Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) provides global logistics and shipping solutions to manufacturers of cars, trucks, heavy equipment and specialized cargo, such as ocean transportation, inland distribution, cargo processing and a wide range of technical services. Their privately-owned headquarters is located in Oslo, Norway, and they also have regional headquarters in both Tokyo, Japan, as well as in New Jersey, USA. This rise to the global logistics frontline didn’t happen overnight for WWL, it started six decades ago and has taken time to develop and nurture. Their initial road to success began in the mid-1950s, with a concept that ushered in a new era of vehicle transportation, with their introduction of roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) vessels. This innovation would lead WWL to become one of the world’s largest vehicle transportation providers, and a leading logistics service provider that connects both old and new markets all over the world. Now equipped with 7,000 talented people across over 30 countries, WWL continues to grow and evolve to the rapid emergence of markets and has proven that opportunities are still abound.
One of the emerging markets that has caught the attention of investors all over the world is that of the ten Southeast Asian nations who have united as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The recent launch of ASEAN Economics Community (AEC) is helping to connect the region into a larger economic force and is a market that is worth around $2.6 trillion at the end of 2015. Among all export goods the AEC has to offer, automobiles and auto parts are on the top of the most exported goods list. In recent years, the member countries of AEC have made great progress in terms of productivity. For automobiles, Thailand alone has made a 46.9% increase in auto part exports in 2015 compared to 2011. Despite having four offices in India and a number in Southeast Asia, a supply chain solution and RoRo logistics giant like WWL knew that organizational and operational optimization are needed to face the rapidly growing demand the launch of AEC has brought. It is only natural that 2W will want to seize the opportunity to strategically place itself right in the heart of the rising market.
An observation of trade growth within and outside of Southeast Asian countries has influenced WWL to rise to the occasion. One key aspect behind this decision is that emerging markets become more and more inter-dependent and develop their own trade dynamics supported by bi- or multi-lateral trade agreements like the AEC, fostering economic growth in-between emerging markets. For those reasons WWL already consolidated in 2013 various individual markets under one South-East Asia Area Office responsibility as a continuously growing trade between Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, etc. has been noticed. Now, WWL wants to further evolve their organizational and structural set-up under a single leadership. This led to the decision of integrating the India office into the Southeast Asia organization and forming a new, bigger organization that will take effect starting July 1st, 2016 under the name South Asia Area Office. The newly titled office for this integration is an expansion to the already-established Bangkok office that currently functions as Southeast Asia area office and local entity for Thailand. Using the abundant pre-existing resources and talents, the integration of the two offices will be led under one holistic leadership.
LM had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Gur Prasad Kohli, the newly appointed Head of South Asia Area. WWL has relocated Mr. Kohli, its current Head of India, to Bangkok this summer. He will be taking over the work of Mr. Trond Tonjum, the current Head of Southeast Asia, who will be appointed a new position in the Global Commercial department at the WWL Central Office. When asked the reason for consolidating SE Asia and India under a single Leadership, Mr. Kohli says, “Keeping in mind the synergies that exist between the Auto manufacturing clusters in Thailand and India and the market demography across India and South East Asia, WWL has decided to combine the responsibility for both Area offices into a new Area office which is known as South Asia. The aspirations are to grow both the Ocean and the land based logistics we provide to OEM’s across this region which extends from Philippines to Pakistan. This will create on the one side organizational synergies for us by using existing resources over a larger market area, but most importantly it will create a holistic leadership perspective over a larger geography which we expect to develop more and more integrated dynamics and trade growth.”
Mr. Kohli will report to the Head of APAC located in Tokyo. Besides the South Asia Area Office, the WWL APAC headquarters are also responsible for the company’s Area Offices in other strategic markets in the region such as Korea, China, Japan and Oceania. As an extensively-connected organization, WWL intends the new office to give them better insights into Customers and deliver better logistics solutions to their customers.
“We see greater synergy between the local and Regional offices of several global OEM’s and believe it is very important to interact with our Clients locally and Regionally to understand their requirements,” said Mr. Kohli
“Sometimes, depending on where you are, you may have local-specific conditions and design logistics solutions accordingly. These solutions can then be delivered to customers across the Region as applicable and having a common leadership allows greater knowledge and experience transfer across the region. It is a known fact that emerging markets have higher volatility than mature markets and we can balance that out a bit more by utilizing the strengths of each country.”
Apart from the offices integration and relocation, WWL does not plan to consolidate headcounts. At the moment, only the functions are going to change and headcounts will not be reduced. WWL needs to see how the market develops, but as the company wants to grow it will rather increase the number headcounts than decreasing it. For example in India, although it will be integrated into the South Asia office, the overall headcount will stay the same. “In the years to come, we plan to create more services in and around India. Currently we offer technical services like yard management or PDI, but we hope to be able to establish a regular ocean service to and from India soon. ” elaborated Mr. Kohli. He also states that the upcoming integration will be seamless to the customers, and that only the top management status will experience the change