For 26 years, Sri Lanka was embroiled in civil war. Until peace was declared in 2009, tens of thousands were killed, and hundreds of thousands more were displaced. Today, thankfully, the nation moves towards reconciliation, and has seen steady growth in recent years, as its economy moves towards urbanisation, manufacturing and services.
The unrest preceding the war, however, was a difficult time, especially for those growing up. For all the adversity he experienced, Seelan Nayagam, Managing Director of DXC Technology Australia, believes he also learned valuable lessons.
Seelan Nayagam, Managing Director of DXC Technology Australia
“In our family, there were always ups and downs,” Seelan recounts. “You were trying to survive. An experience like that teaches you a level of resilience, which was instilled by my parents.
You learn to always adapt, take setbacks in your stride and then to build yourself from there, trusting that times will keep you in good stead. Through my upbringing, my parents have taught me to deal with problems, pick myself up and then go forward.”
Seelan went on to study accounting and computer science at the University of Buckingham, though accounting failed to engage him entirely. He therefore decided to pursue computer science, which saw him spend a decade with IBM, moving into progressively more senior positions, overseeing the Asia–Pacific region.
“That led to the opportunity to join CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation), and it was a conscious decision,” says Seelan. “When I joined, I knew it would be a turnaround story, a transformation story. At that point, it was going to be a challenge. I felt that if we could execute our strategy, we would clearly change the landscape in the marketplace.”
With concepts such as digitisation and automation now firmly entrenched in industries across the world, Seelan took on the role because he believed he could play a part in building up both the capabilities of CSC itself and the digital infrastructure of Australia. His position as head of CSC’s ANZ division meant he could take an active part in both.
In March 2017, CSC merged with the Enterprise Services division of HP Enterprise to form DXC Technology. Today, the company boasts 130,000 employees across 70 countries, who assist in servicing nearly 6,000 clients, facilitating their transition to digital systems.
Though DXC has existed in its current form for only a few years, Seelan is impressed by the speed with which the company has found its feet.
“Last year was an incredible year for DXC, and unprecedented in change,” he says. “In the context of everything else, we’re the largest start-up in the world, both locally and globally, having formed from separate companies in 2017.
“ Last year was an incredible year for DXC, and unprecedented in change.”
As part of that merger, it would be remiss for me to say everything has gone according to plan. We clearly have some challenges, which we’re learning to work through in the spirit of continuous improvement. We’ll continue to do that moving forward.”
The challenges involved in a merger of two global corporations would have been a tumultuous period for all involved, not least Seelan himself. Of course, his childhood lessons of resilience would have been invaluable in helping him through that experience, and he’s certain that DXC has come out of the merger better able to serve its customers.
After all, DXC’s ambition is to be known primarily as a company that can help its clients thrive on change, and indeed succeed.
“Eighteen months ago, if somebody had told me that we can maintain our success through all this change, I would’ve been happy. But year on year, we’ve dramatically improved our Net Promoter Score.”
There’s no doubt DXC has been able to maintain that strong NPS and healthy customer relationships through its status as a world-leading, end-to-end IT services provider. Certainly in the ANZ region, it’s the largest independent provider, in terms of scale.
The company’s size has allowed it to engage in more in-depth support for its customers. For example, DXC has opened Digital Transformation Centres in Melbourne and Canberra, based on existing centres in Belgium and the UK.
By working with local universities, the Centres will encourage academia–industry collaboration, and, as well as improving communication with local clients, they’ll help upskill Australia’s IT workforce.
DXC’s partner network is comprised of 250 key partners worldwide 15 of those based in Australia, and is therefore considered a pillar of DXC’s growth strategy. “We treat our partner–supplier ecosystem as part of the DXC family,” Seelan says.
“We act as one when we go to our customers. Most of our partners have access to our offices. One of the most important goals for us was that we needed to work as one, a collective, in order to deliver the expected outcome to our customer base.”
DXC Australia hosted its annual Partner Advisory Council Awards in the Gold Coast last November, celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of its partners. In keeping with the company’s broad focus, the awards recognised not just the benefits these partners provided to DXC, but to the wider industry.
With the participation of more than 120 DXC partners, Seelan believes the event also serves as a forum to keep its suppliers informed, and solicit advice from partners, in a two-way communicative relationship that offers learning opportunities to all parties.
