“It’s a New Beginning for Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia”

An interview with Mr. Jakob Friis Sorensen | Managing Director Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia

Jakob Friis Sorensen is no stranger to the logistics industry. Previously employed by Maersk Line and stationed in various countries such as Indonesia, Japan, Denmark, India, Singapore and Malaysia, Mr. Friis Sorensen has seen his fair share of the industry’s ups and downs.

He returned to Indonesia in 2006 and joined the Kuehne + Nagel family in 2016 where he was hired to take on the task of leading Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia amidst a wave of anti-globalization and other challenges such as the US-China Trade dispute and Brexit. Despite all that is going on, there are still opportunities in Indonesia, Mr. Friis Sorensen said, and there are still benefits Indonesia can reap from those challenges.

EKONID had the opportunity to interview Mr. Friis Sorensen recently to discuss the latest developments in the logistics industry, his plans on making Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia a prominent brand and how Kuehne + Nagel is leading the transformation in the logistics industry.

EKONID: Share with us a brief history of Kuehne + Nagel

Jakob Friis Sorensen: Kuehne + Nagel started in Bremen, Germany in 1890. We are a very established company with a deep history with our global headquarters in Switzerland. And we are a very big company with almost 82,000 staff at more than 1,300 locations across 100 countries. In sea freight, we are the undisputed No. 1 in the world. In air freight we are in the Top 2 as well as in Contract Logistics where we are very active in warehousing, distribution and transport.

In Indonesia, Kuehne + Nagel has been around since 1987. We have been quite successful here but compared to how well-known Kuehne + Nagel is in other parts in South Asia Pacific and the rest of the world, we have some way to go in terms of building up the brand in Indonesia. We have quite a lot of activities in Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia today and we are always working harder to get the brand known. The plan is to elevate our presence, our footprint and the activities of Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia. We want to become the largest multinational freight forwarder in Indonesia.

EKONID: You are a relatively new addition to the Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia family. What changes have you enacted since you became Managing Director of Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia?

JFS: First, we upgraded the workplace and moved into a modern office at a prestigious location in Mega Kuningan, Jakarta, where we have been for two years now. Secondly, through the strategic acquisition of the logistics operations of Wira Logistics, we have added a very big warehouse in Cibitung in Bekasi, so we hope that’ll add to our growing number of customers, as well as open up some good, new businesses.

Currently, we’re in the process of further expanding our warehouse in Cikarang, in Soewarna Business Park, where we are planning to install temperature control storage to specifically service pharmaceutical importers that have high value goods such as vaccines and medical devices.

EKONID: What is your personal highlight from the last two years of your leadership at Kuehne + Nagel?

JFS: I am very proud of our new office; many of our visitors and colleagues have remarked that it is a very modern set up. We want to be the logistics provider to work for and, to do so, we want to offer people the best environment. In order to attract the right people, we offer challenges and good career opportunities. And for our customers, we want to be the first logistics company they want to work with. Nothing in Indonesia is easy, but anything can be done if we work hard.

EKONID: What would you identify as Kuehne + Nagel’s strengths right now?

JFS: Many young people view logistics as an “old” and “traditional” industry, but we have managed to attract many young professionals and also very skilled people. In Indonesia, our services cover sea freight, air freight, custom housing, brokerage, and, as our latest addition, contract logistics, which covers warehousing and distribution. Our trucks are all over Java, Sumatra and Bali. So Kuehne + Nagel is very serious in expanding here and collaborating with companies in Indonesia to solve their logistics challenges. We have spent time building our operations and foundation up over the last two years and I believe 2019 is going to be the year when a lot of people are going to say, ‘Wow, that’s Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia!’.

If you’re looking at what Kuehne + Nagel is doing elsewhere in this South Asia Pacific Region, we are growing very fast in places like Vietnam Malaysia and Australia. In Indonesia, we have a little bit of catching up to do, but I like that challenge. Indonesia is a very important country in the region and globally.

EKONID: According to our recent survey, 2019 is looking to be a relatively tough year for German companies globally, with many holding back on employments and investments. You seem to be signaling a different direction for Kuehne + Nagel.

JFS: For the logistics industry, it’s definitely an industry that’s undergoing a transformation. The advent of e-commerce and blockchain and all these new technologies are really changing our industry. And that’s why I think Kuehne + Nagel is an amazing company. Our in-house and customer systems are top-notch and we develop end-to-end one-stop-shop solutions for customers that gives them visibility and control. I’m quite excited about that because that also opens up for a lot of growth opportunities for Kuehne + Nagel Indonesia.

EKONID: What is your take on the current business climate in Indonesia?

JFS: I think Indonesia still has opportunities. We are in a very competitive environment where some of the neighbors like Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and others, are perhaps seeing more benefits from the US-China Trade dispute. But Indonesia will also see some more business coming in because of that, perhaps more exports of fast-moving Chinese consumer goods to the US and Europe that are produced in Indonesia.

But of course what’s really changing things is the e-commerce scene. You have big players coming in. And of course we can see that this is an area that is just going to be continuously expanding in Indonesia. That is also something that we, as a logistics company, need to play along with.

So that’s really interesting. And currently it’s competitive, it’s disruptive, it’s challenging, it’s all those buzzwords you’ve already heard. And yes there are restrictions in Indonesia such as Internet speed, bandwidth and other technical bottlenecks. But there are still major opportunities because things are changing. It’s going to be a new playing field.

EKONID: In those terms, you can also say that Indonesia is late to the party. Having worked in the Indonesian logistics industry for so long, what are your general impressions of how the country is growing and what advice would you give to companies that are planning to expand into the country?

JFS: One can say it could be so much faster. But Indonesia is also very big. I think the country is developing at its own pace. And, to borrow your term, it’s better late than never. My advice for people coming in, especially foreigners, is that if you don’t have patience in this country, you might want to rethink living and working here as you may end up frustrated. But if you’re like me, if you like that things are not perfect, appreciate that we can change things but that these changes take time, you’ll enjoy it here. Indonesia is a long-term project. I haven’t visited all 17,000 islands so it’s a lifelong experience to be living in Indonesia. Sometimes, Indonesia can seem like it’s taking two steps forward and then three steps backwards, but the overall direction is the right direction and it’s going to get so much better.

EKONID: Where do you see Kuehne + Nagel in the next 5 to 10 years?

In Indonesia, we’re going to be an expanding company that will grow in size, services, customer business and geography. However, at the same time, we cannot do everything ourselves in Indonesia. So we will continue to develop partnerships with local companies in order to integrate our services all across the country. That means from Aceh to Papua. That means in air freight, sea freight, distribution and warehousing. So we have plenty of scope and that’s exciting. I’m never getting up in the morning and not knowing what to do.