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Denzil standing in an office

Denzil, CEO, DB Schenker South Africa

Denzil is the CEO for DB Schenker in South Africa – where he has been with the organization for over 30 years.

In a recent conversation with him, we asked him all about his journey so far at DB Schenker, his thoughts on the changing landscape of logistics in South Africa given the COVID-19 pandemic, and his take on what it takes to be a good leader. Here are the highlights of the interview.

Sometimes the best 'you' have is not enough. You’ll find 'the best' by working together.

Portrait of Denzil

Denzil, CEO, DB Schenker South Africa

Starting at the beginning, Denzil, when did your career at DB Schenker start?
In September 1984, I started as a Customs Pay-In clerk. In today’s terms, this title or position doesn’t even exist anymore, but basically, I was a messenger and had to drive twice per day to submit all payments and documents to SARS (South African Revenue Service) for customs clearances. And before you ask, yes, it was all manual in those days. We even used carbon paper to get our copies.

36 years later, and you are at the helm of DB Schenker South Africa. What has been your career progression over the years?
Well, in 1992, I was appointed as the Volkswagen Delegate in operations, and two years later, I was promoted into my first managerial position. I moved to Port Elizabeth with my family and opened the DB Schenker Port Elizabeth branch. I spent seven years in Port Elizabeth, which we enjoyed. In 1999, I moved back to Johannesburg in a Contract Logistics and Automotive project role. It wasn’t long after that that I moved into the General Manager position for Air and Ocean. In 2004, I was promoted into the Chief Operations Officer position. This was already a great achievement, so when I was promoted again in 2011 to the Chief Executive Officer position, this was extraordinary. And ten years later, I’m still here!

In your opinion, what personality traits make a good leader?
Humility and empathy, the ability to be realistic about your expectations and objectives, being dedicated and committed to a specific cause.

How would you describe DB Schenker in one word?

Having come out of 2020, what do you think is the single most important company trait that will ensure DB Schenker’s success over the next two years?
This I will take from our values – Working Together.

What do you think are the biggest challenges our industry will face in the next five years?
We’re not the most innovative industry, so keeping pace with our customers will be challenging. Keeping up with their rate of change and being ahead of their expectations will be a battle.

In which sectors do you expect to see the most growth over the next decade, both globally and locally?
Renewable and alternative energy like solar. It is already one of the fastest-growing industries, admittedly, off a low base.

Denzil standing in front of an office building

How do you see the logistics industry changing in the coming ten years?
I believe we will see a few more significant mergers and acquisitions, which will create consolidations amongst the competition. I think this is going to start happening at a faster rate compared to what we have experienced. Data and technology are going to progress and evolve even more rapidly, which will have a major impact on logistics – we’re seeing this already, and there’s definitely more to come. We’re also going to see more adventurous strategies – if you’re not thinking of different ways of doing things, you’ll be left behind.

In your opinion, what is the key to DB Schenker’s success in South Africa?
Well, this is a combination of the brand coupled with a reliable team. Neither one of these components will be successful on its own, they must work hand-in-hand. The brand is bigger than us, but its the people that make the brand successful.

What part do you think robotics will play in the logistics industry in the next ten years in South Africa?
Tough question, I know it is going to be significant. The routine and mundane tasks like data capture or manual picking will be nonexistent. It’s because of this that we’ll need to protect and evolve our workforce.

Do you think we’re going to see driverless vehicles in South Africa anytime soon?
No, not anytime soon. There is still too much infrastructural development that we need as a country.

If you were to give an inspiring quote to the DB Schenker team, what would it be?
Sometimes the best “you” have is not enough. You’ll find “the best” by working together.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Working with people who have different agendas and not focused on the business objectives.

What part of your job do you love the most?
Having the opportunity to face different and new challenges daily, the variety is vital for me.

What do you do for fun, outside of work, of course?
I am quite sporty; I enjoy playing soccer and going to the gym. I’ll hardly turn down an opportunity to play some volleyball, but I am also a family man, so spending time with my family is very important.

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