“ A successful leader is able to lead their teams to outcomes and results that they wouldn’t have thought possible to do alone.”
DXC works alongside its partners in the same way Seelan leads his team: by being forthright and open. “A successful leader is able to lead their team to outcomes and results that they wouldn’t have thought possible to do alone,” Seelan says.
“That’s what leadership is about. The way you do that is through clear communication, clear goal-setting, and most importantly, leading them to goals that they never thought were possible.
“I’m a big believer in sharing issues in the open, so you can do something about resolving them. Communication is not always easy. No matter how much you communicate, it may never be enough. You’ve got to have different platforms.
We have a collaboration platform that we use extensively to communicate with the teams, which also allows for teams to communicate among themselves with the same interest groups and so forth.”
Said collaboration platform is Workplace, an offering from Facebook. Implemented by DXC, the cloud-based collaboration program offers (what is for many people) a familiar user interface, ideally making it easy to use.
DXC was the first company to adopt the platform in the ANZ region, and not only has it found success here, it’s been implemented globally within DXC. Seelan says it facilitates communication across the company, a crucial task given the number of mergers and acquisitions DXC undergoes.
Throughout 2018, DXC integrated more than 10 companies, each one a distinct organisation with varying capabilities and growth. As a result, the company experienced a little difficulty in combining these companies, with some divisions declining while others grew faster than the market.
The solution was improved communication to better unify these previously disparate bodies, and to ensure internal cohesion.
“Integrating these companies brought its own set of challenges, which were around unifying the company’s culture, and defining it as we move forward,” Seelan explains.
“How do you implement significant changes without losing focus on our customers and, more importantly, the employees? From there, we need to work out how to lead the employees as we make those changes. To see this come to fruition is motivating and rewarding from a personal perspective.”
The efforts to engineer a smooth-running workplace has not gone unnoticed, with DXC named an employer of choice by global HR consultancy Randstad, based on a survey of thousands of Australian jobseekers.
Within the ANZ division, the IT services provider has also spent A$13 million on training and upskilling its staff. Naturally, Seelan gauges the organisation’s accomplishments through quantifiable success, being validated by and delivering solutions to customers.
But equally, the extent to which employees feel passionate about their work defines a large part of Seelan’s concept of success.
“Most importantly, throughout all this significant change, our employees are engaged, during both the good times and the difficult times along the way,” he says. “Our employee engagement continues to improve.
We see the employees focused on both delivering solutions to our customers and solving the problems we have, as we go through these integrations.”
To further boost the strength of its workforce, DXC has been running what it calls the DXC Dandelion Program, which was designed to help those on the autism spectrum find work.
“What we see is that those individuals have an incredible ability to recognise patterns,” says Seelan. “They’re typically successful in cybersecurity, testing and analytics, where their productivity and results are outstanding.”
This embrace of neurodiversity has been ongoing for four years, and its success has already been expanded to include those with dyslexia and ADHD. At present, it employs around 80 people across Australia, also providing leading research on autism in the workplace, with interest from hundreds of organisations around the world.
As it continues to expand the program, DXC has established partnerships with universities with the ultimate aim of building a pipeline of young talent for employers that are neurodiverse-friendly.
Seelan believes a workforce that welcomes neurodiversity creates a better internal culture that celebrates differences and uniqueness. “We have a retention rate of approximately 92%,” he says. “That’s unbelievable in a segment where a lot of companies are going down this path, but often struggle to retain their employees.
We’ve created an ecosystem that supports diverse thinking and allows these individuals access to meaningful employment, but also deliver outcomes for our customers.”
In October last year, DXC announced the expansion of the DXC Dandelion Program with the launch of a new DXC Social Impact Practice, aimed at helping clients and the community develop and run programs that benefit individuals and society.
But with many of these developments yet to be fully implemented, the Social Impact Practice remains most heavily focused on assisting those living with autism, and the transformational effect on their lives is something that gives Seelan purpose.
“It’s what we as an organisation have achieved to date in our social responsibilities,” he says. “It’s amazing to see people on the autism spectrum participate in meaningful work, delivering results to our customers. The customers recognise the value of these individuals. To see them having a normal life and getting married, buying a house, buying a car, is incredibly rewarding.”
