Serving others is what drives Nerissa Jalim, Cargo Carriers CFO

Since 2008, Nerissa Jalim has been a volunteer at NPO Eden Little Society in Gauteng.

Apart from being the CFO of Cargo Carriers, Nerissa Jalim has been a volunteer at Little Eden Society in Edenvale, Gauteng, since 2008. Little Eden is a non-profit organisation that provides specialised care to adults and children with intellectual disabilities.

For Nerissa, there is no greater satisfaction in life than a life dedicated to helping those in need. And since her demanding role as CFO means she is not able to spend time at the home as she used to, she continues to provide financial support, a much-needed resource for organisations such as this one, especially during this difficult time.

“Little Eden is very close to my heart. The adults and children have profound learning disabilities. Unlike most of us, their functionality in society is limited hence they need special care, and it breaks my heart to see this,” says Nerissa.

As a result of their limitations, they need very little – just love and essentials, says Nerissa. Many have been abandoned, and don’t know the love of a family, so Little Eden provides them with a loving home, food and care.

For Nerissa, a visit to Little Eden is a reminder to be grateful for what we often take for granted – like our motor skills, the ability to see, hear, think and take care of ourselves. “It makes me remember that there are endless reasons to be grateful. Being able to give back is an honour and a privilege.”

Despite Nerissa’s hectic schedule, she enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, and her balanced lifestyle enables her to seamlessly move from boardroom to dining room at home with ease.

“Controlling one’s stress levels is key to achieving a healthy balanced lifestyle,” she says. “Having a good night’s sleep is an essential element to my productivity,” she says. In her free time, Nerissa sets aside time to meditate and practise yoga, as both exercises help her focus, relax, and achieve a balanced lifestyle.

Managing a business amid a pandemic
Nerissa describes herself as a well-rounded business leader who possess an ability to drive an organisation with value-add at all levels. This comes as no surprise given her dynamic personality.

She was appointed to CFO position in September 2019, and says her role is broad and diverse. This involves working closely with the operational team to help increase profitability, and make swift decisions on day-to-day operations.

“I am also a sounding board for the operations team’s ideas, while simultaneously challenging their point of view,” she explains.

Nerissa points out that the agility and team dynamic enabled the business to react swiftly to market changes when the country went into hard lockdown in March 2020. “Covid-19 has taught me to embrace change while remaining positive. This, coupled with adaptability, has been one of our key tools in managing and navigating through the pandemic,” she says.

For over a decade, Nerissa’s working experience has been largely entrenched in the manufacturing sector. This makes her a perfect fit for Cargo Carriers, a logistics and supply chain business.

Like most businesses, the logistics and manufacturing sectors in South Africa have felt the pinch thanks to Covid-19. She explains that both sectors have seen volume declines in terms of supply and demand especially during hard lockdown when most businesses could not trade.

Price sensitivity is another trend that will continue this year, she says. Since the bulk of the business is contract-based, there is stiff competition in the market, and this is reflective of macro-economics and impact of the pandemic on business operations. “Businesses have had to adapt swiftly with restructuring programmes or face closure. For example, many competitors in the logistics sector have not been able to withstand Covid-19.”

Nerissa notes that the biggest challenge in the sector is to remain competitive in terms of pricing. “With the unfortunate closure of many competitors, it has created the opportunity for growth even amid these difficult times.”

While dealing with challenges, she and her teams are actively looking at various innovative ways to grow the business. To this end, the company swiftly adjusted and implemented new budgets before the onset of Covid-19. Soon, these budget assumptions were outdated almost immediately.

“We replaced this with a monthly rolling reforecast, enabling us to be agile enough to respond to our customers’ volume declines, and day-to-day operations,” she notes.

Now more than ever, she says, they are constantly looking to improve customer experience, and this will go a long way in retaining old, and attracting new customers: “Customer centricity is the cornerstone of our business and innovation is engrained in our values.”

Nerissa holds accounting qualifications from the universities of Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal, and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. Prior to Cargo Carriers, she held managerial financial positions at companies including LafargeHolcim, Aveng, Gunnebo, ESAB, Imperial Logistics, First National Battery and Deloitte. She was also the chairperson of the board of directors, and non-executive director at Kuehne + Nagel.