“I am only as strong as my team – I am because of you.” – Natasha Parmanand on receiving the Top Businesswoman of the Year award.

FedEx Express invented express distribution and is the industry’s global leader, providing rapid, reliable, time-definite delivery to more than 220 countries and territories. We speak to Natasha Parmanand – Managing Director Legal, Regulatory Affairs and Labor Relations for FedEx Express Sub Sahara Africa.

Please give us your view of the possibilities that the continent of Africa offers in terms of opportunity.

As local businesses flourished, and when global companies included Africa in their plans for expansion, economies on the continent grew – some rivalling the rate of development of developed countries. This created expansion across a number of industries on the continent.

With markets and industries starting to re-open following the COVID-19 restrictions, industry experts believe that we will once again start to see a rise in the construction, natural resources/mining, and manufacturing sectors across Africa.

Through our African road network, and global air connectivity, FedEx Express is ready to support the growth of African economies by connecting them to global markets.

The legal requirements for each country must all differ – do you have advisory staff situated in each of them to provide guidance?

Africa is a complex and diverse continent, and I am fortunate to work with a dedicated and dynamic team who understand the different regulations of each country. They are not only advisors to the organisation, but they are trusted business partners of FedEx in Southern Africa and in the AMEA region. While the team is physically located in Johannesburg, we support all Sub Sahara countries, with the assistance of external legal counsel in each country as required.   

What have been some of your highlights since you have been with FedEx?

The highlight of working at FedEx Express has been growth – both professional and personal. Since joining the company in 2014, I have played a role in major business activities that have supported not only our ability to serve the customer and connect Africa, but have seen us support and develop our team members within the business.

In addition, I am proud to have led the Unemployed Youth Learnership and the Disabled Learnership programmes, as youth empowerment is something very close to my heart.

How has COVID impacted FedEx Express in general and your role in particular?

COVID-19 has definitely taught me to be flexible. It has also heightened my focus on empathetic leadership, where listening to the concerns of my team, supporting and guiding and mentoring them, has been essential in how we effectively work together.

You are passionate about supporting and enabling the youth in Africa to succeed. What are some of the programmes you run in this regard?

Together with my team, I look after the Unemployed Youth and the Disabled Learnership programmes at FedEx Express. Through these programmes, FedEx has empowered and provided workplace experience to more than 120 unemployed youths over the past two years. Most companies often ask for workplace experience before even considering an interview with young people, even for entry level positions, so this is our way of giving them the opportunity to have a foot in the door. I am passionate about these programs because this is one way of levelling the playing field, so that everyone has an opportunity to succeed.

How has technology impacted on the work you do?

Like many people, the importance of technology has grown over the past months since I, like most of my colleagues, started working remotely. Technology has allowed our team and colleagues to remain connected across the business. Now, instead of face-to-face meetings, we do video calls, ensuring that even though we cannot be in the same room, we can easily stay connected.

I rarely thought of technology as an aid to mental wellness, but it has played a crucial role in this regard. Prior to COVID-19, people would go and visit family and friends. With movement being limited, technology is being used to alleviate the loneliness that team members who are far from family members feel. Now, they can still ‘see’ their families without breaking the lockdown rules.

What books are you currently reading?

Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck.

How do you relax?

I love cooking and boxing.

If you had an extra hour in the day how would you spend it?

Definitely with my family.

What message do you have for young entrepreneurs and businesses out there struggling to survive?

This pandemic will pass, and life will return to, if not normal, a ‘new’ normal. Use the time to think outside the box to find innovative solutions to the challenges in front of you – if you are struggling with your pre-COVID-19 business, you may look to alter your services or products.

Experts and market commentators tell us that the current way of working, shopping and connecting with people is unlikely to return back to what it was before the pandemic so, consider how relevant your products or services are now, and how they will meet your customer’s needs as people and the world adapts to these changing conditions. Flexibility and agility will be key to survival. Remember that what was successful yesterday may not be what we need today or tomorrow.

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