Cybersecurity is an increasingly critical issue for organisations worldwide. In Australia, recent studies have found companies to be, on average, worryingly unprepared for data breaches. Half of business leaders surveyed admitted their existing cybersecurity practices and systems were inadequate, especially in larger businesses. DXC’s own research says that between 75% and 90% of ANZ organisations believe they have gaps in cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity is at the top of everybody’s agenda, and it’s a broad agenda,” says Seelan. “It’s going to be an ongoing concern. One thing that we do know, no matter how sophisticated you are as an organisation, you’re always going to have those threats. But the more important issue comes up when something like that happens. “How do you respond, how do you contain it, how do you move forward? For us, it’s not just about prevention, it’s also about reacting and responding when those types of things happen. That’s going to be a continuous challenge in the marketplace, especially in a fibre-connected, digital world.”
The Social Impact Practice also includes plans to aid other disadvantaged groups within society, such as veterans, indigenous people, and those with disabilities. Alongside the government, a program based in Cape York has already established an indigenous workforce.
On top of this, an annual social challenge is chosen by DXC employees, to work towards solutions for issues they think can be addressed by technology. It’s not for nothing that DXC Technology was named the 19th Best Corporate Citizen of 2018 by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.
In the few years since it opened for business, DXC has enacted considerable organisational transformation, though it’s proven itself more than capable of handling this. Seelan is thus in an opportune position to assist the digital transformation of Australia, more so than at any point previously in his career.
DXC takes this broader societal role seriously, working alongside numerous groups adjacent to the digital industry. As well as supporting its clients, DXC collaborates closely with community, academic and governmental institutions to bring the country into the digital revolution.
“We participate in several ways,” explains Seelan. “One is leading our customers through their transformation to digitisation, since the industry is moving at an incredible pace, and we’ve been in the market for a long time.
Our relationship is substantial and longstanding with a lot of our customers, and helping them transform themselves along their digital journey clearly enables us to participate in the whole Australian economy.”
DXC’s digital capabilities are extensive, as is its ability to assist clients with digitisation, thanks to advances in areas such as cognitive AI and robotic process automation. Only a year ago, DXC released a “new digital-generation services delivery model” called DXC Bionix, which employs many of these innovations in a single IT services system.
The extent to which Bionix has improved IT service efficiency is remarkable: global delivery operations have gone from 50% to 80% time reduction, with substantial drops in defects, and costs and time of testing.
At the same time, DXC provides the industry with insightful research on surviving digital transformation, evidence of Seelan’s broad focus.
“The second key piece of our strategy,” he continues, “is contributing to the community and creating the skills necessary for our industry. We have a chronic skill shortage in this industry.
DXC is actively addressing this, by creating talent pools that previously haven’t been tapped. We’re working with universities to co-create courses that provide next-generational skills.”
As mentioned, DXC collaborates with universities as part of its Digital Transformation Centres. But this approach also extends to a partnership with TAFE in Tasmania, through which students have the option of working at DXC’s Tasmania facility.
At the end of their study, students are added to the company’s Young Professionals program, offering them a position with DXC.
The third major method of effecting change is by influencing policymakers. “For example, we’re a major contributor to a lot of the debates that take place in Canberra,” Seelan says, “all the way from cyber to the fibre network, and we actively contribute our point of view and perspective, which for us is an important part of Australia participating in this global digital economy.
One of the crucial areas here is cybersecurity, so we’re actively involved in guiding policies, providing leadership, and, importantly, imparting lessons that we’ve learned as a global organisation, to Australia.”
It’s appropriate that Seelan’s formative years provided those lessons of resilience – such is the fast-moving nature of humanity’s digital capabilities, that it’s no easy task to stay on top of it.
The IT industry is no different, and the tumultuous-though-profitable time since the CSC–HP Enterprise merger has proven to Seelan that there’s no benefit in playing things safe.
“Three years ago, I received a piece of advice about taking calculated risks,” he says. “It’s a significant part of learning.
“ You have to continue to challenge yourself and take calculated risks along the way.”
You have to continue to challenge yourself and take calculated risks along the way. You should never shy away from taking on those risks – correcting them if need be – and then moving forward from there.”
“Know what movies are being watched, what music is listened to, what is going on with innovative companies… get interested in humankind and what is going on in the planet. Do all this, and you should get enough inspiration to do the right thing.”
