SAGREN Thanthony in his office at Aero Maritime Logistics in Umbilo, Durban. Bongani Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - When Sagren Thanthony started his career as an admin clerk in the shipping industry he had no idea he would head up a freight forwarding business.

Thanthony, who co-founded Aero Maritime Logistics in Umbilo, Durban, with business partner Shireen Asharam, matriculated at Merebank Secondary and landed his first job at Akals as an administrative clerk in its import and export division.

He said it was Patrick Akal who gave him his first break in the industry which led to him studying shipping at night school at ML Sultan Technikon, now Durban University of Technology.

“I was going to do a computer course and had enrolled, and then when I had this interview with Patrick, I changed it to shipping,” he said.

Thanthony grew his import/export admin skills at the firm before taking an opportunity with another business.

“I was offered a job at another company doing clearing and forwarding and I took it.”

Thanthony said it was when the owners of the business decided to close 10 years ago that he and colleague Asharam saw an opportunity and asked the owners not to close the business but to let them it take over.

“We took it over and changed the name to Aero Maritime Logistics. It was a good opportunity for us and we grew the business,” Thanthony said.

“We focus mostly on dealing with motor spares, on imports, because Akals was a motor spare company, and we had knowledge and experience of doing all the clearing forwarding.”

Thanthony and Asharam moved the business from its offices in the CBD to another rented office in Sydney Road in 2000 before investing in their own business premises in a converted house in Wadley Road in Umbilo.

Like most small businesses, Thanthony said a major challenge has been obtaining access to finance and managing cash flow. However, he said the habit of maintaining good bookkeeping records had helped him to obtain assistance from banks.

While 2018 was not a particularly noteworthy year for his business due to the erratic rand/dollar exchange rate and South Africa’s credit rating fluctuation, Thanthony is hoping to grow the business this year.

“I would say there are not going to be any fireworks unless something happens in the elections, but because we are small and agile we can ride the storm,” he said.

Thanthony has no regrets regarding his business journey and is now preparing to hand the reins over to his son, who he believes will model the tenacity he has shown over the years.

“The most important thing is study and perseverance - if you dream it you can do it. There are no regrets. I am always positive. I would not look backwards with negativity, I don’t get down, challenges are good,” he said.