Emirates SkyCargo A global force

Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Emirates SkyCargo is the largest international airline cargo operator in the world with more than 245 aircraft, including 15 freighters, 13 Boeing 777-Fs and two B747-400ERFs. At least 238 more planes are on order, further growing its fleet.

It moves cargo to more than 150 cities across 82 countries in six continents with a force of thousands worldwide working round-the-clock.

In financial year 2015-2016, Emirates SkyCargo carried more than 2.5 million tons of cargo. The numbers are impressive and you can just imagine how big its operations are.

It takes a sophisticated system and a strong leadership to run an organiza-tion as big as Emirates. And one of the men leading the team renowned for the highest standards of product quality in supporting business logistics is a dedicated, tech-savvy and ambitious Emirati with an insatiable quest for learning—Mr. Nabil Sultan, Divisional Senior Vice President, Cargo.

Rising from the ranks

After completing his education in Dubai, Mr. Sultan went to the United States and took up Computer Science and Management Information Systems from the University of Portland in Oregon.

Eager to join the then burgeoning IT industry in the UAE, the young Mr. Sultan joined Emirates in 1990 and went on to climb up the corporate ladder with hard work, innovation, dedication and leadership.

“Two years into my career with Emirates, I joined the internal Management Training Program and I had the opportunity between 1995 and 2008 to work in a number of leadership roles within the company both within and outside the UAE, including being Senior Vice President for Commercial Operations West Asia and Indian Ocean, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Gulf, Middle East and Iran, and Senior Vice-President, Commercial Operations for Europe,” Mr. Sultan told Air Cargo Update.

By 2009, Mr. Sultan was again promoted to Divisional Senior Vice President, Revenue Optimisation and Distribution for Emirates.

And in June of 2013, he assumed his new role which entails greater responsibilities and a stronger leadership style to stay ahead in the globally competitive air cargo industry.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have this wonderful journey with Emirates,” he sums up his 26 years of experience with Emirates, one of the most coveted employers in the UAE private sector.

“I have been very fortunate in having been able to participate in the Emirates Management Training Program that allowed me exposure to different aspects of the business and provided me with a strong learning opportunity,” he added.

And for those who are serious to start a solid career in the private sector, the executive said it is best to start from the bottom and learn all the ropes of the trade. It also helps to new things, being creative and being open with ideas and innovations.

“My advice to young people would be to start from the basics, to be curious and to not be afraid of grabbing opportunities to learn the ropes,” he said. “In this fast changing environment it is also important to invest in self-learning both on the job as well as outside. This will also be a good foundation for the future when the opportunity comes up for roles with increasing responsibilities.”

People and Team Work

In the cargo and logistics world, people and team work are essential to a successful business flow. Their strengths and weaknesses matter to ensure that goals are reached.

Mr. Sultan realized this early on with his exposure to various management training programs at Emirates where he learned that a thriving workforce hinges on giving them opportunities and resources to grow.

“The core of my work philosophy revolves around people and team work. Nobody is able to operate in a silo and the key to success is being able to work effectively with others,” he stressed.

“The way I look at it is that ultimately the company is made of people and they are the most valuable part of any organization. Leadership is all about ensuring that the entire team under-stands what you are trying to achieve and is allowed to contribute to the overall vision- it’s like being part of the same family,” he said.

He believes that it is equally important to give people opportunities and resources that will inspire them, hence, contribute to the overall success of any organization.

“As a manager, it is important to understand people’s strengths and weaknesses and then work on how best to help everyone – whether it is by motivating and providing larger responsibilities to strong performers or by providing mentoring to team members who are yet to reach their full potential,” he said.

“Ultimately, it is my responsibility to ensure that people are well looked after, trained and managed. This creates a sense of loyalty to the company which cannot be measured in monetary terms and Emirates is a good example of this where you see staff who have worked here for more than 20 years,” he added.

Global Force

In March this year, Mr. Sultan became a member of the board of directors of the influential global not-for-profit trade group, The International Air Cargo Association or TIACA.

TIACA, which represents all sectors in the air cargo and air logistics industry, including airports, shippers, IT companies, aircraft and equipment manufacturers, forwarders, among other related industries, has transformed itself from mere organizer of conferences and trade shows, to a body that genuinely tackle issues affecting its members.
Mr. Sultan says he feels privileged to have been given the opportunity to become part of TIACA’s governing body as the global air cargo industry has a tremendous impact worldwide.

