2021 marks 13 years of Alistair Group; a significant milestone for a company that began with one truck and the desire to solve problems. As of today, Alistair Group is the preferred logistics provider for a vast majority of industries in South and Eastern Africa. The Group operates across 20 countries worldwide, employs over 800 staff, manages 1039 assets and has 18 offices across Africa.
“Did we expect to still be here; to have grown this much? Honestly? No.” says Founder and CEO, Alistair James. “I suppose we always had our heads down and focused on the job back then. So, this is a good moment to look around and see all that has been accomplished by everyone involved.”
The company took its current form from a problem-solving basis. Alistair was originally based in the bush when he began working in Tanzania back in 2002. Due to his remote location, he had to overcome many logistical issues in terms of accessing food, spare parts and basic requirements. It quickly dawned upon him that there were many commercial opportunities to solving the present logistic restrictions within the community. His initial investment was in grain trading. He had witnessed the frustrations caused by the fluctuations in price and thus, became particularly good at predicting them. With a rented warehouse and a single small truck, he began trading in 2008. When he struggled to make the financials add up on such a small scale, he knew it was time for a bigger truck.
Alistair did not claim to be an expert in vehicles, he was learning on the job. However, with the potential of upscaling to a larger truck, he recognized the need for an experienced opinion. It was at this point Angelo Caruso joined forces with Alistair to provide hands-on maintenance and advise on the next investments. Angelo’s professional background in mining and road maintenance, coupled with his fascination with all thing’s vehicle related made him an ideal fit and a key component in the Group’s team. Angelo, now one of the three directors, is often described as “a well-oiled German machine; a petrol-head with a real heart for what we do”.
With Angelo’s input, the company invested in two fuel tankers, leading to a little more success. Unfortunately, only a few months later, amid their rising success, one of the fuel trucks caught fire. When describing these events Alistair makes it apparent that they “could have given up then and there.” Instead, Alistair sold the remaining fuel tanker and his personal car to cover the cost of the lost fuel and to finance two new flat-bed trucks. Little did Alistair and Angelo know that these two flatbeds would be the start of their ever-growing fleet. A stroke of luck turned things around in the form of a rental contract on Mafia Island for the oil and gas industry.
As business improved, the focus never wavered. Two years later, Clementine James, Alistair’s sister, joined the company and become the third director. Clementine had the expertise and skills to assist with finding the resources to grow the business. At this point, the company only had around ten trucks. Fast-forward 13 years – Alistair Group now has a fleet size of over 400 trucks and transported more than 200,000 tons of cargo in the last year. The company may be asset-based but its culture of efficient execution and best practice has set it apart in the world of logistics solutions. Alistair stated that “sometimes when people ask me what I do I just say I’m a trucker but it’s no longer really true”. He continues to explain that the company has grown into the success it is today because of their ability to continually make things work better.
Our past is our foundation, and that’s vital to remember. However, it is in the future where all of the opportunity lies. However, for the present; Alistair Group is going from strength to strength and it’s hard not to notice the buzz in the air as the company expands into more countries, gains new assets, embraces new technology and continues to evolve. It’s a new era for Alistair Group and the company is poised for further success.