With a desire to be “more entrepreneurial, to invest”, Georges joined Breitling as CEO and shareholder in September 2017.
Breitling’s origins are in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, where it was founded by Léon Breitling in 1884, before being acquired by watchmaker and pilot Ernest Schneider in 1979. The ensuing decades saw the brand stay in the Schneider family and produce the masculine pilot chronograph watches now synonymous with the brand.
In 2017, it was bought by UK private equity group CVC Capital Partners, and Georges was appointed to the helm.
The 54-year-old has 25 years of watch industry experience, most recently at Richemont and IWC, where he was the firm’s youngest-ever appointed CEO.
Now his reign as CEO of Breitling is heralding a new direction for the brand, marked first by a simplification of its product structure.
“The product portfolio was much too complicated,” Georges said at a press conference in New York last year.
“Too many product lines missing clear design codes and differentiation and too many variations of the same watch model in terms of dials, bracelets, colours – it was confusing. You’re knocked out by the visual complexity. Too much choice is no choice.”
Georges has brought Breitling down from the skies to reorganise its watch collections according to three pillars – air, sea and land.
Georges describes the new direction as a means of broadening Breitling’s customer base to include its recent fans as well as those who admire its vintage timepieces.
“The interesting thing here at Breitling is that we have two totally different communities,” he explains. “We have, on one side, the community that likes the bigger, bulkier pilot watches of the past 40 years, which made Breitling very successful.
And a second community that loves the Breitling of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. During that period, Breitling made some of the most beautiful – and more classic, more conservative – watches.
“What we need to do now is to bring those two communities together,” he adds.“If you compare it with the car industry, for example, why would Mercedes do only limousines, if they could also attract customers with SUVs and convertibles?”
Georges is also differentiating the brand from other luxury watchmakers.
“We want to be the informal challenger, the cool alternative to the conservative brands,” he says. “It’s about a more informal way of doing luxury; a luxury that is inclusive not exclusive, and in a positive way.”
Ambassadors and partners
If you look at the brand’s latest promotional concept, its boutiques, its point-of-sale material and its ambassadors – which includes champion surfer Kelly Slater, award-winning actors Charlize Theron and Brad Pitt, and environmentalist and adventurer David de Rothschild – the image is clearly one of a brand that is cool, sporty and relaxed, but elegant.
To expand upon this idea, Georges has created squads for the new 360° campaign #squadonamission with teams of outstanding personalities, who are recognised as among the best in their respective fields.
“This is how we differentiate ourselves,” says Georges. Other watch companies aren’t aligning themselves with sports like surfing and the triathlon, or with explorers like Bertrand Piccard and David de Rothschild.
These connections run deeper than simply good-looking faces in advertising campaigns. It’s an opportunity for Breitling to make an environmental statement.
For example, Breitling has partnered with Slater’s eco-conscious clothing label, Outerknown. It aligns perfectly with the brand’s direction as well as the responsibility we have as humans, explains Georges. There is a clear link between a “cool, youthful” image and sustainability. “Society is changing and millennials have a totally different attitude towards the environment than my generation.”
Working with people like Kelly Slater on ECONYL® – which is a strap made of recycled nylon that is taken from fishing nets – makes a statement.
“We cannot change the world, but Breitling can have an influence with our activities, our celebrities and our campaigns. We can send a message and raise awareness about issues such as ocean conservation, which is the main issue I want to focus on.
“Anybody, be it a company or a private person, should do the maximum they can do in their sphere of influence. Responsibility is part of what is considered cool today.” he continues. “What I want with these activities is to make people aware of how important sustainability is to our planet.”
While Georges has certainly not revealed any plans for Breitling’s timepieces to go digital, he recognises that “the normal way to do business today is online”.
The company is much more active in digital marketing now says the CEO, and Breitling’s ecommerce capabilities have recently launched in China, the US and Europe.
“We want to be truly omnichannel,” he explains. “We need to give the opportunity for the customer to buy the product when and how they want. If they want to buy a Breitling at 2am, they can go to our website and do so.” The brand’s aim is for seamless online and instore experiences.
Breitling’s boutiques themselves are representative of the brand’s cool, informal, luxe style – think industrial loft design with pool tables and surfboards. “Our boutiques are marketing tools, too, at the end of the day,” explains Georges.
