Pantos aims to be global logistics leader

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Nov 14, 2011 - 17:21
  • Updated : Nov 14, 2011 - 19:28

From heavy machinery to automobiles to electronics, a slew of small but thriving enterprises have been behind Korea’s miraculous industrial advancement. 

Pantos CEO Bae Jae-hoon (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Pantos Logistics Co. may be one of these “hidden champions,” a term coined by the late legendary Harvard marketing guru Theodore Levitt to portray firms that shine in the international arena but are little known outside their own field.

Pantos is Korea’s largest logistics provider with 2010 sea freight volumes of 1.6 million 20-foot equivalent units and air cargo volumes of 340,000 tons. It was ranked 26th worldwide in terms of sales last year by Armstrong & Associates Inc., a U.S. supply chain management research firm, and seventh in terms of maritime shipping revenue by U.K.-based Transport Intelligence.

Albeit invisible, the Seoul-based firm has branched out into 37 countries across continents over the last three decades, serving clients ranging from multinational corporations such as GE, IBM and ThyssenKrupp Elevator to smaller local exporters.

Now equipped with a powerful network and service prowess, Pantos is looking to step out of the shadows into the sun.

“Korea’s expeditious economic ascent gave birth to new global powerhouses in the electronics, steel and shipbuilding industries but has yet to produce one in logistics,” Bae Jae-hoon, president and chief executive, told The Korea Herald.

“I think Pantos is primarily suited for the spot.”

A 30-year industry veteran, Bae orchestrated LG Electronics’ overseas marketing until he took the top job at Pantos at the start of 2010.

Privately owned Pantos was established in 1977 by the late Koo Ja-heon, a cousin of LG Group founder Koo In-hoe.

LG has initially supported the growth of the firm by outsourcing warehousing, shipping and handling, which takes up about 70 percent of its operations.

To shake off its dependence on the conglomerate and leap forward to become a global player, Pantos drew up a vision for 2020.

In the plan, Pantos wants to grow into one of the world’s top 10 logistics leaders by jacking up sales to 13 trillion won ($11.6 billion) by then from 3 trillion won last year.

To that end, Bae said his company is beefing up its corporate client lineup and custom-tailored services in each market.

“If you are in the business-to-business market, you should sell painkillers rather than vitamins,” Bae said. “Saying I can do better than others simply doesn’t work. You should find your clients’ pain points then provide localized solutions.”

Pantos’s “door-to-door” services epitomize Bae’s mantra. The scheme adds inland transportation to usual “port-to-port” procedures to provide faster, easier and traceable delivery. It also gives a competitive edge in a heated race against Glovis, Korea Express and CJ GLS at home and DHL, DB Schenker and Nippon Express abroad, Bae said.

The firm also eyes mineral resources exploration, plant construction and other engineering projects in emerging markets as fresh revenue sources. It opened units in Egypt, South Africa and Kenya over the past year and plans to enter Nigeria next year.

Diversifying into the business-to-customer sector, Pantos is now gearing up to launch express international shipping services to take advantage of a global online shopping boom.

“More and more customers are shifting to e-commerce,” Bae said. “In the past, a limited number of Koreans used international delivery merely to send something to their children studying abroad or for business purposes. But now, they order stuff from eBay or Amazon. And the trend will likely continue.”

Despite its business model prone to economic swings, Bae finds opportunities in the ongoing global turmoil.

“In bullish conditions, companies don’t fret much about logistics expenses. But with a bearish outlook cost-saving efforts come, which means opportunities for newcomers,” Bae said, adding that he is witnessing a surge in new clients seeking partnerships with Pantos.

By Shin Hyon-hee (