Servientrega – oiling Colombia’s wheels

Colombia’s rugged topography and the substantial distances separating most of its major cities have always posed special challenges for its logistics industry and postal services. Although the majority of its 50 million inhabitants live in and around Bogota, Medellin, Cali and several other larger conurbations, a significant proportion of the populace is scattered across the countryside as well. Now, as its economy continues to grow fuelled by both its corporate and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sectors, the need for a system to deliver the parcels and letters that oil the wheels of business and commerce has become ever more pressing.
Significant investment in the country’s seaports, airports, and roads has gone some way toward addressing the problem, but many people still rely on companies that offer “last-mile” door-to-door tracking services. And for most of them, the company of choice is Servientrega, whose drivers’ distinctive green uniforms, vans and motorbikes are a familiar sight as they go about their business on the country’s road network.
Set up in 1982 with a mere 17,500 pesos (just over $50 at today’s exchange rate), Servientrega is now close to being a $200 million company with a 14,500 strong workforce and more than 5,000 centers strategically positioned across Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and the United States. It has been a remarkable journey, one that was mapped out with considerable deliberation. “We are a 37-year-old family business,” says company co-founder and corporate advisor Luz Mary Guerrero. “We began with limited resources, and every five years we define a new goal for ourselves to aim for. So far this approach has involved development, gestation, positioning, diversification, consolidation, integration, expansion, sustainability and convergence. I like to think of us as a Colombian success story that has both mirrored and helped drive the progress of the country as a whole.”
Luz Mary Guerrero ServientregaWith profit margins running at 8% and revenues growing by between 7% and 10% annually, the strategy is clearly working and has enabled Servientrega to expand and adapt to changing market conditions. Between 1993 and 1997, for instance, the company diversified into the mass transport of documents and into international shipments. To support this new activity, the company developed a state-of-the-art international logistics center on the grounds of Bogota’s El Dorado airport.
Over the next five years, Servientrega developed as an integrated communication, marketing, logistics and payment methods company. The period after that culminated in the construction of a second logistics center at Pereira in the heart of western Colombia’s coffee-growing area.
At the time, Colombia’s economy was still heavily dependent on the coffee industry, and the new center was specifically designed to support its supply chain. As the country’s industrial and manufacturing base has diversified, however, so too has the Servientrega business model. In 2008, the company set about rationalizing activities through the introduction of a sectorally-oriented Solutions Center strategy.
Known as the Virtuous Circle of Competitiveness, the new modus operandi provides individual and business customers with round-the-clock, fully trackable delivery services to 180 countries around the world. The quality of the service is uniformly high, but in recognition of the increasing diversity of its client base, the Virtuous Circle is based on a variety of as many as 30 different logistics solutions. In recognition also of the differing urgency of its customers’ needs and of their budgets, it operates on a sliding price scale, provides for multipayment methods, and integrates land, air, rail, river and maritime operations whenever appropriate.
servientrega ad“We are a very progressive company and the Virtuous Circle allows us to offer tailored solutions to any company, regardless of its size,” says Guerrero. “We have also managed to build up a very good reputation both here in Colombia and in the wider region. Sustaining a successful presence in the U.S. for 25 years is a quite considerable achievement.”
Sustainability was also the focus of the 2013-2017 five-year plan as Servientrega took steps to reduce its carbon footprint by making its processes cleaner, thereby ensuring that it was not just its uniforms and motorbikes that were green.
Servientrega’s new buzzword is “convergence” as the company seeks to attract more customers, partners and investors by making the company’s physical and digital services and channels increasingly seamless. “Servientrega is the official logistics team of Colombia — we are a country cause,” says Guerrero. “If Servientrega were a lady, she would have plenty of suitors but would want to stay single – although she might be open to an alliance.”