Always looking forward
Though Georges acknowledges his past successes, they don’t define him. “There are many moments in professional life that you’re proud of. But the problem is you have to start every morning again. So at the end of the day, if you fail, nobody cares about your successes of the past. I’m not a past-driven person, I just look forward.”
Aurelia Metals’ CEO and Managing Director Jim Simpson let slip a bemused snicker when he’s asked about the secret to his success. After all, it’s a secret; why would he tell anyone? Luckily though, he obliges, telling Modern Mogul that it is his ability to “turn average businesses into good businesses”. That much is obvious.
At Aurelia – an exploration and mineral development company based in Orange, New South Wales – Jim has overseen the business’s revival from a risky, debt-saddled investment to one that enjoys huge growth opportunities and impressive profit margins.
“I owe it all to a mix of management, technical and commercial skills,” Jim says. “It’s a critical and necessary balance you need to strike in the mining industry.”
That has defined Jim’s approach to business for more than 30 years.
He’s a remarkably sharp and plain-spoken man, which is emblematic of both his practical approach to business and his rural upbringing.
He proudly calls himself a “country boy”, having been raised in Coonabarabran (or ‘Coona’, as the locals call it), a rural town in New South Wales with a population of a little more than 3,000.
Jim’s father was a farmer who lost everything, so discouraged him from becoming one too. “Dad said to me, ‘You need a career. If you like farming, you can farm when you’ve got something to fall back on.’
So, he was instrumental in making sure I received an education and went to university.”
Although agriculture did not appear promising, Jim wanted to ‘work the land’. Eventually, he realised that mining and engineering was an effective way to do that.
“I never expected to get to where I am today, but I did see a potential future in the industry.”
“I wanted to work in the sciences and of all the engineering disciplines, I felt mining was the one for me.” After consulting with the University of NSW, he was convinced it was the right move. “I never expected to get to where I am today, but I did see a potential future in the industry.”
After graduation, Jim started out as a mining engineer. In a recent talk with the Sydney Mining Club, he reminisced about his days “down the hole, in the dark, with just a cap lamp to guide my way… talking to one person a day, singing to myself”.
Moving through the ranks of management and into advisory positions, Jim gained a breadth of experience in his 30 years in the industry, managing mines in Mount Isa as well as Peak and Cobar in New South Wales.
After leaving mining to explore other business opportunities, he began consulting for Denham Capital, which is where he came across Aurelia Metals’ Hera mine. “I could see a lot of room for improvement,” Jim says. The mine was in disarray, with abysmal value and bad operational problems draining Aurelia’s bottom line, he explains.
Jim initially offered consultancy services to the company, which used him to help renegotiate the mine’s contracts and operational costs. Impressed with his work, the business eventually offered him the position of CEO.
That was when Jim became determined to pick apart the myriad issues in the company, recalling a lesson learned from farming; that “you had to be efficient, you had to be effective, and you could never overcapitalise”. The solutions were not easy, but Jim was successful in diagnosing and resolving the challenges.
“The first thing that any manager or executive must do is examine costs,” he adds, “and I found that the company was offering unreasonably expensive contracts; we successfully renegotiated them to lower costs. After that, we looked at the mining practices, which were highly inefficient and resulting in significant wastage.
We worked on ensuring that imaging was done in the right areas, that materials weren’t being double handled, and that we were moving equipment the shortest possible distance. It’s a lot of simple, logistical stuff that tends to be overlooked but is necessary for any successful operation.”
They were answers that, in hindsight, sound simple but were often ignored or unnoticed. Of course, Jim had the experience and the patience to act, and he implemented a wide range of policies to cut costs and improve operations for Aurelia.
“You can be efficient and expand capacity simply by de-bottlenecking. If you can couple that with a war on waste, you tend to find that throughput will increase markedly, while costs come down and profits increase.”
“You can be efficient and expand capacity simply by de-bottlenecking.”
On top of that, Jim says that investors who saw their money disappear weren’t interested in reinvesting in Aurelia. It was only after he helped Aurelia repay its debts that the company regained the confidence of its investors. It’s difficult to argue with his approach – since his appointment in 2016, Aurelia’s share prices have tripled to reach record highs.
Still, even with such enormous growth, the future of the mining industry is concerning to Jim, due to a dwindling workforce. “There has been a significant migration of young people to the coast for university studies.
