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Global trade is in the spotlight more than ever, and India can play its part in taming inflation and mitigating supply chain disruptions as it continues to be a powerful driver of economic growth, John Pearson, DHL Express’ global chief executive, said in an interview. South Asia is expected to rapidly increase its share of global trade, with India likely to double its trade volume growth rate within five years. Global logistics player DHL Express has identified India as a key market for growth in a post-pandemic world and has decided to invest more in the country besides raising its logistics play globally, he added. Edited excerpts:

We have just gotten over a prolonged period of pandemic and multiple phases of disruptions. What lessons have you learnt from these trying times?

The best learning experience from the pandemic came by way of realisation how important and amazing human resources we had among ourselves. So, we invested in people. When you are in the services business, unless you have amazing people working for you, managing any challenging situation would be difficult. We have been lucky on this front, and it ensured all operations functioned smoothly, and also scaled up, as we witnessed 10 times rise in movement of our aviation network. The group company Deutsche Post DHL has an amazingly strong balance sheet and has been ever- ready to support people first. We also learnt that we have a great leadership team across regions and countries, who get the messages immediately and the decisions taken are implemented quickly.

So, is the worst over? Are we heading for better times now?

I am not an epidemiologist, but I can say that the pandemic has created opportunity for DP DHL. There were no aircraft and there was no supply chain resilience that people could necessarily find. That in itself was an opportunity. DHL Express has never done an EBIT result with a 3 in it. We were €2 billion or so, and then we were at €4 billion something. That shows the extent to which we were growing even during the pandemic. So, post-pandemic, if we were to say so, the year started with Russia invading Ukraine, then we have China lockdowns and in between we also faced the energy crisis. We have a looming recession and inflation. So sure, that puts a little bit of wet towel over the business, but businesses are amazingly resilient. So, I’d say we’re going to bury it now. The sun is not shining as brightly as it should. That’s very clear. How long that will last... I was looking back at the global financial crisis. We had negative shipment growth for about a year or slightly longer during the financial crisis, besides negative wage growth for less than a year. How this plays out now, we don’t know. But we hope that by spring—and we are seeing some good signals again—the world will start writing itself again.

Where is India in DHL Express’ scheme of things?

India is a jewel in the crown and has performed extremely well during covid. The fact is India has a strong market leadership position. We’re in a very good place to capitalize on the opportunities, being a pan-India company. India’s performance has been extraordinary during covid and is still very strong. That’s why we’re expanding operations and having to open new facilities in Bengaluru and Faridabad and planning an air site facility in Mumbai.

How is India faring in today’s global marketplace as per DHL’s Trade Growth Atlas?

DP DHL has big four themes on their desk: they are globalization, E-commerce, digitalization and sustainability. So, the globalization pays into DHL Express India. This is because we have released the global trade Atlas on the back of our global connectedness index. And India, along with Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia is a clear winner from a sort of China plus one or economic trade growth forecast.

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