KUALA LUMPUR – The pandemic has given a boost to the logistics industry worldwide as the demand for delivery of goods surges, driven by an unprecedented growth of e-commerce during the lockdown period since 2020.
As businesses and consumers continue making their purchases – with some consumers purchasing more than usual – freight forwarders around the world are busy ensuring the safe and timely delivery of cargo via air, sea, and railway to different countries and cities.
The Asia region promises huge growth opportunities in the logistics market, specifically freight forwarding with its population of nearly 5 billion. China itself has a population of 1.4 billion while other Asian countries, especially Southeast Asia has a growing number of populations that presents a good market for freight forwarders to tap into.
Aidahar Asia is one such company with Kazakhstan roots that is taking the opportunity to spread its wings in Southeast Asia. Its Director, Aziz Zhanbakiyev is highly optimistic about the potential of the logistics market in the region.
“The population of Southeast Asia is about 677 million with Indonesia – nearly 300 million; Vietnam – around 90 million and Malaysia – 30 million. This itself is a big market and it’s expanding very fast.”
“The main global cargo traffic connects with Asia. Every fifth container in the world goes through Port Klang in Malaysia, Singapore and Busan in South Korea. So, Asia and Southeast Asia are very busy regions indeed,” Zhanbakiyev told the Astana Times in an exclusive interview recently.
Having been in the logistics industry for 13 years beginning in Almaty, Zhanbakiyev founded his own company – Aidahar Asia in 2019 in Singapore, which specializes in freight forwarding services between Asia and Kazakhstan and CIS countries.
In less than two short years, he opened another office in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur with the aim to strengthen the logistics connectivity between Asia and Kazakhstan and the CIS.
Since the pandemic started in late 2019, Aidahar Asia realized that the impending global container shortage as lockdowns will affect the activities of manufacturing facilities, ports and airports, as well as storage and warehouses.
“We realized that the container shortage will cause an increase of prices in sea freight, container stock as well as the local and inland haulage by railway. So, we used this chance to invest in the container business as this is the global standard transport equipment. Currently, we operate our own container fleet and we’re able to offer real optimization of supply-chains to all our partners,” Zhanbakiyev said, adding that the current price of a 40 feet high cube container in Southeast Asia alone ranges from $5,500 to $6500 per unit compared to $1,800 to $2,200 per unit in the last two to three years.
The pandemic has also increased the sea freight rates between eight to 10 times more than in 2019 while the waiting hours of inland trucks at ports that are currently facing congestion have led to the increase in the prices of fuel and hour fees of truck drivers.
Speaking about the future of logistics in Kazakhstan, Zhanbakiyev said that digital transformation will have a symbolic impact in the next five to seven years on many aspects of the industry particularly on transportation, technology and infrastructure, warehouse automation, customs, and consumer habits.
“The market demand will change the industry, whether we want it or not,” he said, adding that the changes that will be brought about by digitalization include the removal of bureaucracy and long waiting time for customers, speed of payment, and strong freight connectivity between Kazakhstan, Central Asia and other countries.
The changes will also include the increasing demand for robotic warehouse solutions where it can offer more affordable storage prices and optimize the logistical process, as well as the demand for virtual employees who can work round-the-clock to offer the best freight forwarding services to any clients around the world.
One of the biggest logistical issues that Kazakhstan is facing right now is its geographical location. Being a landlocked country, Kazakhstan is located far from seaports; therefore, most of the cargo that is imported and exported has to be delivered via railway and land.
Being a logistics expert in Kazakhstan, Central Asia and Southeast Asia markets, Zhanbakiyev said that one of the solutions to enhance the logistics service in Kazakhstan is by using foldable storage containers that are carried via railways.
“I’d suggest Kazakhstan railway companies to consider accepting a new type of container, which is foldable so that the freight charges of empty 40 feet high cube containers for example could be reduced. On top of that, emptier 40 feet high cube containers can be repositioned when they are foldable instead of one whole empty container,” he said.
He added that by using the foldable containers, railway operators in Kazakhstan will need fewer railway fitting platform wagons, thus improving the speed and frequency of transportation. “They only need to charge railway freight as per wagon, not per quantity of containers loaded onto the wagon. It’s a long-term investment that will bring more benefits to all the players.”
In terms of the products from Malaysia and Southeast Asia that are in demand in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, they include palm oil, latex, furniture, exotic fruits, medicine, organic oil products, lubricants, clothes and shoes.
Zhanbakiyev has ambitious plans to launch a unique transportation mode of service worldwide. He also wants to provide more work opportunities to people globally so that they can innovate and be productive, and eventually bring value to the planet and community.