Hellmann: Headlining a High-growth Narrative  

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The long-established and eponymous Hellmann Worldwide Logistics was founded in 1871 in Osnabrueck, Germany, by the legendary patriarch Carl Heinrich Hellmann. It boasts a rich historical legacy and corporate heritage.

Currently it operates with more than 500 branches in over 175 countries. Hellmann’s core philosophies come from its roots. The cohesion and flexibility of our customers comes from our people and the way we handle our daily business and critical events.

Hellmann Worldwide Logistics characterizes itself as a logistics company focused on developing our customers’ businesses within their industries. Its Air, Sea, Land and Warehousing services blend with its advanced industry vertical process expertise and knowledge to deliver tailor-made supply chain services to each of our customers.

Hellmann Worldwide Logistics network in the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East & South Asia (IMEA) region, and now in Africa, comprises of its regional Headquarter in the United Arab Emirates and with regional offices in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Global Supply Chain engaged exclusively with Madhav Kurup Rajan, the veteran Regional CEO, Indian Sub-Continent, Middle East and now the newly inducted African continent (IMEA), Hellmann Worldwide Logistics (HWL), for an expansive and comprehensive interview.

Here, Kurup, the official at the helm, fielded questions on a wide range of subjects on the expanded geographical territory he oversees, the company’s 2022 performance and prospects for 2023 through his corporate ‘Crystal Ball.’ The following are the transcripts of that key one-on-one interview.

Global Supply Chain: Earlier this year 2023, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics announced a regional merger of the MESA (Middle East South Asia) to further include the continent of Africa to constitute the Indian Subcontinent-Middle East-Africa (IMEA). Furthermore, you were appointed promoted to the position of CEO of the expanded geographical territory-IMEA.

This is a two-part question: Firstly: Congratulations on your promotion and what does this denote for you professionally in your elevated position and secondly, the corporate implications of the merger?

Madhav Kurup (MK): Thank you. I have been responsible for the Middle East and South Asia for the last seven years and we have achieved market leadership in many markets in our region through expanding our own operations as well as carefully created joint ventures.

This has helped us to have a strong regional structure that has the capacity and competence to take on more responsibilities. The addition of the African continent to our region will ensure the exchange and implementation of best practices to the new region and will provide us the ability to further penetrate the market in Africa more effectively.

We already have our own, independent operations in six countries in Africa and the rest of the region will have a strong partner network. While merging the regions, there is always an opportunity to learn from each other as well as to achieve economies of scale in certain parts of the organizational structure. 

GSC: How significant is the Africa continent for HWL? Also, briefly comment on the extent of your Middle East and Indian Sub-Continent operations?

MK: Africa is a key market for Hellmann and the company sees great potential in joining forces with the MESA team to strengthen their activities in the entire region and expand their business across continents.

The goal is to gain additional market share and build on the successful development of recent years. Our success is based on trust and good cooperation within the Hellmann Family and the team as also on a strong leadership which sets goals and pursues them consistently. With our IMEA team, we are in a strong position to drive sustainable growth together.

The merging of the two regions into IMEA is timely as South Africa, the biggest Hellmann country on the African continent, is strategically a very important market for Hellmann, and more importantly for the new IMEA region.

In the Middle East and Indian Sub-Continent, we cover our own operations in nine countries—namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, and strong partner setups in the remaining. For the past two years, Hellmann has become the leader in the Sea/Air solution via Dubai, expanded our warehousing footprint in majority of countries, with growth in our specialized teams from Healthcare, Automotive, Fashion, FMCG, Chemical and Oil & Gas projects.

In the Middle East, we have attained market leadership in the automotive, healthcare and fashion verticals through state-of-the-art infrastructure, globally bench-marked systems and, most importantly, best-in-class specialized resources.

