we will try. We will continue to remain optimistically conservative.