JIMMY ADEBAKIN: With COVID-19 Crisis, Travel Firms Must Also Do Logistics Services

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Jimmy Adebakin

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Free On Board (FOB) Global Logistics Limited, Mr. Jimmy Adebakin, advises travel agents and others in the logistics value chain on how to remain relevant amid the pandemic. Adebakin speaks with Sunday Okobi 

COVID 19 has changed business models globally. Peering into the future, what do you think will be the fate of businesses especially in this part of the world?

 I remember telling Nigerian Travel Agents at the annual NANTA Conference in 2001 before online travel reservation system came to Nigeria and Africa that in the future, Travel Agents will earn reduced commissions from airlines because of internet reservation system and that travel agents will have to start selling hotel rooms as part of airline ticket reservations, to earn commissions. 20 years later these two prophecies have become reality in the Nigerian travel agency industry. As a result of COVID-19, Travel agents globally must add global logistics services to products offered to sustain the growth of the sector. We encourage all travel agents to see COVID-19 as an opportunity to earn new revenues and commissions by joining the FOB-SABRE Collaboration.

FOB has opened a new vista of opportunities for exporters, farmers, travel agents and few others in the Import and export value chain.  How did all these start and how do you feel?

Free On Board (FOB) Global Logistics Limited emerged from Napak Services Nigeria Limited, a foundation member of International Freight Forwarding Sector in Nigeria, started by my father, Chief Samuel Olatunji Adebakin, in 1970. He resigned from Panalpina World Transport to start the leading indigenous freight forwarding company in Nigeria. During the days of Nigerian Airways, Napak facilitated the export of made-in-Nigeria goods to Bamako, Accra and Kinshasa with weekly cargo aircraft charter services from Nigerian Airways.

Then I was in primary school. All my siblings wanted to be taken home after school, but I used to beg my uncle, who was transport manager of Napak, to take me to my father’s office at MM Lagos General Airport, Terminal One, where Napak had 99 years lease from Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria   – that is where he built the headquarters of Napak. This was before private Nigerian airlines like Okada Airlines became operational at Lagos Airport Terminal One. This is how my passion for aircrafts and freight forwarding began.

After my study at University of Buckingham, I worked for different multinational companies like Unilever at HQ in London. I registered Napak International Services UK Limited in 1998.

I finally took over the management of Napak Services Nig Ltd after my father returned to the Lord 27 years ago. I rebranded Napak in 2017 to take full advantage of opportunities I saw within the International freight forwarding sector in Nigeria being – provision of Freight Charges Collecting Facility for Nigerian Importers, where they pay for freight charges only upon arrival of Container in Nigerian Seaports or arrival of cargo at any of Nigerian International Airports.

We now have three years POC (proof of concept) delivering cargo globally to Nigeria before Importers pay for freight charges.

COVID-19 pandemic opened my eyes and I remembered Jesus, after his ministry became accepted, he looked for disciples to spread the Word of His Father to all corners of the World. I asked myself, who can support me to take the message of FOB Global Logistics Limited to Nigerians and by extension the world. I remembered Dr. Olowo, President Sabre Travel Network Nigeria Limited (West Africa). SABRE’s reservation engine is what most Travel agents use to book passenger flights and hotels etc when selling both domestic and international airline tickets.

I reached out to Dr. Olowo because of the win-win opportunities I saw for collaboration between FOB and SABRE in association with Nigerian Travel Agents that have lost 100per cent of revenues and commissions since the beginning of April 2020 due to Covid-19 and suspension of domestic and international flights to, within and outbound Nigeria to worldwide destinations.

I thought we should introduce Freight Forwarding Services to travel agents since Cargo Aircraft are still operating to Nigeria and Nigerian Seaports are still working.

Introduction of freight forwarding services as a new product that travel agents can start selling to existing corporate clients was immediately appreciated by Dr. Olowo and as they say the rest is history.

I read about a discounted airfreight arrangement to like 27 European countries. How feasible is this?

It is as an opportunity for individuals and corporations to start earning income in US dollars by exporting much needed Nigerian non-oil products like food items and other made in Nigeria goods like textiles, cosmetics and other beauty products to Europe, USA, China, India and Dubai.

