ISSN 2330-717X

Aruna Hussain: First Female CEO Leading A Multinational Logistics Company In Pakistan – Interview

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Ms. Aruna Hussain is an experienced entrepreneurial leader with exposure to several international markets that include Pakistan, United Kingdom, Australia and the Middle East. With a core strength in Supply Chain, she has in-depth experience in business leadership and strategy, operations management, talent development and leading organizational transformations. She has worked with the Maersk Group in various functions and geographies from 2000 to 2010. She has also worked at US-based home furnishing e-commerce giant, Wayfair, as Supply Chain Director for their Australia operations from 2012-2015. After returning to Pakistan in 2016 and prior to becoming Managing Director of Maersk Pakistan she was Country Manager for Damco Pakistan, as well as Chief Operations Officer for Damco Middle East, which comprised of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan as well as Pakistan. In January 2019 Aruna has been appointed Managing Director for Maersk Pakistan under the new global strategy to be the world’s leading integrator of container logistics, connecting and simplify customers’ supply chains. Following are excerpt from an exclusive interview with her. 

Briefly tell our readers about your successful journey.

I started my career in the year 2000 and as a trainee with Maersk’s international leadership program; I had the opportunity to get exposure across different functions in the company, helping me grow steadily into management and leadership roles within the organization in Pakistan as well as in the UK. I have always been fond of solving problems, trying new things and working with diverse people – these enabled me to grow, and with new challenges continually being thrown my way, within a short span of 7 years, I became the CEO for the logistics arm of Maersk – making me the first female CEO leading a multinational logistics company in Pakistan.

In 2010 I moved to Australia and joined a US-based e-commerce start-up company as the Director for Supply Chain and Operations, where I developed a strong team and together, we created new and innovative supply chain design models that made a sizable impact on our growth. The company went to a successful IPO later. In 2016 I returned to Pakistan for personal reasons, and started my second innings with Maersk, first as the CEO for the logistics division and later as the COO for Middle East, which included UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan as well as Pakistan. In January 2019, I was promoted to the role of Managing Director of Maersk Pakistan, with an enhanced scope in our strategy to be the world’s leading integrator of container logistics aiming to connect and simplify customers’ supply chains.

What is your favourite part about working at this company?

There are two aspects of working for Maersk that I love – the values that we operate around and the culture in which we work. And both these aspects revolve around the people working for Maersk and the customers who do business with us. Our culture is about challenging ourselves and innovating to always stay ahead and be the leader in our industry – not by sheer volumes or scale but through the focus that we put on our customers. Maersk provides its employees with opportunities for self-development and growth; you meet people who are truly passionate and enthusiastic about the work they do here, and my experience so far has been that the people you meet become your friends for life.

What has changed or what is changing that makes you confident about the success of Maersk Pakistan in coming times?

The world is changing fast as are ways of doing business. Our customers’ supply chains are constantly evolving, and Maersk is fully geared up to bring the right innovative solutions. These include supply chain models, predictive technology and platforms to address and simply such supply chain needs of our customers. We are leading such development in the market, and with our focus on new solutions for different industries, we are poised for significant growth, growing along with our customers.

Please tell us about the integrated services offered by Maersk Pakistan.

Maersk embarked on a transformational journey few years ago to become an integrated container logistics company. As a part of this journey, we have strengthened our capabilities beyond ocean shipping and invested a lot of efforts in building capabilities for end-to-end logistics for our customers. This means that we can support our customers’ logistics requirements right from their door to the final destination of their cargo. Our end-to-end logistics offering includes landside transportation of cargo, storage of cargo, documentation and customs clearances, cold chain, port-related activities etc. Further, we also give our customers value added services such as Value Protect which covers the risks faced by the cargo during transportation. With all these services, we aim to provide our customers with a single window access to all their logistics requirements.   

How does Maersk differ from its competitors?

At Maersk, we are keeping our customers at the heart of our strategy. Our aim is to ensure that our customers have access to products and solutions that meet their end-to-end supply chain needs. We want our customers to have access to industry leading platforms. We want to provide them with competitive prices that are driven by standardized and cost-effective solutions. We want to support our customers in growing their businesses, in enabling them to carry out global trade. I believe, this approach towards customers and going all the way for them is what sets us apart from the competition. 

What can you tell me about the corporate culture? And what values does Maersk exhibits?

