Home Cyprus Interview with Andre Fernando – Chairman / Managing Director of MAC Holdings...

Interview with Andre Fernando – Chairman / Managing Director of MAC Holdings Pvt Ltd, one of the few prominent businessmen in Sri Lanka

We would like to get to know you better. What is your educational background and how long have you been in the shipping agency/ logistics / travel industry?

My Journey from co-founding Marine Transport Services Private Limited in 1995 (at 22 years) and then founding Expeditors Lanka Private Limited in 1996, the latter which progressed to be recognised as one of Sri Lanka’s largest logistics service providers.  I also founded Marine and Air Consolidation Private Limited in 1996, selling of my investment in the 1st company to my partners.

Both EI and MAC reached the pinnacle in the freight forwarding industry under my leadership, a testament to leadership traits.

As an industry expert with over 29 years of experience in the transportation industry, my humble beginnings were as an Executive for Korean Air, selling its B747 Freighter capacity and off-line passenger services in Sri Lanka. During my early career, I have gained industry knowledge through tenures at Ocean Carriers namely, Transportation Maritima Mexicana (TMM) and New Zealand Orient Lines (NZOL).

Business acumen is well complimented by the strategic vision, which is illustrated through the Growth of MAC Holdings Private Limited & its subsidiaries. Founded Marine & Air Consolidation Private Limited (renamed as MAC Supply Chain Solutions Private Limited) in 1996 and later other companies of the group.

With the company achieving sustainable growth, MAC Holdings Private Limited was incorporated in 1999 as the parent Company to hold shares of all subsidiary companies. As a result of acquisitions, the company placed its footprint into other avenues of maritime & leisure industries and is expanding its presence into other sectors such as fisheries & aquaculture, renewable energy, and other strategic investments. Hence today MAC is a true multifaceted, diverse group of companies in Sri Lanka with branches in Maldives and Bangladesh.

The ships agency division of the organisation is the oldest operating Company in the Group, Equity Services Limited, known renamed as MAC Equity Maritime Services Limited since 2016, is the cornerstone of our Business Ethos. The longevity of this sector has brought many a lesson to light and provides the Character and Values to the Group of Companies.

Equity Services Limited as it was formerly called was born through a subsidiary spin off from Carson’s Cumberbatch Company, which was formed when Carson & Company which was established in 1860, merged with Cumberbatch & Company in 1947. As a shipping agent, which has represented principles in the likes of Maersk, NYK Lines, Ismay, Imrie, Cunard Line & National Shipping Company Of Saudi Arabia for over a century, Equity Services Ltd has created a name for itself as a reliable, efficient and competent organisation which serves every commercial and fisheries port in the country.

Our Hospitality & Leisure sector, our foray into this sector was through its acquisition in the year 2008 of Luxury Travels Private Limited, which prides itself with extraordinary service to the Travel & Tour sector since 2004. The company was re-branded as MAC Travels Private Limited in 2011, with a strategic decision of expanding the company’s operating scope to align with the “Single Source Service” concept. Benefiting from corporate synergies and a comprehensive range of other services offered by MAC Holdings, this sector is now capable of offering our customers a complete destination management solutions.

Educated at both St. Peter’s College – Colombo 04 and St. Joseph’s College – Colombo 10 where i excelled in studies and sports alike. I indulged in my favourite sport cricket, where I went on to represent Colombo Colts Cricket Club from 1992-1995 and Colombo Cricket Club in 1996. Further, my keen sense of debt to my Alma Mater has propelled me to continuously engage with school fundraising projects, where, I have raised several Million rupees of funding for the school development projects.

My industry experience has been recognised by several industry organisations to drive progress in many challenging environments. They are as follow.

  • Immediate past Chairman/founder and a member of the executive board of the Sri Lanka Logistics Providers Association.
  • Executive committee member of Sri Lanka freight Forwarders Association.
  • Life member of the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors.
  • Member of the International Chamber of Commerce.
  • Member of the Sri Lanka Shippers Council executive committee.
  • Member of the Japan Sri Lanka Technical and Cultural Association.
  • Member of American Chamber of Commerce.
  • Member of European Chamber of Commerce.
  • Member of Indo-Lanka Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
  • Chairman of the ECCSL Market Access Team (MAT) Tourism committee
  • Immediate past President of Sri Lanka Greater Mekong Sub Region Business Council (representing Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia & Laos)
  • Executive Committee Member – Sri Lanka France Business Council, Sri Lanka Philippines Business Council, Sri Lanka Korea Business Council, Sri Lanka Japan Business Council and Sri Lanka Russia Business Council.
  • Chairman of the shipping & Aviation committee of National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka.

How would you describe the MAC Group Holdings Vision and Mission? What is your recipe for success of the MAC Group? Please give us an overview of the services provided by the company.

Our vision is “To be a corporate entity truly admired by all stakeholders” that we engaged in. With a mission to be a multifaceted group of companies, renowned and respected for its diversified commercial interests and value offerings to its clients and all other stakeholders, championing ‘innovation, dynamism, and sustainable growth’ as core drivers across all businesses / sectors. We strive on our core values “Respect, Integrity, Accountability, Trust, innovation, and CSER which signifies our presence over another.

