For over forty years, D.B. Group has managed international shipping, customs consulting, and logistics. With 48 branches globally, D.B. Group is constantly expanding, especially within Southeast Asia. With the opening of a branch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the 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 realize. What is the concept behind the 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. However, 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 expanding and improving 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. As a result, both brothers are still active 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.
What market do you target?
In Cambodia, we deal with local import customers and foreign companies who manufacture in Cambodia and export abroad. In addition, we work a lot with apparel manufacturers and footwear sectors, with clientele in the luxury segment.
What are the three key markets for your company?
Italy, the United States, and Spain are our company’s top three export markets.
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 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 competitive advantage in Cambodia?
Our greatest business asset is our country office. Many freight forwarders have agents in Cambodia but no office. As a result, we have better local knowledge, build working relationships with customs, and receive better rates by having a local presence.
Can you tell us how your logistics process works?
We work as a travel agency. We are intermediaries in the organisation of logistics processes. 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 directly store materials or manage logistics activities.
What is your approach towards sustainability and respect for the environment?
Corporate Social Responsibility activities are essential for our company. Every day, we try to implement concrete actions that can allow sustainable growth of our company and the market in general.
For example, in 2020, on the company’s 40th anniversary, we donated a tree to each of our employees. As a result, 1030 trees were planted in Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya, and Haiti, reducing CO2 emissions by 147 tonnes.
What are the challenges in working 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. Like most Asian countries, Cambodian customs are also complex, with restrictive rules on imports yet more flexible on exports.
And the opportunities?
Cambodia has great potential, with room to grow and develop, particularly in the international logistic sector. For example, only ten or so shipping companies are operating internationally here. Compared to Italy, there are fewer entry barriers and more streamlined bureaucratic procedures in opening a business.
It has a very young and growing population. Therefore, the up-and-coming middle class will have new needs to satisfy.
What do you think about the E.U. sanctions regarding the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement?
The sanctions represent an additional challenge both for companies already in Cambodia and for future companies that wish to invest in the country If applied in their entirety, these sanctions could lead to many European companies moving their operations elsewhere and causing significant country disinvestment.
What suggestions would you give to companies wanting to invest in Cambodia?
I would suggest consulting a good lawyer, especially for the initial paperwork. Do not look for shortcuts but try to do everything by the book. There are annual audits, so you need to keep the business in perfect order. Finally, invest and work on human resources and create value with people.
Last question. How do you see the future?
The transport sector has suffered less than others from the pandemic: logistics has always been at the forefront to supply products worldwide. Overall I am optimistic I believe, regardless of the pandemic, Cambodia will remain to be an exciting place to invest. There are few international companies, minimal competition, and there is still room for new companies to enter the market.
📷 D.B. Group