Although we are starting to see universities established in Bathurst and Orange, you cannot deny that talented individuals aren’t sticking around.” Jim believes that if the mining industry is going to have a future, it will need to somehow reverse that trend.
“With so much of Australia’s GDP coming from mining, we need to do something to attract the youth into the industry, and we need rural universities that offer courses in earth sciences, energy, mining, engineering and geology. We need to attract more young professionals to rural Australia.”
A steely eyed view
As trade tensions escalate between the US and China, Australia is at risk of its economy slowing due to its reliance on trade with China. Any contraction of the Chinese or US economy would almost certainly reduce demand for Australian metals. Jim is keenly aware of the issue, and says the situation is already of some concern to Aurelia.
“Tariffs would certainly have an impact on the pricing of metals, because it’s dependent on supply and demand to smelters,” he tells Modern Mogul. “Tariffs can certainly disrupt that, but a lot of that does depend on where tariffs are placed and how the countries involved react to them.
“The price of metals is global, and any slowing of trade between the US and China will certainly have a global impact, not least of all on pricing. We’re very reliant on China and, for smelting, we are somewhat beholden to the region. Any impact that tariffs may have on those smelters or on the refining of metals can and will have an effect on us.”
Still, while economists are yet to fully understand the impact of the trade war between the US and China, Jim says that Aurelia has not yet experienced any knock-on effects of tariffs. He adds that appropriate foresight, oversight and management will guarantee Aurelia’s ability to weather all challenges, even a trade war.
Regardless, if Jim has proven anything in his 30 years in the industry, it’s his uncanny ability to overcome challenges and achieve improbable success. He’s succinct about his business message, and blunter still when asked about what advice he would give someone seeking to replicate his model for success. “It’s simple.
Poor businesses result from poor skills. That’s how I’ve approached every opportunity in my life, and I think a lot of people would be better off if they were to heed that.”
As the global medical cannabis market continues to expand at a rapid pace, Australia’s fledgling market is now beginning to take off. At the forefront of this medical revolution is the Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG).
Founded in 2015 by local entrepreneur Matt Cantelo, the small yet ambitious company is powered by a team that has witnessed firsthand the power of medicinal cannabis in relieving chronic and debilitating disease symptoms in areas where traditional treatments have failed to deliver comprehensive results.
An entrepreneur from a young age, Matt launched his own travel company in Melbourne at age 23. He then went on to become Director and COO of one of the world’s leading travel management companies, Corporate Travel Management (CTM), which he led to an IPO in 2010.
“While I was living in Denver in 2012 to establish CTM’s presence in the US, medical marijuana was legalised. I was touched by the story of a young girl named Charlotte who had been suffering from regular intense epileptic seizures. Scientists were able to breed a specific strain of cannabis for her and the seizures stopped instantly, saving her life,” he remembers.
“Having a daughter of a similar age, this story struck a chord and motivated me to move back to Australia, step down from the executive team at CTM and form ANTG.”
Matt spent the following years investing in and advising various successful ventures across sectors including technology and security, social media, nutrition and fitness, and real estate.
“You have to chase your dreams, not the money. I made the decision to invest in people and I founded ANTG with a mission to put the needs of the patient first,” he says.
“I knew that the medical cannabis industry was set to flourish globally and I saw the opportunity to explore the medical possibilities of the plant.”
ANTG combines research with best-in-class cultivation and extraction methods to develop cannabinoid medicines that offer safe and effective therapeutic benefits to meet the needs of individual patients. “Research and development is at the core of this company, and we see it as our responsibility to provide robust evidence to healthcare professionals and the public,” Matt explains.
“Medical cannabis can be used to treat everything from pain and inflammation all the way through to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease – the body of evidence is extraordinary and it’s growing by the day.”
“ Medical cannabis can be used to treat everything from pain and inflammation all the way through to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.”
Cutting the red tape
Community support for medical cannabis is growing in Australia, but patterns of use and consumer views are poorly understood. While Australian regulations allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes, Matt explains that access for patients is still more challenging than it should be. Some patients are heading overseas to countries such as Canada for treatment instead.
“The industry is constantly evolving, yet Australian regulators are still being cautious about allowing widespread use,” he notes. “Although there is plenty of evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis, there is still a stigma attached to it, generally due to a lack of awareness of the research and clinical outcomes that exist.”