Our company builds on an impressive heritage of pioneering success and growth. Our long legacy and our Values guide our business every day and also ensure that we can do business tomorrow. Our five values around which we operate are:

  • Constant care – we take care of today and actively prepare for tomorrow
  • Humbleness – We listen, learn, share, and give space to others
  • Uprightness – Our word is our bond
  • Our employees – We want to create the right environment for the right people
  • Our name – It is really the sum of our values and with our name we want to create and image in the eyes of our customers and the external world of an organisation that is passionately striving higher

What precautionary measures has Maersk Pakistan adopted following the outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic?

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, we set ourselves three priorities at Maersk – to ensure the safety of our employees, to support our customers’ supply chain needs and to help the society fight the virus. 

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, we moved all our office-based employees to work from home. We ensured that the IT infrastructure was strong enough to support all their business needs and in no way were the daily operations hindered. For us, the safety of our employees was of utmost importance. 

Amongst the on-ground activities, all the protocols laid down by the authorities around social distancing were strictly adhered to. We made sure that the employees who were coming to work sites to keep essential services running were following all safety procedures, their temperatures were checked and all in case anybody required any medical attention it was immediately provided for. 

Our vessels continued sailing, ports operating and the entire infrastructure around our logistics and services functioning throughout the period of the pandemic. This made sure that our customers’ cargo kept moving despite the lockdowns across geographies around the world. Further, our digital platforms Maersk.com and our mobile app were available for our customers to carry out almost all the tasks they need – from the convenience of their homes or offices without having to visit us physically. They could get quotes, book their cargo with us, get instant confirmations, track the movement of their cargo – everything digitally. We also facilitated digital payments and released digital documents wherever possible to ensure that our customers didn’t need to travel to our counters and offices for anything.

On the sidelines, we also recognized that constantly working from home and pandemic related tensions were bound to cause psychological stress amongst our employees. We rolled out several mental wellness programs for them and offered them all the support they would require in such cases. 

We always talk about women empowerment in every field of life but what do you think about positions available for women in this sector? Is it tough for women to initiate their career in logistics sector and acquire growth?

The industry has traditionally been male dominated, and while this is changing and there are more females making headways into the sector, there is still a lot of work to do to encourage women to come into the supply chain and logistics field and take on available positions. Yes there are positions available and many opportunities for growth. It is crucial to focus on improving the gender ratio in this industry, and employers have a part to play in creating the right culture, environment and opportunities. Maersk has been leading on this metric in the industry. Within Maersk, as a female I never experienced any bias or discrimination, and this is a key reason I have stayed with this organization. We lay a lot of emphasis on diversity and inclusion within the organization, and consciously work to improve this continuously. 

Do you believe that ‘turnaround’ time at Pakistani ports is far longer than the time taken by other regional ports?

I feel that as a country we need to continue to focus on improving both the cost of doing business and ease of doing business, and turnaround times at ports are one of many areas. To become a player on the international stage, we should work on improving time and cost across the supply chain, not just turnaround times.

What is your vision for Maersk Pakistan and how would you comment on the Transportation and Logistics sector of Pakistan?

At Maersk we are transforming ourselves into an integrated container logistics company. We are committed to connect and simplify our customers’ supply chains – and we are ready to go all the way. There is tremendous potential in Pakistan. And there is a lot of room to improve the transportation and logistics sector in the country, including infrastructure, services, technology and regulation. Improving this sector is the key to reducing cost and improving ease of doing business, as well as boosting local demand and consumption. The right actions can significantly impact our growth as a country, both domestically and internationally. At Maersk Pakistan we believe we have an important part to play and are committed to create a strong and positive impact towards this goal.

Shabbir H. Kazmi

Shabbir H. Kazmi

Shabbir H. Kazmi is an economic analyst from Pakistan. He has been writing for local and foreign publications for about quarter of a century. He maintains the blog ‘Geo Politics in South Asia and MENA’. He can be contacted at [email protected]

3 thoughts on “Aruna Hussain: First Female CEO Leading A Multinational Logistics Company In Pakistan – Interview

  • Avatar
    October 19, 2020 at 3:03 pm
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    Aruna Hussain is a legendary professional from Pakistan. She has been breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings across the industry since I have known her. A true leader and someone I am proud to call my professional idol for a long time. She has played a stellar role in development of many individuals like me.
    Wish her continued success in future as well.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    October 19, 2020 at 5:08 pm
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    I worked with various Maersk companies in the late 90’s and early 2000’s as a training consultant and amongst many projects helped establish the MTDP for Maersk Logistics. I was so pleased to read the article and be reminded of the women from around the world of huge talent and ability to deliver solutions that I met and worked with during those years. I wish Ms.Hussain every future success.

    David N. MacLeod, Director, Learn Logistics Limited.

    Reply

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