China’s transport and logistics sector is hugely complex and competitive. Tens of thousands of companies are fighting for a share of this rapidly growing market, whose total value has more than doubled since the mid-2000s.
China’s physical infrastructure has developed rapidly, but executives recognise that regulatory and operational procedures can often hinder efficiency. The government has acknowledged the need for change and in 2011, proposed eight areas where it will target improvements in the logistics sector.
China’s move towards a more consumption-driven economy, combined with the improved accessibility of inland regions, has directed the industry’s focus from being externally oriented towards meeting the needs of new internal markets. In such a large and diverse market, many companies have succeeded by experimenting and finding a niche. If anything, the complexity of the market tends to put the largest operators, with streamlined processes and more adaptable and scaleable business models, at an even greater advantage.
There are some signs of consolidation and this may allow companies to grow more rapidly and profitably. However, buying up successful local businesses is no guarantee to overcoming the challenges posed by low-cost competition. To succeed, executives must consider how they can harness technology and develop systems that facilitate and de-risk payments, tax and regulatory processes.