Hunicorn joined Conqueror in August 2012 covering Budapest and then 4 months later took on Koper in Slovenia. Peter Schlembach, Hunicorn’s CEO, recently shared his thoughts on the challenges Freight Forwarders globally are facing and what their strategy is for meeting these challenges head on.
Q. Could you tell me a little about Hunicorn’s history and when you became involved with the company?
Hunicorn was established in 1991 and I was there from the very beginning. Prior to Hunicorn, I worked in the overseas department of Masped, the only freight forwarder (state-owned) in Hungary during the socialist times. Once the opportunities for privatization opened up, Hunicorn was born! Over the past 22 years, as a company, we have had our ups and downs like everyone else. We became ISO certified in 1998, started airfreight in 1998 and overseas LCL at the dawn of the Millennium. Since then, we have grown year on year. Last year we opened our new office in Koper and are planning another in Prague. 2012 also saw the launch of two new services for us; dangerous goods and personal effects.
Q. On Hunicorn’s website, it proudly states that Hunicorn is 100% Hungarian owned. Why, in your opinion, is it so important to emphasise this?
A. In Hungary, the multinationals have bought and are in control of almost everything or at least that’s how it feels, but the reality isn’t that far off with them having the monopoly in most markets, freight forwarding included. Many small and medium sized Hungarian foreign trading companies, shippers and consignees are not happy with the services these multinationals provide and as a result they prefer to use the services of Hungarians. So it is important to let our clients, both current and potential, know that we are not controlled or influenced by foreign powers!
Q. In your opinion, what are the current challenges facing independent forwarders such as Hunicorn, both in your country and worldwide?
That is a very good question. We have had students from the Foreign Trading University, who are studying logistics and who come to us for experience and to write their final dissertations and many of them have chosen just this issue you are asking about. The answer to this question is clear, the multinationals. We have to fight the multinationals who have better global contracts with carriers, more money to finance their business and who take all the business on offer from international companies such as Nokia, RIM, Samsung, Phillips, Unilever, car manufacturers etc.
Q. Clearly the multinationals aren’t too much of a challenge for Hunicorn, as the company is now over 20 years old and is going from strength to strength. What is the secret to Hunicorn’s success and how does it meet the challenge of the multinationals?
A. The only chance we have for success is by providing a high quality personalised service. Thankfully, not all clients are interested in the cheapest ‘solution.’ Everywhere, everything has its price and of course we cannot be the most expensive. We have learnt that if the price difference between us and the multinationals is over a certain level we will lose. Anything below that level and the customers are happy with us and over time, as we increase our volumes, we are able to offer better and better rates thus narrowing the gap. Furthermore, I have come to realise that Hunicorn alone will never actually be enough in certain fields of freight forwarding. This is why we have found strategic partners who, although technically our competitors, are also suffering at the dominant hands of the multinationals. We know that if we join forces, we can fight them!
Q. Hunicorn joined Conqueror 6 months ago, what initially attracted you to Conqueror as opposed to other networks?
A. We receive many recruiting emails from many networks every week. I am of the opinion that if a network is serious enough, there is no need to recruit new members like this. Actually, by sending these emails, they are saying they don’t care who joins, they are just interested in collecting the annual membership fee and that’s it! Conqueror seemed different especially because of its very serious application process. Plus, in the past, we had worked with some Conqueror agents and our experience was positive. When we began investigating, we saw that there were opportunities for us in Central Europe which is where we are currently opening new offices.
Q. I know that you and your network coordinator, Mihály Csapucha, are both attending our meeting in Bangkok this May. How do you think Hunicorn will benefit from your attendance?
A. We believe that Hunicorn will benefit a lot from the two of us attending this meeting. I strongly believe it will signal Hunicorn’s firm establishment in Conqueror. Exchanging hundreds of emails, even with our best customers, cannot compare to visiting them in person because it is during these face to face encounters that new issues come up. Our aims are to introduce ourselves and to meet as many members as possible and to discover their abilities and needs. We are sure that after the meeting our cooperation with individual members will grow!
With its eyes open to the challenges faced by freight forwarding companies, Hunicorn is ready for the fight!
We invite all members with shipments from/to Budapest and Koper to get in touch with the Hunicorn team.
Peter Schlembach / CEO