The Board visits South Africa

The acquisition of UTi has made DSV one of the biggest transport companies in South Africa. All buildings, vehicles, signs and uniforms say "DSV" and enthusiasm is higher than ever.

DSV Cape Town ZA brand symbols

Photo: DSV has made great inroads in South Africa, and has changed the brand symbols on everything from vehicles and buildings to signs and uniforms.

While South Africa’s poorest, chronically ill residents of Western Cape (South-Western province of South Africa) could previously have medicine dispensed at 250 different sites in the province, there are now more than 1,000 different dispensing sites in the area. Churches, shelters, community centres and soup kitchens provide facilities for the dispensing of medicine, which means that far more residents now have easy, natural access to vital prescription drugs from the public health service.

It’s an impressive operation,

says Kurt Larsen, chairman of DSV’s Board of Directors, who just returned from a visit to South Africa along with a handful of other board members.

"With more than 1,000 dispensing points, we make sure that the most disadvantaged members of society actually get their medicine for the treatment of HIV, cancer, diabetes, etc. The target group is difficult to reach, unless you make a persevering effort to meet them where they live. And this has actually succeeded beyond all expectations," Kurt Larsen explains.

DSV board arriving at Cape Town South Africa

Birgit W. Nørgaard, followed by the other visitors from DSV’s board of directors: Thomas Plenborg (left), Robert Kledal and Kurt Larsen (rear). The board members are escorted by Jacqui Cantwell, Sales Director, Distribution (left).

Social aspect

In addition to the ordinary transactions of Air & Sea, Road and Solutions, most of DSV’s South African business involved the distribution of medicine. It is done from ultra-modern facilities in both Cape Town (state medicine distribution) and Johannesburg. The company represents 40 different pharmaceutical and healthcare companies and daily supplies the country’s hospitals, clinics, medical centres, pharmacies and wholesalers with pharmaceutical products, equating to more than half of the country’s total consumption of medicine. Another department is responsible for delivering schoolbooks to children, while DSV Mounties (named after Canada's mounted police unit) make sure that payment cards and other securities do not end up in the wrong hands on their way to the recipients.

There is a social dimension to our South African business activities that we don’t see elsewhere, and it is satisfying to us,

says Robert Kledal, DSV board member.

Birgit W. Nørgaard, also a DSV board member: "South Africa does not have a very well-developed postal infrastructure. This yields different tasks, and the direct distribution of medicine has saved lots of time for both patients and clinical staff who can spend their time on other sick people, which is why it has had a positive impact on lots of people," she says, adding that the business model cannot be directly copied by others: "The distribution of medicine to end users requires major investments in equipment and IT systems, which can be an obstacle to the competition, so we are strongly positioned in South Africa."

DSV Cape Town packing facilities

The board members received a thorough tour of the packing facilities for the delivery of medicine in Cape Town.

Everything says "DSV"

DSV Mounties' list of customers includes the four biggest banks in South Africa. Together with the extensive healthcare operation and the rest of the business, this puts DSV on the top three list of the country's biggest transport and logistics companies. And although it was only one year ago that DSV acquired UTi and increased its ZA staff from 180 to 5,500 overnight, traces of the previous owner are hard to find: all buildings, vehicles, signs and uniforms say "DSV," which pleased the members of DSV's Board:

"The fact that they have adapted to DSV so quickly made a great impression on all of us. It is highly consistent and this is a powerful signal. It shows excellent commitment and also the fact that they really want to identify with DSV," says Thomas Plenborg, DSV board member. 

Keith Pienaar, CEO of DSV South Africa, confirms that the transformation from UTi to DSV was rapid and that the enthusiasm is excellent. Even when it involves transferring the business over to DSV's IT and production systems, such as Air & Sea’s CargoWise One: "Like any other change of such dimensions, it has had its share of challenges. Nevertheless, the system’s simplicity and the transparency it has given to the business almost overnight have generated enormous enthusiasm among both customers and staff," he says.

Young, competent management

"We saw an incredibly sophisticated organisation in South Africa with a young, competent management at the individual local offices and divisions," says an impressed Kurt Larsen, who praises Keith Pienaar's handling of the integration process in South Africa.

He did an awesome job of putting DSV on the map in South Africa.

Robert Kledal: "South Africa housed UTi's biggest business unit, and DSV was undoubtedly the little brother in this context. It was brilliant to witness the assimilation into the DSV world that has actually taken place in record time. Everyone is noticeably pleased and proud to have joined an efficient, tightly-run company – but also to have wide-ranging freedom by taking responsibility," he says.

Free rein

"DSV has given us free rein to do what is necessary for our region. We realise that we are part of a global organisation, and we appreciate this, but we are also pleased to have the opportunity to make the necessary decisions at local level. This freedom also requires us to take more responsibility," Keith Pienaar says, stating that he has experienced "unparalleled" interest from DSV around the world.

"Europe, and Germany in particular, is South Africa's second largest trade partner [after China]. Therefore, it goes without saying that our new footprint and strength in Europe paves the way for new opportunities with customers who we previously didn't have access to at the same time that it supports our existing customer base, particularly in the automotive industry," he says.

DSV board in Cape Town ZA with local distribution team

The Cape Town Distribution team, together with the visiting board members. Left to right: Paula Ricci, Regional Sales Manager; Philip Steyn, Acting Branch Manager; Deon Hardick, Customer Retention Manager; Graeme Richter, Operation Director; Kurt Larsen, Birgit W. Nørgaard and Thomas Plenborg, DSV’s Board of  Directors; Keith Pienaar, CEO, Africa; and Theuns Serfontein, General Manager.

Ready for growth

Even if South Africa is financially challenged in the short term by a crisis in the all-powerful mining industry, Birgit W. Nørgaard believes that "new political winds" could result in a more efficient form of government in the individual regions. This would benefit the economy and generate new prospects for the business community.

And there are also those who think that Africa will be the centre of the world's next high-growth economy. Indeed, South Africa has been a member of the BRICS group of high-growth countries since 2010, although the definition has changed in recent years from "high-growth countries" to "countries with the potential for high growth". According to Kurt Larsen, it is a good idea to be prepared to seize the opportunities that the future might bring, however: "We now have lots of eyes and ears on the continent. This gives us a stepping stone for taking part in developments that would otherwise have been difficult to keep up with," he says.

Read more about DSV South Africa