We have always been the trend-setter in the market with innovative and out of the box strategies to drive our growth in the region. I like to think that we have taken Hellmann, over the last 15 years, from a small transactional freight forwarder to now stand among the top five fully integrated and exhaustive logistics services providers.

This year, we will also focus on expanding our business in the Hi-Tech and Industrial sectors, where many unique solutions are needed moving past the typical handling of Air, Sea, Land and warehousing.

GSC: Your tenure as CEO with Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, IMEA, now spans over 15 years. Briefly, how would you characterize your corporate and professional journey?

MK: The journey has been incredibly humbling and at the same time exciting. I joined Hellmann as the CEO of the Middle East in 2008, then expanded my responsibility to Indian Sub-Continent in 2016, and now to the African continent.

I have also been a member of our International Executive Board since 2016. When I joined the company, we were around 100 employees in the region and now the region has more than 2500 employees.

When I started there were two legal entities in the region and today, we have 20 operating entities in the region. We have created niche expertise in automotive spare parts, healthcare, chemical, fashion and E-commerce.

What is the geographical extent of your current network, and which are among the top three performing countries in the region?

The region extends from Bangladesh in Asia to South Africa in Africa. It has 14 countries with its own operations and more than 50 countries with partner networks. We also have five well-assessed vertical joint ventures in UAE, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia.

All countries are doing exceptionally well including our recently opened two countries in the Sultanate of Oman and Egypt. The key markets in the region that are driving growth are India, UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

GSC: How are HWL’s E-commerce operations performing in the region?

MK: Our relationship with Dubai CommerCity (DCC) started two years ago and has grown substantially with more than 25 customers today using our multiuser facility for their B2C fulfillment. The partnership with DCC has been extremely satisfying and we look forward to making it a grand success in the coming years.

GSC: How is the Hellmann Caliper Healthcare Division faring, post Covid?

MK: Hellmann Caliper has been growing very well since Covid, and today we are operating at full capacity with more than 30 global pharma companies using it as a regional Hub. We have also expanded our operations into VAS activities by ensuring the Hub concept brings more value to the supply chain of our customers.

At present, we are planning further expansion by increasing our capacity DWC by an additional 40%. Our pipeline looks very good in the Pharma sector.

GSC: How did regional HWL fare in 2022 and what is your outlook going forward for 2023?

MK: We had an exceptional year in 2022 and it was one of the best performing years in the history of the company within this region. Our newly opened entities in Oman and Egypt also performing very well. 2023 is going to be tough in freight forwarding business due to availability capacity, declining demand, and freight rates.

Retail demand in Europe and North America will continue to decline and this has cascading effect on South Asian countries where exports are mostly related to fashion.

GSC: What are the opportunities and the corresponding challenges for HWL going forward?

MK: Our Sea–Air business is struggling due to increased air freight capacity in origins and performing far below expected volumes. Contract logistics and road are doing well. We are also about to launch a new road freight entity for GCC trucking.

How are new technologies and automation changing the landscape and face of the industry and how is HWL adapting to these innovations?

Hellmann has always been in the forefront of investing in new technologies. We are going through a major transformation by making investments in TMS (Transportation Management Systems) across all products plus in Finance, Sales, and HR. We are getting ready for the future, both digitally and from an organizational culture perspective.

GSC: Comment on your CSR and Sustainability initiatives?

MK: The concept of sustainability is not new to Hellmann, it has always been embedded into our DNA, corporate values and operations. We understand and embrace sustainability and we see it as the only way forward.

We live sustainability through multiple factors notably Leaders’ commitment; Sustainability investment in facilities and product service; compliance to local requirements and engagement with society; work with our partners towards sustainability goals; welcoming diversity and measuring and reporting ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) data.

Hellmann has recently reviewed sustainability strategy and carefully crafted new sustainability targets and measurable tangible improvement relating to awareness, involvement, green solutions, and sustainable investments.

With our people and reliable partners, Hellmann aims to passionately lead a global sustainability strategy using technology and compliance framework.

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