UPS plans to invest heavily in its Middle East network in the coming years, says Jim Barber, president, UPS International.
In an interview with Gulf News, Barber said that UPS had arrived late in the Middle East region, at a time when competitors such as DHL and Aramex were already well-established.
UPS first ventured into the. Middle East in 1987 with import services in Bahrain and has grown rapidly since. In fact, Barber says the region is still the fastest growing.
“Our fastest growing international business unit is the Middle East,” Barber told Gulf News. “Am I happy with our Middle Eastern network? Absolutely not.”
While pleased with the region’s growth, Barber said that he plans to invest in expanding the company’s reach in the GCC, especially Saudi Arabia where “UPS has the great foundations” to participate in the coming e-commerce boom.
“We’re bullish on the Middle East in a very big way,” he said, adding that Mohammad Al Abbar’s Noon, Amazon’s Souq, and Kuwaiti retail giant Alshaya, who are increasingly present in the digital space, would “massively shape the e-commerce landscape over the next five years.”
“Saudi [Arabia] will be a showdown for this market in the years to come, and UPS has the great foundations there to participate in that,” Barber added. The president said that he believes the leadership in the kingdom sees UPS as a close partner.
“We have nice investments in the kingdom, [and] I spend a lot of my time supporting that,” he added.
In the UAE, UPS has been made the official logistics partner of the Expo 2020 Dubai, providing more than 27,000 square meters of warehouse space, equivalent to four football fields, and a team of 1,000 employees during the expo.
And earlier this week, the company announced that largely as a result of that partnership, it would be adding a daily direct US-UAE air cargo service operated by one of its Boeing 747s.
That came after last week’s announcement that UPS would sink US $6.5 billion (AED23.87 billion) in to improving its delivery network, which struggled during the US holiday season to accommodate the e-commerce surge, causing bottlenecks that cost the company US $125 million.
While Barber did not comment specifically on what further investments UPS will be making in the region, he said that it would be putting “some big bets down in the kingdom, maybe even this year.”
“To play in Saudi [Arabia] and Egypt, to really unlock the potential there,” would require solid partners, he added.