Trade relations with China continue to present opportunities in spite of the gloomy global economic outlook. As a result, logistics companies are enhancing their services on the mainland, creating a corresponding demand for quality staff.
Logistics support services provider Hong Kong Air Cargo Industry Services Limited (Hacis) is a case in point. "Plans are underway to expand to locations in the West Pearl River Delta, such as Changsha and Chengdu," says Warren Bishop, managing director, Hacis.
A wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl), Hacis offers one-stop integrated logistics support services, facilitating seamless connectivity between the Hong Kong International Airport and mainland China.
"We have good strategic coverage in the East Pearl River Delta with six destinations in Southern China to this date. However, as factories move to Central and Western China, market demand for logistics support services is growing in those regions," Mr Bishop says.
"In spite of stronger competition, there are plenty of opportunities to attract new businesses thanks to our tailored value-added services," Mr Bishop stresses. These include door-to-door delivery to China destinations, collecting, handling and re-labelling cargo, as well as export customs clearances.
To ensure new staff are equipped with the all-rounded air cargo knowledge necessary for today's business environment, Hacis has joined its parent company to run a comprehensive trainee programme for graduates, mainly in the operations departments.
The trainees will undergo one-year of fast-track training, rotating through different functions to learn how the business operates before becoming duty managers. "At the moment we are looking to replenish rather than to increase staff number," Mr Bishop remarks.
The company has a "promotion-from-within" culture and makes sure staff at Hactl and Hacis are given the opportunity to gain wide-ranging experience. Outstanding performers are offered the chance to rotate through departments and subsequently move up to managerial positions.
One such beneficiary is Thomas Yu, who joined Hactl in 2001, and was promoted to sales manager of Hacis in last year. Mr Yu was given the opportunity of participating in about 20 terminal facility upgrading projects within two-and-a-half years of joining the company. One of his major achievements was to assist in raising the annual cargo throughput of Hactl from 2.6 million tonnes to 3.5 million tonnes.
He says, "The logistics industry is not about textbook knowledge, but about problem solving. We are solution providers and our customers are our partners, so it is important to establish long-term relationships."
Since customers are cost sensitive, the company must maintain a balance between costs, efficiency and quality, Mr Yu note.
An outgoing personality and a positive mindset are essential qualities for professionals in the logistics industry. "Nowadays, the industry is more about relationships and communications than technical know-how. I travel to Shenzhen and Guangzhou once or twice a week to meet with clients face to face," he says.
Open-mindedness is as important as physical mobility in creating links with mainland and overseas partners, says Mr Yu who is also executive manager of SuperLink Logistics (Shenzhen) Company Limited, a subsidiary of Hacis.
Alongside the opportunities for career advancement within Hactl and Hacis, Mr Yu believes the entire industry has a bright future.
Mr Bishop concludes, "There are abundant opportunities on the mainland, and people who are willing to travel to or be based in China can be assured of promising careers."