Hong Kong, Dubai, Frankfurt, andMiami might be the typical itineraryof an air cargo executive, but HanifYusoof’s travel plans reveal the verydifferent focus of his company.
As president of Sri Lankan-basedconglomerate, Expolanka Group, heplans to visit Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Benin,Togo, Liberia, Gambia and the Sudanduring 2007. And while the ExpolankaGroup has a range of activities bothinside transport and outside it, buildingup the cargo GSA business will be a keyfocus on these trips.
Expolanka has come a long way asa GSA since it expanded outside theboundaries of Sri Lanka in 1996. Thecompany now represents airlines inIndia, Bangladesh, Dubai and SouthAfrica, and in January this year addedTanzania to that roster.
The GSA is representing QatarAirways in that country, and also plansto add Nairobi (where it already has anoffice) once Virgin Atlantic starts flightsthere. The company already representsVirgin Cargo in Sri Lanka, Bangladeshand Dubai.
In 2006, it also opened logisticsoperations in Uganda, Ghana andRwanda, and Yusoof reckons allthese places, along with the WestAfrica locations he plans to visit, have definite GSA potential. "We like to gointo countries other companies findchallenging," he says. "It is a policy that has worked well for us, and with major airlines from the Middle East and Asia now flying into Africa, there is a possibility for us to represent them."
That is certainly true for Asia toAfrica traffic, which Yusoof says isalready important for his company. "It always used to be, for example, almost exclusively Air France that took traffic from Asia to West Africa, but not any more. There are more and more direct links between Asia and Africa, and these are markets where airlines will prefer not to have their own offices, but to rely on our expertise."
This is particularly true, givenExpolanka’s international network."The trend so far in this region hasbeen for GSAs to be based in only onecountry: nobody has tried to combinethem into a multinational group.
But this has worked well in Europeand I think the time has come for ourarea too," says Yusoof.
"Others may be trying this, but notto the extent that we are. Since January2006, we have had a new tagline of’Business without Borders’.
The area we are in is so fast growing, that I think we are in the right place at the right time. I think the next five years will be the most exciting ones since I started the business."
In South Asia business, Expolankahas just added Cathay and Dragonair asonline customers in Bangladesh, whereit already represents Air FranceÂ¨CKLM,Vietnam Airlines, and Thai Cargo inChittagong.
In Sri Lanka, the company representsSaudia, Air France-KLM, CSA, RoyalJordanian and Royal Brunei, whilein India it also represents Saudia inBangalore, Trivandrum and Cochin,as well as Iranian airline Mahan inCochin.
Â¨C Peter Conway