I'll be lying if I say I'm not bothered by the downturn. Ours is not a recession proof industry and we're certainly not immune. Sometimes I wish we were selling rice or detergent instead.
I used to wake up to a long list of emails asking for containers in exotic locations like Moombassa, Lagos or Tema. But today, there were only 2 junk mails in my mailbox. The rest of the world must be sleeping when I was asleep. Where have all the European and American buyers gone?
My principal in the UK spoke about the smaller shipping lines that have gone bankrupt. Even here in Asia, the aggressive resellers have gone quiet due to the pulling back of funds from their backers. The smaller new traders have disappeared completely from the radar.
These days, we get more people trying to sell us containers than buying from us. The phone lines are no longer ringing off the hook like before. We used to be harrassed by impatient customers wanting to collect containers from our yard asap. Where have they gone now?
Export volumes have shrunk all over Asia, known as the trading powerhouse, and we're feeling the pinch. Thousands of freight forwarders and manufacturers in China are out of business.
According to my associates, this is not the first downturn in our cyclical industry. The last one just happened several years back but they've not seen anything like this. At that time, I was too much of an excited newbie to notice. I was just forging ahead, oblivious to the gloom around me. Still, I managed to emerge unscathed because I had nothing to lose. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
We've started to restrategise and focus on a broader client base. Yesterday we received an enquiry from a French language school who wish to put a container in their backyard. There was another one who wanted to make a containerised workshop on board a vessel. We're selling containers by the ones and twos instead of in big lots now. But still, it is better than no sales.
With more time on my hands, I am thinking of doing some artwork for my home, an area I had neglected for some time. As an individual, I don't have the power to change the economy but I can change myself.