Imperial Logistics
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Imperial Targets African Growth

Imperial Logistics has been reinvented and is targeting African growth. Chief Integration Office Cobus Rossouw talks to Ian Armitage

Writer Ian Armitage
Project manager Stuart Shirra

Supply chain and logistics group Imperial Logistics has reinvented itself and, says chief integration officer Cobus Rossouw, is now better able to offer clients "customised solutions that boost their competitiveness".

"We decided we wanted to take a step forward and that is by focusing on what we can do for our clients," he explains. "Imperial Logistics offers more than just logistics and our capabilities extend into things procurement and brand activation."

Rossouw sees Imperial as a growth enabler. "We are an extension of our own customers' business, building their brands alongside our own business. Our own differentiators lie in a combination of an extensive resource base and world class integrative processes and technology. We apply our supply chain management skills to manage operational processes across end-to-end value chains on behalf of our clients."

To make sure it delivers on this promise Imperial has been streamlining and simplifying its business, honing in on its capabilities. One such consolidation merged group companies BROCO and Cargo Africa into Imperial Managed Logistics.

"We also created Imperial Retail Logistics, previously known as TFD Network Africa, by incorporating contracts from other Imperial businesses," Rossouw adds.

These businesses specialise in enhancing customers' logistics and supply chain network capabilities. "We can take your product from manufacturing to the point of purchase – that is what we can do," says Rossouw. "We are the only company that can do it.

"The three dimensions of our growth strategy are new geographies, new industries and new capabilities." Where required this will be achieved through acquisition and Imperial has never been afraid to buy the right businesses. In May, for example, it acquired a 49 percent stake in MDS, a leading logistics provider in Nigeria, for S$26 million. The acquisition saw it enter Nigeria's fast growing FMCG, telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries. "It has strengthened our footprint in the continent and is consistent with our strategy of focusing on these consumer opportunities and following our customer base into Africa," says Rossouw. Another acquisition – that of RTT medial - has seen Imperial Logistics enter the pharmaceutical space and the group is also playing a growing role in Africa's mining, construction and petrochemical industries, Rossouw says. "I think we are positioned well."

Of course, Africa is where everybody wants to be – with companies increasingly setting their sights on the continent's growing middle classes and increasing affluence. Understanding the markets is central to success. Imperial offers that.

"The opportunity in Africa exists in becoming part of Africa to which we are expanding as the Nigeria acquisition shows," Rossouw says. "No continent will grow more or faster than Africa in the coming years and the opportunities are there if you have the right approach. Africa is the fastest growing and youngest population in the world and its consumer-facing industries are expected to boom in the years to 2020. Through our approach we can help our clients grow in the continent."

Imperial has launched an extensive expansion drive into Africa which will see the company invest heavily in developing corridors while more local partnerships are being forged to help clients benefit from the mass consumerisation of Africa.

"Our strategy into Africa is all about the continent's mass consumerisation," Rossouw says. "We have very aggressive plans in the pipeline. We are actively working on further expansion in Africa and we are also actively working on filling some of the other gaps in our South African business in either industries we don't have a presence or capabilities we don't have. In South Africa the challenge is that growth is not that aggressive. The economy is quite flat. But we see growth because we are growing by capability in to new markets we weren't present before. So, I think we are going to have a very exciting 2014.

" If validation of the work Imperial has done was needed, it came in the form of a first place finish at the prestigious Annual African Access National Business Awards. It was the second consecutive year Imperial won the Logistics Category - ahead of other finalists including Bidvest Panalpina Logistics and DHL.

The award reflected the group's success in offering customised solutions to drive clients' competitiveness.

"We are proud of the recognition that we have achieved," Rossouw concludes. "The challenge – which is also our purpose and will shape everything we do going forward – is to improve our clients' competiveness by customising our experience in outsourced value chain management. We have no designs on being seen as the biggest but we definitely want to be seen as the best."

To learn more visit www.imperiallogistics.co.za.