Now is best time to be in PH, says FedEx chief
As with many other expatriates who have commended the country’s resounding economic success story, Rhicke Jennings similarly believes that now, more than ever, is the best time to be in the Philippines.
But in describing this period as a “golden time in the Philippines’ renaissance,” the managing director of FedEx Corp. in the country is aptly drawing upon his personal observations too, as one who has witnessed the nation’s transformation since the late 1990s.
This is, after all, Jennings’ third stint in the Philippines, serving as the managing director for the local operations of FedEx, as well as those of other countries in the region.
“I’ve had 10 years of experience in the Philippines. I’ve managed the Philippines between 1996 to 1998, and again from 2001 to 2003, as well as in the last four years or so, starting 2010. So this is the third time I’ve managed the Philippines, and I’ve seen it grow and change,” Jennings tells the Inquirer in a recent interview.
“The Philippines has this combination of global influence, a strong service mind [shaped by] cultural values to be generous in its hospitality, a strong respect for education, and a young growing population that has created one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is a golden time in this Philippines renaissance,” he observes.
According to Jennings, the last four years have seen the Philippines become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while some quarters consider it the next Asian economic miracle.
Indeed, lucrative trade and investment opportunities abound for many local and foreign companies like FedEx, which are poised to capitalize on the local economy’s gains to further boost their operations.
The Philippines, as it is, has been proven to be one of the strongest markets for FedEx, and it holds a huge potential for further growth. Over the last three decades, FedEx has maintained its strong service offering in terms of products in the local market, and has committed to come up with more innovations to better serve the changing and growing needs of the market.
“We’ve had to make substantial investments here [in the Philippines]. It’s a market that has a lot of potential for FedEx, because we have a lot of room to grow here,” Jennings notes.
The company, which has facilities in Manila and Cebu, invested about P500 million in the Philippines over a year and a half ago. It currently has its headquarters in Makati, while another service center is currently operational in Clark, Pampanga. For its port facilities, FedEx has hired over 300 new employees in the past 18 months.
“The Philippines is a key market for FedEx and it’s because of the electronics exports. Forty-eight percent of the merchandise exports out of the Philippines are electronics, which is key for the express industry. These are important customers for FedEx because they count the time, the hours for the items to get their raw materials, and ship their finished goods as quickly as possible,” the FedEx official explains.
But apart from electronics, FedEx sees two new key growth areas for its business in the Philippines–the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and the e-commerce sector.
“We’re currently seeing a wave of e-commerce in Asia. You may have heard that China has overtaken North America as the leader in e-commerce. The same thing is [happening] here in the Philippines. Our business will continue to grow strong [driven mainly by] the SMEs and the e-commerce sector. The challenge will be to continue to innovate and meet customers’ expectations as the dynamics of the market continue,” he says.
According to Jennings, SMEs are now FedEx’s top priority as the company looks to helping them grow their businesses internationally by providing them a menu of services tailored to cater to their needs.
“We make it easy for SMEs to work with us. We recently launched our Personal Shipper account. This is for entrepreneurs and small companies. They will have their own FedEx account, discounted to the level of shipping that they have. All they need is an identity card and a credit card, and we can set up the account. This makes it very convenient for customers to ship or receive samples from overseas,” Jennings explains.
“The other areas where we help SMEs are our shipping tools. For instance, we have short forms online where customers can just pull up the information online, print it out, and have the shipment ready to be picked up,” he adds.
FedEx is likewise embarking on a number of projects that will enable it to gear up and further improve its operational strengths. A number of these projects have to do with improving the company’s transit times and service offerings.
“The most important thing is technology, and continuing to provide tools [for our] customers to make it more convenient for them to ship,” Jennings says.
“We have solutions for e-commerce customers [where] they can interface directly with our systems. Giving that kind of power to both e-commerce shippers and their customers will make it substantially easy for them,” he says, pointing out that the solutions will also provide clients highly accurate information on when they can expect their shipments.
Another crucial factor in helping grow the FedEx business is, according to Jennings, the local labor force.
“We’re blessed with a great staff and management, and our service has never been better in our 30-year history. I attribute that to the outstanding people that we have. We are fortunate to have very service-minded people in the Philippines, and they do a perfect job for us,” he says.
FedEx has a distinct culture it calls People-Service-Profit, or PSP, which is anchored on the belief that by taking care of its people and looking after them in terms of compensation, work environment, and excellent management, employees will in turn deliver excellent service to customers.
“If we do that, our customers will reward us with additional business. That philosophy is the glue that unites all FedEx locations. But it works particularly well here in the Philippines. We also have what we call the Purple Promise, which means we will provide outstanding customer experience on each and every interface with customers, and for each outlet. That’s what we strive to do,” Jennings relates, noting that the team here is particularly good at it.
FedEx provides world class training for its people through the US-based Leadership Training Institute. The company also has a FedEx learning center that can provide thousands of classes for its frontline employees and managers.
All these initiatives, from products to people, will enable FedEx to ride on the country’s strong wave of growth, which will be highlighted further this year with the holding of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings here and the expected establishment of the Asean Economic Community by end 2015, Jennings adds.
Indeed, 2015 may be an exciting and huge year for companies operating in the Philippines, one that promises a manufacturing resurgence, further economic growth, and something that will see the Philippines make its mark anew in the international community.
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