Mr. Marcello Saponaro
CEO of Logimar Srl and founder of ALN and EPN networks
First of all Marcello, please tell our readers about your own shipping and logistics background. When did you start in this line of business, and what is your current role(s) in shipping & networking?
I always say that despite suffering from the Peter Pan Syndrome, I have been in this business for a little less than 30 years. More than 10 years ago, in Logimar, we decided to focus the company on Project Cargo, and 6 years ago we founded Africa Logistics Network. A few months ago, together with a partner, Juergen Weyhausen, CEO of 7WL, we also founded Exclusive Project Network.
I think these are the huge niches in which we had to specialize, and we did.
Africa is, shall we say, the last continent that still needs development, and I understand that you established a network of freight forwarders interested in Africa. Tell our readers more. How many members do you have; what are the advantages of belonging to a network like yours?
Yes, indeed. I founded Africa Logistics Network together with my father, the first Chairman, because we wanted to be able to handle any kind of shipment to / from any place in Africa. After having been robbed by a criminal forwarder, in 2015 we established ALN. Not to bill membership fees as the only mission, but to have a professional network of partners in every country of the black continent.
Now, we have 240 members in the World, 85 of them in Africa, 100% of the continent well covered, and a sister network growing day by day, Airfreight Logistics Network for Africa (ALNA).
There are, as you know, a lot of networks out there, and not a week goes by when it seems that a new network is not popping up. How do you ensure that you stand out among the networks out there? Why choose you?
I think we work in the same way, targeting the quality. ALN members know that first I want a strong network, and this is the reason why the founder members in 2015 are still proud ALN members. Just one example…. For two years, we have not been able to organize the annual meeting. But we organized one virtual meeting every year, investing money to make a big event with special guests, one week of one-to-one meetings and a special closure. One week completely free of charge for our members… The Opening was open to everybody! All because we care about the network. The next virtual meeting is scheduled for October 26th to November 5th 2021.
Your main base is in Italy which traditionally has been active particularly in North Africa and East Africa if my history lessons are learnt. How do you go about getting in touch with members around the continent, given that there are quite a few countries also in the interior?
50% world of mouth, 50% marketing—including newsletter, magazines and ads.
If you would say it in a few words, then WHY is it a good idea to join a network like ALN, and what benefits do you feel that it brings to the members?
Networks are the only way for small and medium companies to expand their business in the most difficult markets; the only markets that will be left to them in the future; Project Cargo and Africa.
Has COVID-19 impacted your business as well? I suppose that network meetings in physical form are still out of the question or what are your plans in this regard going forward?
Next meeting, not virtual but face-to-face and drink to drink, has been scheduled in Muscat, Oman, for February 2022, just a few months after the virtual one. I feel so strongly that all our partners want to come back to meet again. I think Muscat 2022 is going to be the best meeting of ALN… and EPN!
Exactly! Please tell our readers something more about EPN.
The main feature of Exclusive Project Network(EPN) is written in its name. It’s Exclusive, just one member per country. Also, only really professional members. The membership fee is related to the GPN of each Country. EPN is having the first meeting in Muscat as well, in the same days, in the same location of ALN.
It’s growing very fast. I think that when you have a project, people understand whether you want to make an extraordinary network or you are just a machine billing membership fees. You have the same philosophy. We have an active and proactive approach… that makes all the difference.
How is it best for our readers to get in touch with you?