Over 90% of global trade is conducted through the oceans. It is vital for any company in the EXIM business to have a strong network that connects you to even the remotest corner of the globe. ECU Worldwide’s ocean freight services are backed by its extensive and consolidated network around the globe, and this dense network forms the backbone of its leadership in LCL (less than container load). The company continues to mould its global agent network to stay competitive, as the competition nears saturation. The evolution of the global network has helped ECU Worldwide maintain its position at the helm of the LCL business and continues to contribute to the growth of the organisation, as the company expands its operations to various continents.
Anguilla, Aruba, Canary Islands, Cook Islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Barthelemy, Turks and Caicos Islands are some of the rarely heard country names. But all these have flourishing economies that feed millions of people inhabiting these regions and also other continents, by means of import and export. ECU Worldwide is present in these countries through agents. This is a mere glimpse of how ECU Worldwide has cemented its position as the industry leader with a network that spans across 160+ countries.
One of the marquee aspects of the company’s operations is its well-managed extensive agent network around the world. Elucidating the importance of the assimilated network, Mr. Suryanarayanan S, Executive Director – Finance and Strategy states, “It is a big advantage for us because the ability to sell effectively becomes a lot easier.”
“It is far more cost-effective to partner with an agent who understands the regional language, cultural nuances and most importantly, understands the local compliances and trade regulations. In addition to this, the prohibitive expense of setting up offices and hiring staff can be saved when you have a successful collaboration with an agent. No one can be the best at every location in the world. Therefore it is important to have good and strong agents in several location like we have in Taiwan and Korea,” says Marc Stoffelen, Exeutive Director and Global Head – KAM (Key Account Management).
Africa holds huge potential for trade. ECU Worldwide has gained a strong foothold in the continent through a network of its agents as well as owned offices in countries like South Africa and Kenya. Kenya is the gateway to Africa for automobile companies in India and South East. ECU Worldwide provides seamless connectivity to the land-locked countries of Africa from Mombasa. Through the years, ECU Worldwide has nurtured its relationship with the agents in these countries for creating inroads into these strategically important regions. This also provides ECU Worldwide with a significant competitive edge over the other players in the market with the company offering standardised and seamless services irrespective of the geographical location. Shrinking margins in the industry are a challenge and there is a need to be more productive with controls on costs. It is important to ensure impeccable customer service despite the pricing pressure.
A collaborative network makes it easier for the company to roll out its policies, tools, and new services across locations, giving ECU Worldwide greater control over protecting its cost and maintaining healthier margins in the intensely competitive industry.
Cost-effectiveness, Profitability, and Respect for Culture: the Pillars of ECU’s Expanding Agent Network
ECU Worldwide strengthened its network through an array of acquisitions in the course of 5-6 years. Some of these are big markets like China and USA which were later amalgamated under ECU Worldwide. ECU continues to take the strategic acquisition route to expand its network around the world. The company functions on the principle of respect for people and culture which makes it stand out across industries. ECU ensures key leaders in the acquired organisation’s administration continue to be a part of the company, thus maintaining the company culture and creating a productive workspace. With respect to agencies or agents, the company encourages entrepreneurship culture, allowing them to equally partake in the business coming in and out of the region. These principles have emerged as the fundamental strength of ECU and have allowed the organisation to span its network to the remotest parts of the world.
“Even though we are a big company that has rules and regulations, we still give certain freedom to our country managers for local entrepreneurship. This enables us to keep certain flexibility towards our customers and towards changing markets”, Marc Stoffelen added.
Declining Margins: The Biggest Roadblock in Growth
Intensifying competition in the logistics industry has forced the players operating in the market to lower their margins. Maintaining profitability while expanding the network remains a significant challenge that the company needs to overcome. The recent burgeoning competition has made global agents vital to the profitability of the company. However, with its global network, ECU Worldwide is expanding its pool of customers across the world as well as evaluating its relationship with the agents. In order to ensure that investments funnelled into a region generate profitable returns, a comprehensive analysis to fathom the cost prohibitiveness of an area is performed. By leveraging this model, ECU Worldwide recently switched to building its own office in Saudi Arabia, a region which was previously managed by an agency. The move has proved immensely successful as estimates suggest the company would have drawn in substantially less business if it would have continued to work with its previous model.
The consolidated network provides ECU Worldwide with a collaborative structure to manage its pricing and operations in a cost-effective manner across the globe and unleash greater productivity in the years to come. In addition, the consolidated network around the world introduces an element of reliability which has been a key factor in building an extensive and loyal customer base.
Laying the Roadmap for the Future
ECU Worldwide is moulding its global agent network to support its complete range of services with LCL and FCL (Full Container Load) businesses. In terms of exploring new prospects, the company is looking at Africa for the tremendous potential in the region. In addition, ECU Worldwide will leverage its existing network to fuel its business on the FCL front. The addition of warehousing facilities and inclusion of airfreight services to the portfolio of the company will help ECU Worldwide in reinforcing its position as one of the leading logistics companies in the world.