Congratulations on your commemorative year! Please share a bit of history on the company, when did Polar Star set up base and why did it choose the UAE for its operations?
Rustam Mukhamedov (RM), Managing Partner, Commercial: Polar Star Logistics was founded on a special day 10 years ago, in the 11th month of the year, on November 11, 2011. Considering how fortunate the brand has been in enjoying a favourable growth trajectory since, we at Polar Star Logistics have enough reasons to believe our founding date to be lucky in more ways than one. We decided to set up base in the UAE as the world sees the Nation as a land of opportunity, a place where dreams are brought to life.
What possibly takes a lifetime for many to achieve in other parts of the world has often been realised by UAE residents within the shortest of time frames. This is all thanks to the UAE Leadership and its initiatives that helped promote and build this amazing ecosystem for a Nation and its People to dream big and make the impossible possible. However, I have always told my friends that to dream big is alright, but patience is a virtue as well. To realise a dream may take time, and you need to be confident and determined to see it through.
Dubai is the perfect place to set up and do business because of the regulations that are in place for the logistics sector to thrive. There are few cities in the world that can rival Dubai in terms of the convenience it provides businesses to expand and grow.
The ideology behind the founding of Polar Star Logistics was to create a brand that was not just commercially viable but one that also helped to give back to the people, while simultaneously building bridges, for communities and nations. In business terms, we have always seen the UAE as a global logistics hub, with close to 60 per cent of the world’s population being just four to five hours away.
The amazing connectivity, through air, sea and land is a huge plus as well, with options to move almost anything to just about every global destination. Both Alex [Alexander Bulygin] and I came to the UAE after being hired by Emirates Airline and that’s how we met. The knowledge that we both gained while working across multiple departments at the airline, helped us gain valuable insights into the logistics business and in our journey to later strike out on our own and set up Polar Star Logistics.
Alexander Bulygin (AB), Managing Partner, Business Development: I was always fascinated by planes and the movement of passengers and cargo. My stint, alongwith Rustam, at Emirates helped me observe the logistics of cargo movement and the planning, processes and sheer number of people it took to put passengers as well as cargo into the air and help them reach their destinations safely and on schedule. Setting up Polar Star Logistics was just the next logical step that we could think of. Dubai is also the perfect place to set up and do business because of the regulations that are in place for the sector to thrive, as well as the ease of doing business that the Emirate enjoys. There are few cities in the world that can rival Dubai in terms of the convenience it provides businesses to grow.
How mature is the UAE logistics industry and how is it helping Polar Star make its mark?
RM: The sector has matured over the years to the extent that the UAE is essentially considered a logistics hub by the world today. The markets are well regulated, helping businesses to function efficiently, as Alex will attest. However, what is equally important is that the UAE Government is open to new ideas and ways of functioning that will enable work processes to be made even smoother.
For instance, the recent TIR carnet (international road transport) guideline, announced by the UAE Government in May this year, allows for facilitated movement of goods between GCC countries. GCC-based businesses therefore can benefit from the implementation of the TIR by the UAE through reduction of administrative and financial burdens, swift border crossing of goods, and a reduction in custom inspection of goods.
The UAE Government has facilitated ease of business across sectors including logistics. Excellent market regulations and the willingness to open channels of communication and understand the needs of businesses have only helped the UAE flourish as a global business hub.
The UAE is constantly looking out for new ideas and are open to discussion with public and private sector stakeholders to see this through. Dubai Customs regulations are also super-efficient with backend processes and the movement of goods being facilitated 24/7, an amazing functionality that ought to be adapted by other nations.
AB: Market regulations, as Rustom summarised, are critical for the efficient functioning of the logistics sector considering how enmeshed its facets are with sectoral regulations worldwide, and they are on point here in the UAE. The Nation is also a conduit between the world’s eastern and western hemispheres, and has taken advantage of its unique geographical location between Asia and Africa and the European nations, to facilitate the movement of goods. This is aided by the amazing connectivity it provides stakeholders through air, sea and land. All these factors allow the UAE logistics sector to be perceived as an exceedingly mature vertical.
As managing partners of Polar Star, what are the main challenges that you both face while aiding the company to expand operations?
AB: For a growing company such as ours, I feel one of the main challenges would always lie in hiring the right people. As the company grows and processes get added and the logistics of growth itself becomes more complex, we require the right kind of staff we can delegate work to with confidence. An organisation is as good as its people and I am happy to say this brand is where it is thanks to its staff.
RM: I am averse to companies deciding to go big from the word get go, spending big to capitalise on market movements and rake in profits without a thought for their teams. Such companies shut down rather quickly leading to unfortunate redundancies and a rise in the average attrition rate for respective sectors. One of the challenges for a growing company such as Polar Star, therefore is to pace ourselves and grow while keeping the best interests of our team and our valued clients at heart.
What was your business plan during the pandemic months, considering the global logistics sector took a hit in 2020-21?
RM: To put it succinctly, when life gives you lemons, you need to make lemonade. As the world went into lockdown in March last year with the onset of Covid, we went to work. Weeks into the lockdown, the logistics sector was announced as a critical sector by the UAE Government, allowing for the movement of goods while ensuring stakeholders continued to abide by Covid regulations. An important move that Polar Star made at the time was to build bridges between nations, allowing for essentials to be shipped and traded during the lockdown months. We helped keep trade channels open between the UAE and Central Asia, by arranging for two freight carriers to transport essential commodities to Uzbekistan.
With the help of respective governments, we then opened up road networks to Uzbekistan’s four land locked neighbouring nations to supply essential goods to their citizens. The good wishes and shared sense of goodwill we received from the UAE Government as well as Central Asian governments as a part of this move has been heartening.
AB: During our presence in the Central Asian belt, we also helped set up a conduit between China and Germany by setting up charter flights and using Germany as an entry point to transport much needed personal protection equipment and medicines to the European countries. Our local office in Germany helped transport the essentials by road to the other European countries. I am happy that Polar Star was constantly on the ball, with quick decisions made by management helping us facilitate the movement of essentials so they reached those who required them the most during a time of crisis. It was an amazing CSR initiative, aided in large part with support from the UAE Government as well as the respective governments of the other countries we reached out to.
The logistics industry is highly competitive, both locally and globally. How important is it to keep pace with technological advances to help your brand stay ahead of the curve?
RM: I can’t stress enough on how critical technology is to our sector. Our very survival depends on us staying updated with the most recent advances in technology and logistics software. The difference of a few mere seconds can act as a yardstick to measure how efficiently cargo is delivered these days, helping build or erode goodwill as the case may be. At Polar Star, I am happy to note that we have an excellent IT team that highlights these requirements in timely fashion, allowing the management to make decisions that ultimately profit the brand.
AB: To be brief, in the logistics sector, we can’t reach our customers on time if our logistics systems are outdated, and to stay in sync with the times, we need the right tools and equipment, both software and hardware to ensure we reach our valued clients in time. That technology plays a large part in the fortunes of the logistics sector is a fact that cannot be ignored.
The UAE has been extremely supportive of entrepreneurial ambition and drive. How has this helped Polar Star Logistics’ cause to be a leading player in the logistics sector?
RM: Summing up what Alex and I said earlier, the UAE Government has facilitated ease of business across sectors including logistics. Excellent market regulations and the willingness to open channels of communication to understand the needs of businesses and be open to feedback have only helped the UAE to flourish as a business hub for the region and the world. Benefiting from these positives, a company such as Polar Star is keen to grow and continue making credible impact in the areas that matter, helping communities to flourish and building bridges between nations.
For more information on Polar Star Logistics and its service portfolio visit https://www.polarstargroup.com/