In the professional world, success often comes as a result of persistence, fortitude, and innovation. All are values embodied by Kawal Preet, who has been recognized as one of the “10 Most Influential Women Leaders in Asia 2023”
As President of FedEx Express Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa (AMEA) since June 2020, Preet is creating greater access to the global marketplace and helping businesses of all sizes thrive. Her role includes delivering corporate strategy, developing, and optimizing network infrastructure, and driving business transformation in over 103 countries and territories. A steadfast supporter of logistics as a vital tool for maintaining global trade across AMEA and beyond, Preet also serves on the board of the US-ASEAN Business Council.
The AMEA President joined us for an exclusive interview to discuss her professional journey and how FedEx is delivering operational excellence to unleash business value.
FedEx: Making the Supply Chain Smarter
FedEx offers a wide range of transportation, e-commerce, and business solutions to customers in more than 220 countries and territories using its extensive air and ground networks. After a short stint as a graduate trainee at an automobile company in India, Preet joined the company in 1997 kickstarting a successful career journey. FedEx, which turned 50 earlier this year, has evolved from being a company that provides transportation solutions to one operating at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds and now provides both transportation and digital solutions.
“When I joined FedEx, I never imagined I’d be given so many opportunities along the way, growing together with the company. It’s incredible to look back at the transformation we’ve gone through. Today through AI, machine learning and other advanced data analytics, we’re building smart supply chains for our customers. I’m incredibly privileged to be part of this journey.”
Turning Data into Intelligence
FedEx recognized early on how data drives innovation. Millions of parcels are sent daily over the company’s global network, and each one is scanned and traced numerous times before reaching its destination. Now operating in a mobile-first world, the team is using technology and ever-greater amounts of connected, continuous, and contextual data to actively transform the way they operate to better serve their customers.
The company introduced robotic sorting arms powered by artificial intelligence at sorting hubs and centers in locations like Singapore and China to increase overall operational efficiency. Customers can plan shipments using FedEx Ship Manager Lite on their mobile devices, eliminating the need to print paperwork at home. FedEx Delivery Manager International incorporates WhatsApp notifications for flexible delivery options, direct chatting, and convenient tracking.
The team also recently launched FedEx Sustainability Insights to give customers better visibility into their historical carbon footprint within their supply chains, supporting reporting and strategic future planning. Solutions like this will help shape greener and smarter logistics in the future.
Preet sees sustainability through the eyes of opportunity, growth, and profitability, as well as with a clear purpose to connect businesses and communities because she believes that the future of the business is connected to climate, the environment, and the future of the planet.
“The first 50 years of FedEx history were spent building reliable physical networks with the technological underpinnings to serve global customers. The next 50 years will be focused on transforming into a technology company supported by physical networks to offer customers differentiated solutions and streamlined experiences that make every interaction intuitive, simple, intelligent and sustainable,” she said.
Kawal Preet’s Leadership Approach: Listen, Mentor, and Empower
Although the pandemic is over, leaders are facing fresh challenges navigating the ‘new normal’. With digitalization happening across the board, hybrid working gaining popularity, and a relatively weak global economy, they need to demonstrate strong leadership to steer the ship and raise team morale in challenging times like now.
Kawal Preet has been with FedEx for over two decades, witnessing many different types of challenges as well as economic ups and downs. Successfully navigating headwinds frequently necessitates change and transformation, which is not always simple.
“We must always adopt a clear-eyed perspective on the difficulties we confront, particularly in formulating our business strategy and interacting with our colleagues,” according to Preet. Teams should be motivated to work toward a shared set of goals by their leaders, who should also equip them with the tools and expertise needed for success as well as implement systems for tracking performance and assigning accountability. In addition, they must work to foster an environment that gives everyone the chance to succeed, regardless of background, by being hospitable, inclusive, and equal.
Preet is dedicated to helping others reach their full potential via active listening and empowerment. “Being a good listener promotes loyalty and trust. It lets my teams know they are important and valuable to the business.”
Another essential technique for assisting people in realizing their full potential is mentoring. Preet is passionate about creating mentorship programs for staff members, assisting them in overcoming challenges and giving opportunities for them to progress within the company, much as she herself received mentorship along the way.
Cultivating a Culture of Creativity and Innovation
Preet is highly focused on cultivating a workplace culture centered on learning and growth. As a leader who considers herself to be a lifelong learner, she believes it is essential to turn to team members so they can learn from them as well.
“At FedEx, we’re committed to building what we call an ‘Enterprise Culture’ where every employee is encouraged to take ownership in improving our services but at the same time, working together to build differentiated products and solutions for what’s next.”
She, together with her team, accomplishes this by staying rooted in a ‘People-First’ philosophy.’ There are tools that make it possible for teams to collaborate successfully across departments and locations while ensuring that they consistently acknowledge and promote excellence. FedEx offers systematic talent development programs to support learning, acquiring new abilities, and advancement while empowering employees to have an impact on the company and its customers.
Employee volunteerism in local community initiatives is also an important part of the company’s culture to help employees see their impact on the world. Through programs like the FedEx Express and Junior Achievement International Trade Challenge, team members teach younger generations about global trade by getting directly involved. They also develop new insights into the problems they face today from the lens of these young future entrepreneurs, which contributes to the creation of solutions with an outside-in perspective.
Looking to the Future: Some Entrepreneurial Wisdom for Those Starting Out
Working on its mission to connect people and possibilities around the world responsibly and resourcefully, Preet envisions a future that offers more possibilities for its customers. She and her entire team are transforming themselves into a more agile and digitally led organization. She is determined to continue investing in people so they may reach their full potential and reimagine the future, assisting them in creating smart and sustainable logistics for everyone.
Sharing a final piece of advice with aspiring female leaders and entrepreneurs, Kawal Preet has these words of encouragement:
“While the ‘fail fast and move on’ culture has been established for quite a while within the start-up community, accepting failures can still be an uncomfortable process. It can get in the way and block your vision of the big picture. That’s why, when faced with failures, it’s important to take a moment to remind yourself why you started and believe in yourself
Of course, staying agile is also critical; being an entrepreneur necessitates adaptability and flexibility. Success depends on the ability to swiftly shift your course and respond to changing circumstances. Lastly, it’s critical to build new ventures with sustainability in mind considering more than ever, climate change is having a significant influence on all types of businesses as well as our society.”