Please share a brief on your company and product portfolio.
Axiom Global Oil & Gas Trading DMCC is in the oil and gas sector but caters more to the marine segment. We are into the segment of bunkering, which means supplying fuel to the ships which are calling at the ports. But, of course, as the name suggests we are into the oil and gas sphere as well, where we continue to trade oil products and petroleum products either for marine or normal trading.
How important is innovation and R&D for your company, how big a part do they play in the company’s overall growth strategy?
Take the marine segment — it basically has two aspects that need to be catered to; one, the impact on environment and two, the efficiency of the engine and of the ship. There are a lot of specifications that are being researched and keeping in mind the efficiency of the engine, the speed, as well as the impact on the environment. So it’s a very important aspect and there’s a lot of research going on, on alternative fuels because as we all know that liquid fuels may not be available after some time.
What are the challenges you foresee for your sector in 2023. How is your brand planning to overcome them?
The constant challenge in the oil industry has always been the volatility of the prices. Now you see the geopolitical situation in the world, no one is untouched by that, including the oil and gas industry. But of course, there are tools available to safeguard against that volatility, to safeguard against the price risk. As such, the higher oil prices impact the shipping industry because oil accounts for 60-70 per cent of their variable cost, so it has a chain reaction on the entire supply chain. Higher oil prices means higher freights, this leads to higher prices of the end product.
Then the higher interest rate we’ve been seeing in the past few months is a challenge in terms of the working capital requirement; financing cost has gone up.
So we have taken certain measures to reduce it — we can’t say there’s no impact of these things — but we are trying to consolidate things so that we focus more on our organic growth and get less affected by these things.
With Dubai hosting COP28 this year, how is your company hoping to contribute to the nation’s climate sustainability and carbon footprint goals?
There’s time to go for that so we are working globally with media partners to see how we can go about it, but certainly we’ll be part of it and in a good way.
Satisfied staff equals satisfied customers. How do you plan to carry this narrative forward through your teams?
The first thing is we don’t treat anyone as staff here — we are all like family members, we are all co-owners of the company, so that gives everyone a sense of achievement. We are all our functional as well as HR managers, because everyone knows their role and performs for the fulfilment of the overall objectives of the company. There are three core values that I always follow and I try to tell my colleagues: hard work, consistency and forthrightness. These core values have proven its worth over time and that is how we believe and practice our company’s motto of Our Word is our Bond.
What are your company’s expansion plans over the next 5-year term?
At present we are more focused on the Indian and Middle East geography. In the Indian subcontinent, we are the industry leader and from last September, started focusing on the Middle East segment; we started physical bunkering operations in Khorfakkan and at other UAE ports. The idea is to grow at other major ports like Fujairah at an appropriate time. We are active in Iraq as well. I always believe we should look at our strengths, If our strength lies in these two markets, let us capitalise on that and then move forward.
We have two entities in the UAE; one is Axiom Global and the other is SPR Global: Sea Petroleum and Resources (other energy sources). SPR has a more focused UAE approach, and Axiom has a more global and India-centric approach.
As a corporate CEO, what is the mantra you follow while leading your teams through failure and success?
I’ll narrate a small incident that happened when I was younger and when I was working for Indian Oil Corporation. As a young management-trainee-turned officer, I had a lot of enthusiasm, and possibly like any other person of that age, I committed an act which resulted in stopping terminal operations for almost two days. My boss at the time, to my surprise didn’t put the blame on me, because he said “my intention was that the work had to be done. A person who does the work makes mistakes as well”. I practice that, and that is how everyone of our team is an entrepreneur.
And we don’t linger on the mistakes. In a work atmosphere, solutions are not written in the management books, we find them by trying, committing mistakes, and learning — it makes you a better manager. And, as I said, we help each other.
Why is the UAE the right base for your operations?
The UAE has always been a vibrant place to work and live in and with a very forward-looking leader at the helm. We see that the attention of the world is drawn towards the UAE. As the statistics show, post Covid-19, 25,000 new companies registered in the UAE, that itself shows the confidence of the world in doing business in the UAE.