“TIACA brings together represent-atives from all branches of the air cargo industry. My association with TIACA is my way of giving back to the industry. And the more we give the more we get back in return. I feel very privileged to have this opportunity to contribute and communicate to the stakeholders on a platform which helps lead to better understanding between the various players,” he said.

“We work together to face common challenges and we are all committed to improvement and the progress of the industry which ultimately helps the day to day operations of the business,” he added. “I’m very honored to be part of the Board of Directors of TIACA as I share TIACA’s vision and commitment on a number of issues including improved market access, security and environmental responsibility in the air cargo industry.”

In terms of market performance, how would you describe 2015 and the first half of 2016 for Emirates SkyCargo? Please elaborate and share figures if possible.

For the financial year 2015-16, Emirates SkyCargo carried 2.5 million tons of freight, a growth of over 6% from the previous year, and maintained its position as the world’s largest international cargo airline as measured by freight ton kilometers flown (FTKMs). Emirates SkyCargo contributed to 14% of the total revenue of the group.

In terms of network expansion in 2015, we launched freighter services to a number of destinations including Columbus (USA), Ahmedabad (India) in addition to offering cargo capacity on new passenger routes such as Bali (Indonesia), Multan (Pakistan), Orlando (US), and Bologna (Italy).

For 2016, we have started offering cargo capacity on new routes such as Cebu and Clark (Philippines), Yinchuan and Zhengzhou (China) and Yangon (Myanmar) in addition to introducing a new freighter route from Hong Kong to New Delhi (India) and onwards to Dubai.

In 2015, we also officially inaugurated our dedicated freighter hub Emirates SkyCentral at Dubai World Central. It was developed and built to meet the future growth requirements of Emirates SkyCargo. SkyCentral features an extensive cool chain facility with over 15,000 square meters of dedicated storage for temperature-sensitive goods.

How competitive is the air cargo industry regionally and globally? What sort of challenges face those involved in the industry?

Globally, the air cargo industry is very competitive and is experiencing an overall slowdown in demand because of the complexities facing the global business environment.

In addition, although global air freight ton kilometers (FTKs) have risen by 5% year on year for July 2016 according to IATA, the growth in available freight ton kilometers (AFTKs) has continued to exert a downward pressure on revenues and yields for all carriers.

How do you manage to get ahead of the game?

We understand that Emirates SkyCargo is currently the largest in the world and a trusted name at that.

For Emirates SkyCargo, the key to success is to having our customers at the centre of all that we do.
We work closely with our customers, understanding their needs and adapting our services and offerings. It is imperative that we demonstrate the value that we are adding to our customers. By doing this well, we enable our customers to further add value to their stakeholders.

Additionally, by working closely with our customers, we are also able to get a pulse of the developments in the market. Businesses are constantly challenging themselves and business processes are evolving at a pace that has not been witnessed before. Being in sync with our customers helps us to anticipate and take advantage of the next major trend in the market.

One more factor for success in the market is a focus on constant innovation and service improvements.

At Emirates SkyCargo we have recently launched a number of new innovative products such as White Cover Advanced- a next generation version of our innovative protection product for valuable temperature sensitive cargo, White Container- a temperature controlled container with thermal insulators to counteract high external temperatures and the Emirates SkyCargo Cool Dolly- a special piece of equipment that transports cargo from the aircraft to cool storage areas, while maintaining temperatures of as a low as -20°C.

Apart from launching the SkyPharma, what other developments are going on at Emirates SkyCargo?

At Emirates SkyCargo, we do not rest on our successes but constantly look for opportunities for development. One of the areas where we are actively following market developments is ecommerce.

The global retail industry is witnessing significant changes as more and more people globally move away from the traditional retail to e-Commerce. This will have a significant impact on how the air cargo industry evolves in the near future. Business will move away from retailers importing and stocking products to a model where large distribution centres are maintained at various locations ensuring that customers who have ordered online receive their orders in a timely and secure manner.

Any further expansion plans in the future?

We constantly monitor the global market and review capacity across our network to ensure that we are able to deploy capacity to where it is most needed by our customers. If there is a significant demand from a particular market we are always open to looking at deploying additional capacity into that market.