ANTG hopes to break down this stigma by investing in R&D to expand society’s understanding of medical cannabis and support the education of healthcare professionals nationwide.
Pioneering countries such as Israel, Canada and America are leading the way in growing the body of evidence surrounding the applications and benefits of medical cannabis, and Matt believes that Australia is perfectly poised to add to this growing knowledge base.
“ Australia is finally starting to catch up to the rest of the world.”
These investments will drive results for ANTG and patients across the country in the medium to long-term.”
Partnering for growth
As one of the fastest-growing medical cannabis markets in the world, Matt knew that Europe would provide endless possibilities to enhance his Australian business. Last year, ANTG announced an exciting partnership with leading independent cannabis wholesaler, Cannamedical Pharma, to export Australian-grown cannabis to the expanding German market from 2019.
Since the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2017, Germany’s market has grown rapidly. Today, Cannamedical Pharma supplies more than 20,000 pharmacies with cannabis and imports about 22,000 kilograms per year to meet the demand of some 691,000 patients.
“While our top priority is to serve the local market, this export opportunity has allowed us to scale up our operations and gather learnings that we can bring back to benefit the Australian market.
“The demand in Europe is phenomenal and, as part of our 10-year agreement to supply cannabis to Germany, we had to upgrade our cultivation facilities to the point where they now exceed Australian standards,” Matt explains. “This is the first of many international export partnerships to come.
It’s a perfect demonstration of our commitment to producing high-quality products and it puts us ahead of much larger companies globally.”
ANTG is committed to quality control at every step of the cultivation, extraction and production process to ensure optimal quality and medicinal benefit. This includes chemical-free CO2 extraction, high-performance liquid and gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, cutting-edge distillation tools and complete traceability through the end-to-end production process.
To reduce ANTG’s carbon footprint, Matt has equipped every facility with green water systems and specialised waste treatment procedures. Comprehensive security measures are also of high priority, and Matt has installed high-tech protection systems, cameras and state-of-the-art fencing to prevent intruders accessing the crops.
Bloomberg predicts the global medical cannabis market could be worth more than A$69 billion by 2025, up from A$11 billion in 2017.
Planting seeds for the future
ANTG’s goal is to develop evidential and technological capabilities to instantly identify the right strain and dose of medical cannabis to treat specific health conditions.
“We hope to be able to guarantee a superior-quality supply of medical cannabis for Australian patients suffering from a range of diseases and illnesses. This mission is shared by every one of our growers, extractors, scientists and administrators,” says Matt.
“Our commitment to our core values and ethics is driven down through our entire supply chain and we have specialists in place to ensure that our products are of high quality and well researched to deliver the maximum results for patients. The team at ANTG is united in their ambition to change lives through medical cannabis.
We are constantly learning and we’re motivated by the patient along every stage in our journey.”
It’s very clear from the get-go that Greyhound Australia CEO Alex de Waal is a passionate people-person. One of his favourite quotes is from acclaimed American poet Maya Angelou, who said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“We want our customers to feel like we’re going above and beyond,” Alex tells Modern Mogul. “That’s the message I convey to my team: that the more we can work as a business to make people feel extraordinary about the job that Greyhound does, the better.”
“I have a passion for tourism but regardless of the industry, I love developing teams and helping them do extraordinary things,” he says.
“I’m a firm believer that no matter how ordinary you are, you are able to achieve extraordinary outcomes if you’re given the right resources, environment and support.”
In August 2017, Alex was appointed Greyhound Australia CEO and although he has been in the role just shy of two years, his pride for the business is obvious.
“A lot of people think the brand started in the US,” he says, referring to the US bus service of the same name. “Greyhound Australia actually started in Toowoomba, Queensland, in 1928.
The vehicle that carried the first-ever Greyhound passenger was a 1927 Whippet, which is still registered and drivable. I’ve had the pleasure of going for a drive in it.
It’s incredible to be able to touch the genesis of a brand.”
Greyhound employs more than 600 workers and has a national network of routes extending from rural to metropolitan regions of Australia. It provides 24,000 scheduled services a year, with 40% of its customers travelling for tourism. The remaining 60% are domestic travellers.
