The futurist

Behind old red brick walls in an historic warehouse in the Speicherstadt historical warehouse district, HHLA Next is working on the future of logistics. There, futurists are reviewing potential investments and innovations that will make HHLA fit for the world of tomorrow. One of these experts is Sriram Giridhar, Research & Partner Manager at HHLA Next, who embodies all the qualities that are important for this business.

But what exactly is important? Curiosity, creative thinking, quick decision-making, a polite and friendly manner – according to Sriram, these are the key personal requirements. So, he listens curiously and politely until the end of our discussion, although he probably had an answer ready after the first sentence.

Sriram Giridhar left his home city of Bangalore, the third-largest metropolis in India, in 2013 to study in Germany. He completed his master’s degree at the renowned European Business School (EBS). “I wanted to leave my comfort zone and live in a multicultural, linguistically unfamiliar environment,” says Sriram, who is passionate about travel and discovery. He thinks there is no better location for this than Europe.

After beginning his career at a consulting start-up in Stuttgart, he switched to HHLA in late 2020. “I didn’t want to consult, but to shape the future myself,” says Sriram. That’s exactly what he’s doing now. Together with specialists and decision makers in the company, the HHLA Next team seeks out and develops ideas with future viability – which mostly revolve around logistics processes and new technologies.

Sometimes Sriram and the HHLA Next team, which currently consists of about 20 people, are also contacted by external start-ups. Word has got around that HHLA doesn’t only invest in promising business ideas. It also provides research and practice expertise that is second to none in maritime logistics.

Sriram’s research and analysis expertise is in great demand, including in the daily business of the six companies that HHLA Next now has in its portfolio. They have research questions when they are planning to enter a new market, for example, or to place a product. How big is the market volume; how exactly do the market and the competition look; which trends will emerge in the future?

To find out, Sriram uses market reports, databases, interviews with experts and articles in specialist magazines and the daily press. He analyses all the material and prepares it so that the results are easy to understand. This naturally involves a lot of teamwork, and Sriram is proud of HHLA Next, where so much enthusiasm, creativity and expertise are concentrated.

However, Sriram is not only a research manager but also a partner manager. This requires him to connect stakeholders inside and outside the company. “We are aware of the expectations on both sides and manage them so that the communication functions well,” says Sriram. Whereas start-ups expect fast responses and clear decisions, processes in a large company like HHLA often work differently. Networking with equity funds and other players in the industry is also part of partner management. “It’s a people’s business that lives from contacts and discussions,” says Sriram, who is therefore often on the road attending industry events.

When he’s back in Hamburg with new contacts, ideas and projects, a modern office, which promotes the exchange of ideas and creativity, awaits Sriram in the old warehouse. There are almost no doors throughout the entire floor and the desks are not specifically assigned. Comfortable seating corners serve as places for discussion, and those who prefer a quieter workspace can retreat to a quiet zone. These are prime conditions for deep thinking about new ideas. “The core business of HHLA today will perhaps no longer be its core business tomorrow,” says Sriram. Sriram and HHLA Next play a significant role in determining how this future will look.

Published 1.11.2022

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