Being able to lay claim to the titles of both world's busiest airport for international cargoes and world's top container port, it is no surprise that Hong Kong's logistics industry is designated by the government as one of the "four pillars" of the local economy. While competition from China and other regional centres may be increasing, all sectors of the local logistics business are nevertheless planning for steady expansion and continue to view the future with optimism.
"It is a business that never ceases to grow and is especially helped by Hong Kong's advantageous geographical location and advanced infrastructure," notes Peter Yin, regional vice president, South Pacific, for FedEx Express (FedEx). "Hong Kong has always been the gateway to China and a distribution centre for Asia and will remain so," he predicts. "From a long-term perspective, according to Boeing's forecast, the international express industry will grow at an average annual rate of 13 percent through 2019 and Hong Kong will definitely have its share of that, he adds."
Nowadays, with the emphasis on globalisation, much manufacturing is done in China with finished products then distributed around the world. With the value of goods increasing, people expect to have fast, well-managed transportation and reliable distribution networks available. "All this is very good news for the logistics industry," comments Mr Yin. "With the advent of CEPA and the free flow of goods, Hong Kong's infrastructure and experienced workforce will give an advantage. It is a wonderful industry for young people to get into."
China's WTO membership should also create unprecedented business and career opportunities in the logistics field. In Mr Yin's opinion, China should be seen as a business partner and poses no threat to the development of the industry in Hong Kong. "In logistics, we talk about the global supply chain linking different parts of the world. The issue for Hong Kong is how we relate to the whole world, not just to China. I believe China is helping the rest of Asia rather than competing with it."
Unlike basic pick-up-and-delivery courier services, the logistics business has evolved in scope to include cargo tracking, purchasing, materials management, procurement and quality control. FedEx's business focus, though, is always on the people involved. "That is the company's foundation," explains Mr Yin. "We realise three things are interconnected - people, service and profit. With more than 136,000 employees worldwide, all staff must be self-motivated and good team players. If they are, service levels for customers will be high and this, in turn, will lead to repeat business and profits for the company."
The IQ factor
As the logistics business grows, the demand for talented professionals rises correspondingly. FedEx, therefore, has made it a matter of policy to continuously create job opportunities for industry newcomers to give them a first step on the ladder and the chance to gain experience. For new recruits in Hong Kong, educational qualifications are not necessarily the first thing considered. Mr Yin stresses that academic background is only one of the aspects looked at when assessing candidates and that other attributes can be equally or more important.
"We need people who are level-headed and self-confident, have good communication skills and are capable of being team players," he advises. "IQ is important because logistics is getting more complex, so we target people with a certain amount of intellectual curiosity who can understand the big picture and quickly see how things are done."
The continuing development of the logistics business has created any number of individual success stories to inspire younger people. Mr Yin's is one of them, showing how hard work leads to success. In 1984, as a young sociology professor teaching in the US, he decided to change direction with a move into the world of commerce and has not looked back since.
Attracted by the possibilities of working in an international business, he signed on with FedEx. "Back then, the company was young but everybody knew it was going places," he remembers. "Since those early days, the corporate philosophy has been a big influence on me. I understand now that to get people to do what you want is not about exerting authority. Management skills are more about listening and learning from your colleagues."
Having worked in the logistics field for close to 20 years, Mr Yin is something of an expert in career development. "Never be afraid to work your way up from the bottom," he advises, "because that is how the real learning takes place." He also notes that anyone who has the right attitude and is prepared to work hard will have a genuine chance of making it to the very top. For those intent on getting ahead in the logistics industry, Mr Yin has some practical words of wisdom, "Make logistics a career choice, not just a job choice, and there will be no holding you back!"