Sitting in his office in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone, Chennai-born Raman Kumar presides over a vast network of planes, ships, trucks and buses that shuttle cars, clothes, food and people across the Middle East and beyond.
As Managing Director of Al-Futtaim Logistics (AFL), Raman is responsible not only for managing a chunk of global trade worth billions of dollars but also for constantly re-evaluating the systems he and his team have put in place, identifying weaknesses in supply chains, and pushing the standards of reliability and efficiency ever higher so that AFL maintains its dominant position in the third-party logistics industry.
"Our strength lies in our ability to listen."
This is no small feat, and it has taken Raman years to accrue the experience necessary to handle such a complex bundle of responsibilities.
After joining the company in 1995, it would be more than two decades before he rose to Finance Manager in 2009 and then Managing Director in 2013. It was during those years that Raman developed the theories and habits that guide his leadership of the company today.
"When you look at logistics, there is always room for new innovation, new opportunity in the market," Raman says. "The market is dynamic and changing – always a lot of opportunities. I am constantly evaluating each of our processes and asking myself: ‘How can we innovate and improve the way we work?"
Raman’s commitment to innovation has allowed AFL to expand its areas of specialisation beyond transportation to artificial intelligence (AI) and cold storage, opening up opportunities to provide end-to-end supply chain services in an ever-widening array of sectors.
Last year, AFL launched a state-of-the-art cold storage facility in the Jebel Ali Free Zone with multiple temperature-controlled storage units, including a world-class warehouse management and temperature monitoring system.
"Our early adoption of new technologies allows us to offer custom solutions to our customers, who in turn will be able to expand their footprint across the Middle East and North Africa," Raman says.
These capabilities are of particular value to AFL’s clients in the fashion industry, which need to be able to deliver a steady stream of new designs to numerous markets seasonally and without delay.
AFL’s expanding network of cold storage facilities, which already exist in Dubai, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, has started to attract customers in the food production sector and has positioned AFL as a reliable conduit for fresh food throughout the region.
Any business involved in the transportation of goods around the world will inevitably encounter growing expectations from the public to cut carbon emissions.
AFL is no exception, and it has fallen to Raman to meet this demand by devising solutions that simultaneously serve the interests of clients as well as the planet.
"We certainly recognise the need to cut our emissions, and that’s why we have committed so strongly to pioneering the use of biofuel and managing driver habits to minimise fuel consumption," Raman says.
These efforts have earned AFL recognition from the Go Green initiative, as well as from the Green Freight Asia, which lists AFL as a company that is committed to sustainable freight practices.
Aside from the challenges associated with sustainability, Raman also faces growing expectations from clients for customised services and faster delivery times, raising the performance standard AFL must meet in order to stay ahead of its competitors. In this area, too, Raman sees opportunity where others might see an obstacle.
• Raman Kumar oversees a multicultural team of over 950 associates, 1 million square metres of infrastructure and a fleet of 600, delivering services to multinational blue-chip companies in the automotive, retail and other sectors.
• Established in the 1980s, Al-Futtaim Logistics is a leading regional provider of world-class supply chain solutions, with a global reach to 150 countries through its strategic alliance with global network partners.
"Our strength lies in our ability to listen to what the customer wants and translate high expectations into solutions. Therefore, the more vocal the client is about their preferences, the better equipped we are to come up with a service that will satisfy their needs," he says.
By consistently meeting customers’ needs under Raman’s leadership, AFL has made space for itself to expand geographically, vertically and horizontally. These achievements have earned Raman a slew of accolades from peers in the industry.
In 2014, he was named Logistics Manager of the Year at the Supply Chain & Transport Awards (SCATAs).
In 2016, he was ranked the sixth most influential logistics executive by the Middle East Logistics Power List. Most recently, in 2018, Raman accepted the awards for Retail Supply Chain of the Year and Automotive Supply Chain of the Year at the Logistics Middle East Awards.
"Our growth has been remarkably fast, making us a market leader in end-to-end logistics," Raman says. "Customers clearly value our ability to deliver innovative and creative logistics solutions.
This would not be possible without the professionalism and commitment of our phenomenal, multinational team.
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