The supply chain and logistics industry is the key to connect trade and commerce, and equally for effective e-commerce services. We spoke to Seun Oni, Group MD and CEO of A.G. Leventis Nigeria, about the company’s endurance in the face of the pandemic, and its innovative developments in the sector.
“Looking back, I definitely see how the dots all connected to lead me to this point,” says Seun Oni, from A.G. Leventis Nigeria.
“My domain field is in finance, professionally a Chartered Accountant, and I started my career after graduating schooling with PwC. Over the past 29 years, my career has evolved through key career milestones that have defined the essence of my leadership.”
Now Oni sits as Group Managing Director and CEO of the company; A.G. Leventis (Nigeria) Ltd (AGL). AGL began as a trading business in Ghana in 1937. It has developed and transformed into a Conglomerate, with a major portion of its operations in supply chain and logistics, covering multiple aspects of the industry, from logistic solutions to truck assembly, and automobile sales. Other areas of the business are real estate, and retail.
Prior to the start of the decade, the Nigerian logistics industry saw a surge of revenue leading up to 2020. However, it was one of the many sectors to be hit hard by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that followed.
“Over the past decade, the industry experienced some moderate level of growth before the 2020 crisis. The industry was one of the fastest growth sectors of the economy. In 2018, the value was estimated at ₦250 billion ($694 million),” Oni elaborates.
“But against the backdrop of an emerging recession, just after the last recession cycle of 2014-16, this is currently a challenging period for the sector.”
“The industry can still be regarded as at a nascent stage. Its full potential is constrained by infrastructure challenges, the highly fragmented nature of the industry with over 500 players, enabling institutions are marred by high level bureaucracy, policy inconsistencies, and slow pace of much needed institutional reforms,” Oni adds.
Nigeria is ranked approximately 110 out of 168 countries in the World Bank Logistics Performance Index, and with the exception of South Africa (at 33), and Ivory Coast (in 50th place), the other African countries are above the 50th mark with a higher index for the West African countries.
These challenges however open up a spectrum of opportunities for industry players that choose to leverage unique levers to drive a competitive advantage, despite the need for the acceleration of critical reforms. The sector, given its role in the facilitation and enabling of business competitiveness, is crucial in the economic transformation, as well as GDP expansion for the country.
STANDING STRONG: COMBATTING COVID
It is fair to say that the COVID-19 pandemic changed industries around the world, but AGL rose to the challenge as soon as it presented itself. Faced by the pandemic, AGL decided to act immediately. From the onset the company saw and prepared for the worst, treating it from the very beginning as an extended crisis.
“We kicked in the crisis management team around the first week of March 2020 – immediately after we had the first reported index case. Our focus was directed at our employees, methods of working, client portfolio, and operational business continuity,” Oni informs us.
“The shift to take the crisis head-on, early, focusing on what we can control and influence together as a team and being overcautious, put us quickly in the position of putting together guidance to navigate our operations for remote working and connecting our branch operations across the country.”
For the company, the primary focus remains the health (both physically and mentally), safety, and well-being of its employees. This people-centric practice is one of the many factors that set the company apart from its industry competitors.
“Building an engagement platform to emotionally connect with the team, being open in sharing real concerns, and integrating seamlessly into the new work norm, will continue to be a priority” Oni says.
This people-centric attitude and focus is one of AGL’s key values. It is one of the many aspects that sets it above and apart from its industry competition, including resilience in the face of challenges, the strategic partnerships with OEMs, and the company’s drivers – the heart of AGL.
“We take pride in our drivers (our delivery officers); we call them our frontline leaders. We focus on welfare, training, and effectiveness, recognising that they are the first touchpoint for service experience,” Oni tells us proudly.
“The network of our operational sites equally provides a reach that enables us provide immediate support intervention either as rest points on long journeys or for timely resolution of issues, and these are critical building blocks in securing driver wellbeing and effectiveness.”
“Our heritage not only reflects a strong identity and connection to the country, but it reflects the power of resilience that has been embedded into our DNA,” she adds.
Strategic partnerships with OEMs of the truck brands gives AGL the upper hand in the market. Through this, the company is able to connect the supply side of the truck components, all through to the local assembly, access to spares and localised maintenance with on-demand support from the manufacturer provided, throughout the life cycle of the trucks.
Yet an additional aspect that places AGL beyond the industry competition is its active digitalisation processes that see it adapt to the growing digital age. Oni elaborates.
“As a business, we have and continue to navigate the different curveballs that come with the operating environment and we are still very much here. We equally build in agility and ensure we keep pace with innovation – we learn and adapt quickly.
“We are proud of our new corporate website: www.agleventis.com, it showcases our history and our brands. We believe in the power of storytelling, after 83 years and still going strong, we want to see our website constantly evolve but equally dot the paths of our journey in this great continent.”
The website showcases the facets of the AGL Tribe (the employees), from the nuts and bolts of its technicians in the workplace, to the diversity across the workplace, and the best of what we do every day to drive execution.
“The website is our canvas, and we shall continuously refresh this and make it more interactive in engaging with our customers and visitors to the site,” Oni tells us.
“For example, we are currently working on extending the Real Estate site to leverage a lot more interactive technology like virtual tours of our commercial and residential properties, which allows a real-time interface engagement with the users, so watch out as we unveil this.”
Alongside the development of its digital platform, AGL invests in innovative technology to maintain its fundamental supply chain operations. A prime example of this is the company’s ERP systems and internal procurement processes. These keep the company’s stock inventory fully updated and allow for the ready availability of spare parts, enabling them to be supplied to a multitude of customers quickly.
THE YEARS AHEAD
2020 was a critical year for AGL. The firm set a clear goal to double its business with a significant portion of growth fuelled by its logistics business. The external challenges had some impact on this, however, AGL ended the year proud of its trajectory, and able to reset some of the fundamental elements of operation in readiness for 2021 – looking ahead to this year and into the future, AGL’s plans are hinged on expansion.
“Our focus in 2021 is still fully in line with our transformation road map, and it is all about growth, growth and growth!” Oni tells us.
“We know that the macro-economic challenges are still prevalent, but we see some key growth levers and our priorities will focus on translating those to value.
“For example, technology will continue to be a strong play for us as we step change our current platform especially at the front end. Taking critical decisions on the elements of the logistics infrastructure mix to leverage and extend our footprint across the logistic value chain.”
The new norm of continual digitalisation is expected to accelerate e-commerce across all industries, and the backbone of e-commerce is the logistics sector – from providing effective specialised warehouses, to fulfilment centres, and last-mile delivery services.
As a company with a foothold in such a key area of growing business, A.G. Leventis is certainly granted with exciting opportunities to come, and very much worth keeping an eye on.