We are amongst the privileged few, who can talk about an acquired history spanning over 150 years. As with many journeys of such length, MAC and its predecessors have taken many shapes to adapt to conditions and adopt changing business practices. However, our desire to provide unparalleled and comprehensive service to our customers, and innovation, has remained consistent throughout this journey.

It is said that first impressions last a lifetime. We approach all our stakeholder relationships with a single focus. From the very first moment of contact with us, one unmistakable characteristic tagged to us is the embodiment of our corporate ideology that is represented in the statement; “We cannot spell Success without you”.

This ideology is, why we do, what we do and the reason for our success in our sphere of operations. Our definition of “You” encapsulates our customers, our partners, our service providers, our team, the environment and the community around us.

We strongly believe that success cannot be enjoyed alone, and we are dedicated to sharing our success with you. This approach to our business, instils into the MAC Family, a strong focus on customer service, strong corporate governance, and an unwavering commitment to social responsibility.

You founded MAC Group in Sri Lanka and over the years, MAC Group became one of the top Shipping Agency/ Logistics / Travel companies in Sri Lanka. How did you achieve this success? What makes Mac Group different than its competitors? Where does this idea of creating a receptive shipping agency come from?

Our history provides character, connectivity, and confidence to the MAC group to venture into business sectors with a bold vision and conviction. Our strong commercial foundations and our long-standing global relationships have also permitted us to expand our presence to countries such as Bangladesh. Maldives, and agency partnerships in Pakistan and India.

The secret of our success is an employee profit sharing format which has been in force since its inception.

As we provide products, services and solutions in the varied sectors, MAC differentiates itself through customisation, innovation and one-stop offerings to our discerning customers. The Global Economy places great demands on our customers to be agile and cost effective. These Business Goals are not easily achieved if economies of scale, consistency and reliability are not forthcoming.  The traditional approach of partnering with a large number of suppliers to achieve these objectives have not borne fruit to many corporates and we now observe a drive towards single source partnerships. Hence, our ability to provide a wide range of services, with solutions created to match customer’s individual requirements places MAC, at a strong partnership position with our customers. We continue to innovate and bring solutions to the market which help customers face the ever-changing conditions of global business.

Further, our efforts have not gone unnoticed. We have been recognised with several industry awards which gives us pride, a sense of achievement and impetus to strive harder to achieve greater standards. Some of the awards received are the EDB (Export Development Board), NCE (National Chamber of Exporters) Awards, Airline Awards, Ocean Carrier Awards and Global Commerce Excellence Awards.

How much did MAC Group grow in 2019 and what are the expectations in 2020 taking into consideration the current situation with COVID-19?

In the year under review, I am pleased to say that we have managed to maintain a consistent level of growth as a company and as a group amidst the challenging business environment during the 2018/19 financial year. The MAC Group’s revenue growth records over Rs. 1 billion with and top line growth of 42% which is the highest revenue recorded to date in the Group’s History. The Net profit recorded growth of 115% which reflects an organic growth. This will no doubt help us to further strengthen and strategise business opportunities in the future.

The company is constantly looking forward to expand and enhance the scope of business and had made significant strides in International transportation business and is now gearing to exploit new opportunities in identified areas of interest and the conducive environment that prevails for business especially with the Covid-19 pandemic .

However, we do and have lower that budgeted results as a result of effects to our business due to Easter Sunday carnage in April 2019, the loss of a 20 year partnership in freight and logistics due to its acquisition by a shipping giant.

 

Technology is growing faster than ever. What is your position regarding new technology on ships especially in dry docking? Do you think the Shipping Industry will be able to adapt? Do you follow technological developments as you continue to grow MAC Group?

Technology is growing too fast that people cannot cope with it. Most smart technology companies are making high profits at the mercy of us customers. Sometimes we are being held ransom to their demands. MAC has invested in technology advancement to cater to our varied sectors.

I must mention that the weakest industries that embraces technology remains to be airline and shipping companies. I think one need to look at concentrate on developing many software for various segments of these industry.

The ship maintenance industry is lagging. I think there was a clear dragged down dry docking by broken communication and manual work – all of which was getting in the way of actual ship maintenance. This is the reason a software was established: to make technology so intuitive and impactful that people in ship maintenance want to use it.  However, one must ensure that these software manufacturers does not control us, but we control them.

 

The introduction of new regulations that are affecting the renewal of the world fleet, does this facilitates or impairs your work?

I assume you are referring IMO 2020 regulation. Since it is a common regulation for the entire industry, we as a service provider do not see any major impact.  However, we believe it will impact very positively for the environment.

 

This year MAC Group completes 24 years of existence. Describe the greatest milestones of your company from 1996 to date.

The 24 year journey have nothing but been memorable and exciting with new millstones and achimenes under our belt. One of the significant achievements have been the acquisition of Equity Services Limited the former Carson & Company. With this, we now boast a 150 year acquired history in a subsidiary company.

