New Zealand is an isolated island nation. Although this is helpful in times of a pandemic such as Covid-19, as a country we are reliant on air and sea freight to connect us to the rest of the world.
Ruwan Premathilaka is managing director of New Zealand owned freight and logistics company, Now365 Logistics Limited. He believes Covid-19 has been a catalyst prompting a movement towards greater backing for local businesses.
“I’m pleased this has resulted in something which seems to be motivating people to support locally owned businesses like ours,” he says, “especially given that we are a growing company with strong family values who make sure we look after each other.”
In true pioneering spirit, the team at Now365 are all first-generation Kiwis, with backgrounds representing the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. The young, vibrant team boasts a collective industry experience of nearly 50 years.
“We are actually very lucky that from the moment we set out in the business we’ve been a modern day digital company,” says Premathilaka. “We use cloud based operating systems, which served us well during lockdown as we could operate from anywhere in the world. We all worked from home so international freight still kept moving right throughout the lockdown period.”
Some of the freight has been pretty wild, such as the 24 live penguins which Now365 shipped on behalf of Sea Life Kelly Tarltons after lockdown lifted.
“Obviously with live animals there’s a thorough process to make sure they receive all due care and attention, to make sure the birds are transported safely,” says Premathilaka. “I’m glad it was a company like us taking care of those penguins because it needed absolute attention to detail and proactive service. It was a serious but fun shipment, organising everything from transportation in a refrigerated truck to getting them into the chillers of the airport terminals at Air New Zealand, then off on a ‘cool’ plane to be handed over at the other end.”
When lockdowns started setting in around the world, with China being the first country to put a lockdown into effect to try to curb the spread of coronavirus, New Zealand’s freight industry was impacted dramatically, as China is New Zealand’s biggest trading partner.
“I was grateful that Now365 still had a strong presence in the Europe and USA markets but obviously nobody knew how quickly it would spread to the rest of the world,” says Premathilaka. “Everybody has been impacted one way or the other.”
“I’m really proud that none of our staff had to take any pay cuts or forced leave and that we managed to survive and operate throughout the difficult period,” he says. “We were able to do that because of a conservative approach during the past few years leading up to this challenging time. In fact it brought more focus into the team to go the extra mile.
“In a way this has been a watershed moment for us, as we’ve come out of it with a really solid business which delivers excellence to its client base.”