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DHL Interview: Boss Determined not to get Digital Start-ups Stuck in his Supply Chain

DHL chief executive John Pearson is determined not to let digital start-ups hit his business in the same way that streaming brought the record industry to its knees.

DHL has the sort of scale a lean digital firm can only dream of: it runs 260 aircraft, over 34,000 vehicles, it employs 100,000 staff, operates in 220 countries and has 2.6 million customers.

But that scale leaves plenty of room for a digital rival to take a pot-shot at a weak spot, and Pearson is only too aware of that.

Pearson said: “There are pockets of disruption across the many markets we work in. We are on guard not to let other firms get in between ourselves and the merchants we work with.”

The English DHL boss talks about the digital unit the delivery group has set up, which he hopes will out-think the smartest minds at tech start-ups.

Taking on Amazon at Christmas

In the run up to Christmas, Pearson talks about taking on Amazon, FedEx and UPS in the busiest quarter of the year. The Big Tech giant is so big that all three delivery firms help carry the 5 billion items a year Amazon Prime ships globally.

The spread around the world of Black Friday sales combined with the festive season make this a crucial part of the annual $380bn market.

Online shopping may be killing high streets, but more parcels are flying around the world than ever. As Pearson notes the run up to Christmas, “means there is more pressure in this period than the year before”.

Finixio news editor Roger Baird said: “Firms don’t get more global than DHL. Pearson needs to keep an eye on US-China trade tensions. He has to battle barbarians at the gate like Amazon, but he has to keep an eye on the back door where a four-man digital start-up has just thought up an idea that will put a slow puncture in his business over the next three years.”

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