As a mere 22 year old, when I got the EI (Expeditors) agency it was a challenge which was bestowed upon me with high expectations. But I produced positive results. Being successful at a very young age gave me the confidence and capability to venture into new ventures eventually.

My success and performance at both Expeditors (EI) & MAC Supply Chain Solutions is a testimony of dedication and commitment which have paved the way for each of its success.

Further, our efforts have not gone unnoticed. We have been recognised with several industry awards which gives us pride, a sense of achievement and impetus to strive harder to achieve greater standards. Some of the awards received are the Presidential Export Award as the highest Value-Added Exporter – Entrepot Trade Sector in 2016 (Under MAC Supply Chain Solutions subsidiary of MAC HOLDINGS PVT LTD), NCE (National Chamber of Exporters) Awards, Airline Awards and Global Commerce Excellence Award.

 

What benefits does your organisation offer as incentives to join? Have you invested in social responsibility activities to promote the image of your company?

As a company policy we provide many incentives to our entice our workforce. They are intrinsic and extrinsic benefits which are annual bonus, half year performance bonus (Twice a year), Personal Accident Insurance, Surgical Insurance, mobile Reimbursement (Monthly), medical    reimbursement (Monthly) and especially job security by been financially sound and stable entity.

MAC, views Sustainability in a holistic manner and hence takes initiatives on areas which have immediate as well as future impact. To this effect, we have identified areas of focus and have demonstrated our passion through a large portfolio of activities which have encompassed Education, “Green” Initiatives, Health, Community Development, Environment and Disaster Relief.

We believe strongly believes in the age old saying of “Charity begins at home”. Hence our CSER programs start with our own team, our facilities, our partners and the greater community at large. We bring strong commitment across all of stakeholders through Education, Support, Charity and Advocacy to all areas of engagement.

A selection of Initiatives completed by MAC Holdings is listed below.

Green Initiatives
  • Global Warming education programs at School Assemblies
  • Public Education on proper waste management
  • Solar Street Lighting pilot project in Nugegoda
  • Clean Beach City Program Public Private Partnership – to ensure clean beach – MEPA (Marine Environmental Protection Authority)
Disaster Relief
  • Distribution of flood relief to villagers in Galpoththegama
  • Distribution of dry rations to Anuradhapura flood victims
Education
  • Distribution of school provisions to children of three armed forces at Colombo port
  • Refurbishing and renovating a rural school building in Embilipitiya
Community Development
  • Reinstalling & Refurbishing of “Nanasala Computer Centre”
  • Padaviya – Refurbishment of sanitary facilities for rural school children
  • Ambilipitiya – Supply of clean drinking water and
Health
  • Restoring & Refurbishing of Kalubowila Hospital Ward No. 3
  • Blood Donation Campaign

 

The Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry and the Cyprus Shipping Chamber are trying their best to promote Cyprus to become an international hub for shipping. As a shipping related service provider will you consider MAC Group entering the Cyprus Shipping market and opening an office in Cyprus?

A lot of countries want to be international hubs in shipping including ours. Being a proud Sri Lankan, my home base would not change from here. However, looking at the business benefits a marketing office in Cyprus could definitely be on the cards.

How would you describe Sri Lanka? Make us dream about this beautiful country that is not so well known to Cypriots.

A pear shaped holiday paradise which tested by time to time with grave challenges, yet to risen as strong as ever.

A destination which showers love, hospitality and flooded with excitements.

A hotspot for every type of traveller which enables each and every one to live a wonderful dream.

So Why Not Sri Lanka?

A proud kingdom which hosts UNESCO sites, a wonderland with green dreams, a pearly island which hosts marvellous and picture square beaches which guard and fight the oncoming darkness and an awesome destination which operates scenic train rides and safe and sound wild safaris.

This is a perfect escape which is blessed with tropical climate allowing the country to be a year around destination.

Sri Lanka has become the favourite destination to travel around the world in many blogs and travel magazines. With amazing ballooning experiences which allows you to rise and shine with the beams of sun where you can soar with your loved ones witnessing a panoramic greenery views of “Taprobane” and blissful countryside in cultural triangle which hides the shacky vestiges of Sri Lanka that depicts the grandeur of 2000 years of history.

The most scenic and epic train rides which introduces to evergreen cliffs, tea plantations and pristine beaches that allows to savour a flavourful memory while the breeze kissing your cheeks, a perfect landscape to the adrenaline junkies to embark on a thrilling adventure in Sri Lanka’s first ever mega dula zip line awaits you. A country with many celebrations of rich traditions and culture which enables you to eye an entertaining performances of the grandeur of Sri Lankan Kandyan dancers , a space which share the opportunity to flavour a mouth watering menus in our restaurants and hotels which plant the savour of Sri Lankan Cuisine forever…..

Sri Lanka has become the famous dwelling place that hunt through the map by travllers who wish to be marooned on their own which totally respect the delicious privacy while wiping the miseries off.

So why not Sri Lanka?

Interview: By Stella Violari