EKOL grows by a factor of 10 in a year
Founded locally in 2013, the logistics firm that is looking to take the lead in Hungary-Turkey transport has already gone from 11 employees to more than 100. Ákos Kovács, EKOL's Country Manager, discusses his firm's plans, and the advantages they can offer to customers.
Your business's stated goal is to be the leader in the Turkey-Hungary line. How much of the Turkey-Hungary shipping business does your company now control?
This is one of our fundamental objectives; it also marks a higher target which is reaching a status as Turkish distribution center. For achieving this, besides being the market leader in transportation, a modern logistics warehouse and a strategic co-operation with the customs authorities is necessary. We will take large-scale steps in the latter two. With respect to transportation, based on statistics carried out by our parent company published by the Turkish transporters’ association, according to customs office data, it is clear to see that the share of EKOL has doubled in this field since the foundation of EKOL Hungary, making us market leaders in Turkey. We have one significant competitor in Hungary still ahead of us regarding the number of complete loads, but we have exceeded them in the scope of groupage and partload traffic. Therefore we are aware of our task, but we will achieve this within the boundaries of righteous and clean competition, i.e. applying normal market prices, as even though the client is the most important, it cannot be at the expense of profitability.
Ekol is an international company that was started in Turkey about 25 years ago. Does that give you an advantage when it comes to negotiating EU-Turkey customs issues?
In general we can say that our Turkish "origins" don’t cause any advantages – rather the contrary. Unfortunately, there is high discrimination against Turkish transporters. In addition EKOL is new, so they are rather at holding position and don’t yet work with us. This is why it is crucial to remember that a failure on our side might be fatal. We are expected to deliver flawless service. Nevertheless, EKOL now is an international company using state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology, which is also experienced by our clients if. This also goes for customs issues: EKOL has the largest own customs department in Turkey (over 200 persons), and is the first company to gain AEO status in Turkey. This means, if someone would like complex service between the two countries including customs clearance, EKOL is the only solution.
How is your firm's overall expansion in Europe going?
This year EKOL is present with self-owned firms in 10 countries, and in co-operation with strategic partners in other countries as well. Last year we opened offices and warehouses in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain, then during the course of the year Zaragoza was also launched, and soon the next hub will be Irun. Our Spanish firm also shows dynamic growth, and we have also managed to establish an important co-operation with them, thanks to which 12 trucks a week operate with two drivers between the two countries carrying groupage goods, serving mainly automotive clients. The next target country would have been North-Iraq, but it has come off the agenda due to the current situation. The next offices are expected to be launched in March in Poland which is of special importance for EKOL. In Hungary, new EKOL sites will open in Szombathely, Nagykanizsa and Kiskunmajsa in February, i.e. within weeks we are opening regional offices excluding North-East part of the country.
Can you see an opportunity for expanding shipping between the EU and the oil-producing countries of the Middle East?
This is a current issue for EKOL, since in December we signed an oil industry contract in Hungary. Cranes and trailers carrying heavy machinery are being purchased for the project starting in March. Unfortunately, only a few exports are carried out from Hungary and the CEE region to the Middle-East, so setting goals sounds irrational. The mentioned operation also applies to domestic and regional countries, not the Middle-East.
What kind of green certifications does your firm have? How do you work to protect the environment?
The company group has ISO 14064, ISO 14001 and Sustainability Gold level certificates (as the only logistics company having the latter), and our Environmental Policy is a "must-read" for all of our colleagues. However, what is even more essential is the steps we make for the sake of environmental protection. Some of these are that we only deliver by trucks with Euro 5 and Euro 6 qualifications. If needed we also report the emission of harmful substances. Besides, 4 self-owned Ro-Ro vessels and 20 direct trains operating on a round trip basis, weekly transport loads of more than 1,000 complete trucks, thereby significantly reducing emission. On our website a Bureau Veritas validated counter constantly shows the fuel savings and reduction of CO2 emission, applied by intermodal shipping solutions instead of road traffic. Automotive industry is one of the main customers of this service, who value these solutions. EKOL was granted the Environment Leadership Award by Daimler in 2013. The Green office degree of WWF also acknowledges this pursuit. The construction of a "green warehouse" is about to begin in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey, and the new Hungarian logistics center to be built also in 2015 will have LEED qualification, meaning that environment protection will be shown clearly.
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