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Rhenus Logistics South Korea, Our Time is Now.

Earlier this year, Rhenus Group announced its aspirations to bolster its businesses across the Asian market. Based on its customer-centricity commitment, Rhenus Logistics has been focusing on establishing a network of local businesses in Asia across the various countries.

Rhenus Logistics South Korea started operations in October 2016 and since then; the company has taken significant steps and assimilated itself successfully into the competitive South Korean market. The immediate plan will be realizing the expansion of its operations in the “Land of the Morning Calm”.

Last year, Patrick Dargel was appointed as the new Managing Director of Rhenus South Korea. The Korea Forwarder Times sat down with Patrick and was impressed with his outstanding fluency in Hangul for an interview.  

Q1: What can you tell us about Rhenus Logistics?

Founded in 1912, Rhenus Logistics is a logistics specialist with global business operations. Our Global and Asia Pacific headquarters are located in Holzwickede, Germany, and Singapore respectively. We have 31,000 employees around the world, a dense overland transport network in Europe and turnover last year that amounted to approximately KRW 6 trillion. Rhenus’ strength lies in the variety of services it offers: the Contract Logistics, Freight Logistics, and Port Logistics business areas manage complex supply chains and provide a wealth of innovative value-added services.

Meanwhile, the Rhenus Group has an entity of 660 locations in 50 countries to date. As per the Group and its’ policies, Rhenus Logistics tends to heavily invest in growing the company globally. Specifically, Rhenus has committed substantial amounts of resources in upgrading the infrastructure, expanding our networks, developing IT systems, and engaging in mergers and acquisitions. In the face of recent global economic slowdown and the subsequent shift in corporate policies to cost-cutting and closing local subsidiaries, Rhenus Logistics’ willingness to continue its investment in local markets is a decision that goes against the grain.

Q2: Rhenus Logistics arrived in South Korea later than other global forwarders. In your opinion, what is the difference between the logistics landscape of other Asian countries and South Korea?

South Korea is an extremely important logistics hub for the Asian market. Almost all of the major corporations around the world have business ties with South Korea in some way or another and its importance cannot be more overstated in the global market.

Before the opening Rhenus South Korea, we spent a few years looking for the right opportunity to enter this market. Two years ago, internal and external conditions finally lined up perfectly and Rhenus decided to open a local subsidiary (the 501st location globally) in the country.

It is indeed true that Rhenus was a tad late compared to other German and European forwarders in entering South Korea. Having said that, we recognize that we have to work way harder than our competitors in order to increase our market share in the country. As a part of our pro-Asia initiative, Rhenus Logistics has been focusing on reinforcing its business network across the Asian continent for the past years by opening branch offices in Australia, Cambodia, Japan, Myanmar, New Zealand, and South Korea.

The South Korean market is particularly dynamic. Nothing is impossible and the administrative processes, including customs, are much more streamlined and convenient than in other countries.

Q3: Please share some more details about the services Rhenus South Korea currently provides.

Similar to all of our other markets, we have a comprehensive range of logistics services from Air and Ocean Freight to Customs Brokerage, Warehousing, Domestic Trucking, and other project-related services.

One of the services we would like to highlight is our own operated LCL consolidation box from Busan to different parts of Europe. We guarantee weekly and direct sailings from Busan and container stuffing at our own Rhenus Inland Depot. With this service, we can provide the simplest process, the shortest transit time and the most cost effective solutions for our partners.

Q4: We have interviewed quite a few non-Korean executives, but we have never come across someone who is as fluent as you in Hangul. It is impressive.

You are too kind. I was born in Berlin but I started working as a forwarder in South Korea since I was in my 20s. Spending 15 years in one market has given me a chance to learn a lot in terms of the inner workings and culture of the business. Then, last year, when Rhenus Logistics offered me an opportunity to lead Rhenus South Korea into a new phase, I knew it would be an exciting experience.