“You might have a customer going down to Canberra for the day from Sydney, or from Toowoomba to Brisbane for a doctor’s appointment,” Alex explains.
Greyhound Australia is establishing the Australian Coach Captains Academy, the first holistic training course for coach captains. “I want to create an environment where young people coming out of school have an interest in becoming a coach captain,” Alex says.
“Currently it’s a spontaneous, organic process where somebody gets themselves a medium rigid or heavy rigid driving licence, maybe drives a milk truck or a semitrailer for a couple of years, then applies to Greyhound to drive a coach.
I’d like to see more young people and women in the workplace, because our drivers are ageing. We want to create jobs. We’re not sitting back just trying to recruit people. We’re creating a new environment where we can actually create that demand.”
Over the past seven years, Greyhound has invested heavily in the resources sector, particularly in Queensland’s Bowen Basin – the home of Australia’s largest coal reserves. It has had transportation contracts with mining giants including BHP and Anglo American, as well as major oil companies such as Chevron.
The biggest resources project Greyhound has had so far has been transporting workers for Chevron’s Wheatstone LNG (liquefied natural gas) project in Western Australia. The project involved building the LNG production plant, 12 kilometres west of Onslow, from scratch.
“It was an enormous project, where we had 150 coaches deployed to the one mining site,” Alex says. “Over that seven-year period, we moved more than 11 million passengers, and travelled 16 million kilometres, which is the equivalent of transporting the Australian population around the world 200 times. And we delivered 500,000 individual services.
“The Wheatstone site, which is now in wind-down phase, was like a choreographed ballet in terms of the 150 coaches leaving within 30 minutes of each other. You can imagine what it was like moving that number of people in the morning and again in the evening. It was a bit like watching synchronised swimming. It’s a fascinating logistics exercise.”
Greyhound’s success to date wouldn’t have been possible without the support of its highly valued business partners. In particular, Alex mentions the collaboration the company has had with bus manufacturer Irizar and its partner Volvo, which has worked with Greyhound since 2008.
“Greyhound has a long history of focusing on quality products,” Alex says. “We haven’t gone for cheaper coaches in the marketplace; we haven’t cut corners. And Irizar has made sure that its products are always top-notch.”
It is this product and service quality that attracted Greyhound to Irizar in the first place.“With the number of kilometres we do – we have some coaches in the West that have driven three to four million kilometres – it is extraordinary for a vehicle to continue to perform well for so long,” Alex says.
“That can only be achieved through the service regimen we have and the coach being a high-quality product made to withstand the rigours of what we put it through. So Irizar/Volvo have been a fantastic partner in that regard.”
What makes the partnership even better, Alex adds, is that Irizar doesn’t just provide Greyhound with the product it has on hand. “The team has been instrumental in designing, redesigning and creating products specifically to meet our needs,” he explains. “So, for instance, we came up with requirements to improve the toilet design in the vehicles and Irizar developed those.
Then, if you look at the resources sector, we’ve just re-signed a transportation contract with BHP for mining sites in Bowen Basin and Olympic Dam, and we have ordered another 49 coaches through Irizar and Volvo to service that demand.
BHP was really interested in activating a new fleet as soon as possible, so Irizar and Volvo took the risk of pre-producing and pre-ordering parts and components for that order even without a contract in place yet. We couldn’t guarantee them the order but through our communication of exactly what the circumstances were, they took the risk. And that’s pretty extraordinary. We’re really appreciative of that type of commitment.
”A large part of Greyhound’s success in securing that highly competitive contract, Alex says, was because it developed a high-tech bus with Irizar and Volvo in 2016, two years before the contract was awarded. This demonstrated to BHP the safety and innovative features that Greyhound was committed to providing.
Alex believes the reason Irizar and Greyhound have stayed in partnership for more than a decade is trust and open communication. “It’s a reciprocal relationship,” he says. “Honesty, forthright communication and both parties doing what they say they’re going to do is important. And looking after each other’s interests.”
“ When I leave here I want to make sure this company will be around for the next century.”
Greyhound officially adopted its name in 1928 however, the firm’s origins date back to the AA Withers Bus Company, which began in 1905. This means it has provided well over 100 years of service to the people of Australia. And as the company steers into the future, Alex wants to continue its incredible legacy. “When I leave here I want to make sure this company will be around for the next century.”