This requires little capital to start and if you are not currently an exporter, we encourage you to contact Free On Board Global Logistics Limited and/ or Nigerian Export Promotion Council for advice and support.

This is also a great opportunity for all our youthful population to start gainful self- employment. The days of looking for salaried employment are over. America is built on entrepreneurship, we call on our unemployed graduates to wake up and start exporting businesses.

We encourage governors of all states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja to join our new call to action to support the Federal Government of Nigeria by encouraging Nigerian Non-Oil Export. We are ready to deliver this national assignment and all hands must be on the desk.”

SABRE is the world’s leading provider of innovative technology solutions for the travel industry, including agencies, corporations, suppliers, developers, government and online. And now FOB is partnering the global brand.  What opportunities does this bring to all stakeholders?

We are very grateful to the management of SABRE Nigeria that we shared this innovative solution of Global Freight Charges Collect Facility (payment for freight charges UPON ARRIVAL of cargo in Nigeria) and they used the well- established relationship with Nigerian Travel Agents to encourage them to sign up. This agreement means travel agents can immediately start earning revenues and commissions again while we wait for passenger flights to resume globally.

We also encourage Nigerian importers to look inward and diversify to exporting Nigerian non- oil commodities to worldwide destinations. They will enjoy the support and cooperation of FOB’s global technical partners in over 3,760 commercial cities of the world including London, Dubai, New York,  Shanghai, Johannesburg, Istanbul and Frankfurt to mention a few for customs clearance of their cargo upon arrival at those worldwide destinations, provision of warehousing facilities and delivery services.

What are the benefits open to Nigerian Travel agents under this collaboration?

 Nigerian Travel Agents will earn higher revenues and sales commissions on every client successfully introduced to FOB that requires freight services for imported goods and non-Oil Commodities’ export from Nigeria.

Travel agents will earn higher revenues and commissions as compared to revenues and commissions on Hotel Room Sales, Provision of Airport Protocol Services (Meet and Greet Services or selling Airport Business Lounge Services) because an average Nigerian businessman or woman travels Internationally about three or four times a year, but the same person imports goods every week from different parts of the world to Nigeria either by sea freight or airfreight.

The collaboration between FOB, SABRE and travel agents means earning uncapped commissions now and even after the COVID-19 pandemic. This opportunity has created sustainable new source of revenue to travel agents.

What are the requirements for other travel agents that are not yet subscribed to SABRE?

 We encourage non-SABRE travel agents to SIGN UP with SABRE at www.sabreng.com and enjoy opportunity to be registered with FOB immediately or by visiting FOB website: www.fobgl.com to register for this innovative opportunity immediately.

What are the comparative advantages that FOB has to offer?

Our unique selling points includes but not limited to the following: 1. freight charges collect facility 2. global network of freight forwarding partners 3. provision of global competitive freight forwarding services 4. One-stop freight forwarding solution – door to door global freight forwarding services. 5. provision of global customs clearance services 6. Personalized services – executive relationship managers dedicated to corporate account clients. 7. Continuous training for our travel agent partners

I am aware your clients would have to pay freight charges upon arrival of cargoes at Nigerian airports and seaports therefore solves the problem of sourcing for foreign currency to pay for freight forwarding services in advance.  This is obviously an incentive. What’s your take?

As I mentioned before, we all have to put our hands on the deck and see COVID-19 as an opportunity to start thinking outside of the box and start embracing the opportunities within Nigerian Non-Oil Export to earn foreign currency. This is now a compulsory private sector-driven initiative supported by FOB, SABRE and Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) under the leadership of the Executive Director, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo.

We also encourage travel agents to reach out to existing corporate clients and inform them that they can start paying for global freight forwarding services upon arrival of cargo in Nigeria and pay in Naira to eliminate the need to buy foreign currency when importing goods to Nigeria. Travel agents will earn sales commission on every successful introduction to FOB, for both Import and export of goods.

What are your plans towards improving your service delivery and efficiency?

To improve our service delivery to both Nigerian Importers and Exporters, FOB has opened a new operations and customer services centre at NAHCO Cargo Complex close to MM International Airport. We are expanding our representative offices to 36 states of Nigeria plus the Federal Capital Territory. We are also expanding our services to 14 other ECOWAS countries before end of year 2020.