There is still so much to learn from my side and I will try my best in helping Rhenus South Korea and myself as an individual grow together with the company.

Q5: How extensive is Rhenus Logistics’ global network?

Our global network already extends throughout continents like Asia, Europe, and Australia but continued growth is still on the horizon. Recently, we have been focused on widening our reach in the South American and African markets, regions we have yet to have a good opportunity to tap into. Establishing new markets will allow us to increase our business volume and expand our expertise.

Q6: What benefits can clients expect only from Rhenus Logistics’ services?

In my opinion, the services and price levels between companies are more or less the same from a competitive standpoint.

So, if we put that aside, one of our strengths at Rhenus South Korea is the outstanding attitude we display at work. This is something our clients could experience immediately. They are able to have a good sense of our company even via phone calls exchange with our capable staff here. A few customers were surprised to have a liaison with such positive attitude and productive nature when they called to file a claim.

I believe the close ties we have with shippers and consignees are what separate us from other foreign freight forwarders. Rhenus South Korea offers a corporate environment which blends the strengths of Korean hospitality and German corporate culture that naturally lead to outstanding services.

In terms of headcounts, Rhenus South Korea has grown roughly threefold compared to the staff we had when we started. We recently opened a Busan office as well. With its bustling business district and massive seaports, this city was the perfect site for Rhenus South Korea’s next branch. Our office is conveniently and strategically located near port terminals and the customs office to accommodate our service suite and the growing client base. By having a physical presence in Busan, it will keep local shippers satisfied and assist us to establish a better rapport with local businesses, ensuring a smooth expansion of our network in South Korea. These just show that we are really going against the global industry trend of downsizing.

Q7: What is the secret behind maintaining such a positive attitude and atmosphere at your company?

At Rhenus Logistics, we are family-oriented. We have an open-door policy that encourages employees to share their ideas and suggestions. We make sure everyone is heard and we try our best to foster innovation by bringing their ideas to life. We also have multiple programs that aim to train our young employees in different business sectors. Our Step Forward! Management Trainee Program gives them the opportunity to live overseas, rotating every six months from job station to job station, allowing them to learn different aspects of the business in different countries. We also have My First Leadership Role, a program that gives those with high potential an opportunity to see what it’s like being in charge while being guided by their superiors. These programs and more allow us to invest in our employees’ personal and professional growth.

It’s vital to ensure that the staff will grow individually as the company grows. That is Rhenus Logistics’ underlying philosophy when it comes to managing human resources. If the company grows at the expense of its employees, then this growth will not be sustainable. The fact that the company and its employees are growing together is one of the most significant factors when it comes to creating a positive atmosphere in the workplace.

Q8: What is Rhenus Logistics’ goal in the Korean market moving forward?

Our plan is actually quite simple, the short term goal is to focus on bringing in sales. At Rhenus South Korea, we would like to increase the volume of freight we handle here in the country, secure more clients and increase our market share in a progressive direction. In long-term, the increase of local freight weight to 50% is foreseeable.

Q9: Overall, I think we can feel that Rhenus Logistics is a young company.

I am pretty young myself and I think it plays an important role in keeping Rhenus South Korea youthful. We still have a long way to go.
In today’s freight business you are not able to succeed with simply a one-man team, where one person does all the heavy lifting. Everyone has to come together as a team and work in focused and collaborative manners.

It may be a bit of a cliché, but I think it is always important to stay hungry.

We do not have a long history yet in South Korea, which means we still have a long list of tasks to accomplish. This is why I put a particular emphasis on working together as a team.

For me personally, I think of my job as a hobby. I tried golf, like everybody else, but I could not really get myself into it. I try to be true to my personal creed of doing what I love and loving what I do. I think I will have enough time to rest when I retire.

Interview by: Kang Jun-Kyu, CEO/Publisher
Written by: Jay Ramos and Jolly Baruah
Edited by: Winny Linandy-Tan

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