10 high-flying years for TGF Sri Lanka

Friday, 21 December 2012 00:11 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Rashika Fazali

Over a period of 10 years, Toll Global Forwarding Sri Lanka, a part of the Toll Global Forwarding (TGF) freight forwarding company, has helped import and export all kinds of products for many small and big companies in Sri Lanka.

Last week at the Global Commerce Excellence Awards, Toll Global Forwarding was recognised for its commitment towards helping the Sri Lankan market grow.

The Daily FT met up with TGF South East Asia Regional Director Dave Lovegrove and TGF Sri Lanka Managing Director Randall Kelly to find out about their 10-year growth and future plans.

Explaining why TGF decided to approach Sri Lanka 10 years back, Lovegrove said: “We have always seen Sri Lanka as an emerging market and as we build a global network, it was important to have a presence in those emerging markets.”

Kelly added: “In fact, it was a requirement from most of our customers to have a Toll office in Colombo.”

TGF Sri Lanka’s 10-year growth

Growing a company with a war on was not an easy task for many companies in Sri Lanka. Kelly noted that year-on-year there had been significant growth. “We have had a continuous growth even during the global recession, managing to maintain steady growth.” 

He mentioned that at the start, their office had a space of 800 sqft with six people working and today it has grown to an office of 7,000 sqft with 56 people. He added that they have their own warehouse in Katunayake and a satellite office in Biyagama.

TGF as a global company

Kelly revealed that TGF acquired three companies, which in return helped Sri Lanka gain more business. Moreover. a lot of customers and importers from the major markets like Australia, USA and Europe helped TGF Sri Lanka build business in those markets, stated Lovegrove.

Going back to 2002, Lovegrove explained that TGF was then a part of the Hong Kong-based freight forwarding company, BALTrans. A few years down the line, in 2008, TGF acquired BALTrans and that became the foundation of TGF. He stated: “Our home country is Australia and our division headquarters are in Hong Kong. Hence, we see ourselves very committed to Asia as our region.”

Shipments and trade lines

Lovegrove mentioned that TGF Sri Lanka is focused on imports and exports through air and ocean freight. He explained that there is quite a good spilt within these four key products adding, “We have worked to make sure that the company is not overly reliant on just one or two products.”

Lovegrove revealed that the key trade lines are Australia, US and Europe. However, he stated that over the last two to three years, inter-Asia has become a very important market for TGF.

“There are many imports coming into Sri Lanka – both materials and accessories for the garment manufacturing industry, so we have regular services out of the key markets such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, etc. The local factories here have a good supply of raw materials and accessories, but then there is also a lot of infrastructure development prodigy work coming into Sri Lanka. We are gaining good services to support the infrastructure development. The other thing that we are seeing is the development of the consumer markets in Asia, significant growth and markets like China, Singapore, etc.”

Exports and Imports

Kelly mentioned that on a monthly basis, TGF Sri Lanka exports about 500 containers by ocean freight and imports close to 300 containers. He further revealed that by air freight they export an average of 152 to 153 tons whereas through imports they acquire around 150 tons.

This is handled by the Toll Global Logistics Division, which Lovegrove mentioned as the “transportation infrastructure assets for warehousing and distribution out to retailers, etc.”

TGF uses what is called ‘an asset light business model’ which minimises the in-house costs by using outsource products. By using this model, Lovegrove noted that they could deliver a very competitive price to their customers.

Future plans

Lovegrove asserted that they are eyeing the secondary markets and have in fact seen numerous opportunities within them. He said, “Currently, we are looking at opening branches in those secondary markets.”

Speaking about these secondary markets, Kelly revealed that they are planning on setting up branches in the coming year. “We will open something up soon in Hambantota because that’s the next port. We want to improve it by making use of the harbour by moving shipments from other South East Asian countries like Bangladesh and the south of India into Colombo and move it from here by air freight, which is more cost effective than them moving in.”

Kelly also revealed that TGF Sri Lanka’s next goal is to promote sea-air operations, similar to what has been taken up in Dubai. “We want to promote the South of India and Bangladesh coming into Colombo. Though we are doing it now, we are really pushing it because the levels of service we can offer and what the port and the airport offer today are great. We can clear a shipment within 24 hours and hand it over to the airline on the same day. The whole operation will take between 24 to 36 hours. And sometimes it could be even better than Dubai.”

However, Lovegrove noted that though these services are currently available here in Sri Lanka, they want to make these services regular and scheduled. He added: “Currently, we schedule services on a regular weekly basis which our customers can rely on.”

In conclusion, Lovegrove said: “It’s been a challenging 10 years in Sri Lanka, but we are glad that the situation here is stable now and the future is bright.”

Pix by Lasantha Kumara