My friends tell me that I am naïve. They are spot-on right. I’m a real fan of old-fashioned values – loyalty, for instance. And I am delighted to report that it’s alive and well at one South African transport operator …
The company to which I refer is Bakers SA Limited (it used to be called Bakers Transport). It’s a family-owned company headquartered in Pietermaritzburg, and it’s also a benchmark in our industry. The Tayob family members do things professionally and extremely well.
Its name is derived from Aboobaker Tayob, who started the company, of which he is now chairman, with a small fleet of second-hand International trucks. That was back in the 1970s. Once the business could afford a new truck, Tayob bought a Mercedes-Benz – and today the fleet is made up exclusively of trucks bearing the three-pointed star.
Last month (April), the company took delivery of 101 Actros truck tractors (41 are additions to the fleet, 60 units are fleet updates) – and I grabbed the opportunity for some time with Abdul Tayob, son of Aboobaker and chief executive of Bakers. He’s a remarkably humble man, who has established a logistics business that is right up there with the world’s best.
Kobus van Zyl, executive director Daimler Trucks and Buses Southern Africa, says that one of the reasons for the company’s success is its focus on people. “I have not come across a business that is so people focused. It was no surprise to me that Bakers was the first company to implement our Trucking Wellness programme. Since then, other companies have followed, but no other company has implemented the programme with such strong support from management,” he tells FOCUS.
According to Van Zyl, Bakers has also done a superb job of growing its brand. “The company has a strategic director who is responsible for the brand – that is extremely unusual in a family business. Also, the trucks are used to maximum effect to promote the Bakers brand,” he comments.
Abdul Tayob agrees that the company is focused on its people. “We ensure that we have effective communication and keep everyone involved in the business. The employees feel part of the Bakers family,” he tells FOCUS.
While much is made of the fact that it’s a family business, it’s nonetheless a very serious concern. “We don’t just want to be the benchmark in South Africa; we also want to be a world-leading company, so we have a strategic-marketing committee and a corporate-strategy committee. They are really in tune with international trends and best practice. Based on this feedback, we are constantly reinventing ourselves. We always want to be the best at what we do – in all areas of our business.”
In order to be the best, the company requires the best possible vehicles – which is where Mercedes-Benz enters the fray. While Bakers does evaluate other brands every five years, Abdul Tayob concedes that this is more a case of qualifying and confirming the company’s decision to purchase Mercedes-Benz products rather than actually shopping around. “We would need a compelling reason to change brands and, to date, we have not found one,” he points out.
And, speaking to him, it seems unlikely that he will ever find that compelling reason – because, quite frankly, Bakers is very loyal to Mercedes-Benz. “This works both ways. Recently we needed 11-t trucks for a contract. These were not available locally. Mercedes-Benz in Germany found suitable trucks in Australia and specially imported and then homologated these vehicles for us.
“Their service was utterly incredible. It’s obvious to me that Mercedes-Benz in South Africa and Germany appreciate the fact that we are loyal. In return, they provide double the loyalty back. It’s something completely unheard of,” he muses.
Sadly, he’s right. I don’t hear the word “loyalty” in our industry too often. I don’t believe in blind loyalty; that just doesn’t make business sense, but partnerships – such as the one between Bakers and Mercedes-Benz – I certainly do.