For over forty years D.B. Group has been managing international shipping, customs consulting, and logistics. With 48 branches in the world, D.B. Group is constantly expanding, especially within Southeast Asia. With the opening of a branch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, D.B. Group combines the skills of Italian entrepreneurship with local experience and culture.
Thailand-based, Giuseppe de Peppo, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, tells us about the success of the company and its experience in Cambodia.
Every company has an idea behind it that its founders want to realise. What is the idea behind D.B. Group?
D.B. Group was founded in 1980, when the brothers Vittorino and Valter De Bortoli decided to start a transport company in Montebelluna, in the province of Treviso. Their international vocation and desire for growth abroad soon led them to sell their transportation assets and focus on overseas markets, such as Japan and the United States.
Despite having 600 employees, the company remains true to its roots, whose goal is to continue to expand and improve its services, while understanding customer needs and market trends.
What factors led the company to success?
With a current turnover of US$200 million, the vision of the two founders was essential to the success of D.B. Group. But also, the ability to recruit the right people, such as Silvia Moretto, appointed CEO in 2009, who grew within the company, gaining a deep knowledge of the sector and excellent managerial skills. Both brothers are still active in the company today while the second generation is joining them on the board of directors.
What are your motivations for investing in Cambodia?
Cambodia has growth potential. It is located strategically in Southeast Asia for the flow of markets worldwide; it has a seaport in Sihanoukville, and on the river with the port of Phnom Penh.Giuseppe De Peppo
What market do you target?
In Cambodia, we deal with local import customers and foreign companies who manufacture in Cambodia and export abroad. We work a lot with apparel manufacturers and footwear sectors, with clientele in the luxury segment as well.
What are the three key markets for your company?
Italy, the United States, and Spain are the top three export markets for our company.
What services do you offer to your customers in Cambodia?
With the support of our Phnom Penh branch, we follow sea and air shipments, import-export, and customs activities together with deliveries. We offer 360-degree support, assisting our customers in every phase of the shipments and logistics and customs process.
We also deal with triangulations. For example, if a Thai customer buys from Italy and in turn resells the goods in Cambodia, we coordinate between our offices for his goods to transit directly to the destination country.
We also offer a reporting service: we monitor the cargo throughout the shipment, to prevent theft during transport.
What is your advantage over your competitors in Cambodia?
Our added value is our country office, this is a great business asset. Many freight forwarders have agents in Cambodia, but no office. By having a local presence, we have better local knowledge, build working relationships with customs and receive better rates.
Can you tell us how your logistics process works?
In lay terms, we work as a travel agency, we are intermediaries in the organisation of logistics processes. Transport architects are perhaps the definition that helps to understand our expertise. We help clients navigate the complexities of shipping processes, booking, regulations, customs and we take on the associated risks. By pooling together bookings from multiple clients, we also have greater negotiating power. We don’t own any means of transportation, but we book space with airlines, shipping companies, and land companies with whom we have long-term relationships. We also own warehouses in some destinations to store materials or manage logistics activities directly.
As the world looks more and more towards sustainability and respect for the environment, how is your company doing?
Corporate Social Responsibility activities are important for our company. Every day we try to implement concrete actions that can allow sustainable growth not only of our company but of the market in general.
For example, in 2020 on the 40th anniversary of the company we donated a tree to each of our employees. 1030 trees were planted in four countries, Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya, and Haiti, reducing CO2 emissions by 147 tonnes.
What are the challenges in working here in Cambodia?
Road connections are still lacking. For example, it takes a truck up to 9 hours to cover 243km from the port of Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh. Cambodian customs, like most Asian countries, is also complex, with restrictive rules on imports, yet more flexible on exports.
And the opportunities?
There are only a few of us in our industry with less than ten shipping companies operating internationally here. Cambodia is a country with great potential, with room to grow and develop.
It has a very young and growing population; the up-and-coming middle class will have new needs to satisfy. Compared to Italy, there are fewer barriers to entry and more streamlined bureaucratic procedures in opening a business.
What do you think about the EU sanctions regarding the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement?
If applied in their entirety, these sanctions could lead to many European companies moving their operations elsewhere and causing major disinvestments in the country. The sanctions represent an additional challenge, both for companies already there and for future companies that wish to invest in the country. For Cambodia trade to Europe is crucial.
Addressing the topic of the pandemic. How has it impacted your company?
The transport sector has suffered less than others from the pandemic: logistics has always been at the forefront to enable the supply of products worldwide. However, we had to adapt learning to work remotely. We were already using smart working, but now even meetings between our regional offices take place exclusively via video call.
Can you give three practical tips to adopt for those wanting to open a business in Cambodia?
I would suggest consulting a good lawyer, especially for the initial paperwork.
To know how to keep the business in perfect order as there are annual audits. Do not look for shortcuts but try to do everything by the book.
Finally, invest and work on human resources and create value with people.
Last question… what outlook do you see for the post-pandemic future?
When the pandemic ends, we should experience an upscale in consumption so new market opportunities. Cambodia will be an interesting place to invest. There are few international companies, competition is minimal and there is still room for new companies.
📷 D.B. Group