TBY talks to Carlos Andrés Mejía Albert, General Manager of DuPont, on the significance of Colombia, its FTAs, and new technologies.
THE BUSINESS YEAR You were named GM of DuPont last year. What have been some of the company’s milestones since then?
CARLOS ANDRÉS MEJÍA ALBERT We have started a journey to accelerate growth in Colombia and to further increase our penetration of the Colombian economy. Those were the two objectives that we had one-and-a-half years ago. Since 2011 we’ve grown 35% and the level of penetration of our portfolio in the economy is increasing. Reaching those rates of growth has been a major milestone for us, and means we are on the right track to keep accelerating.
What is the strategic importance of Colombia for your global operations?
Colombia is important; it is turning into the third largest economy in the region. It is also the third most populated country in the region after Brazil and Mexico, which represent DuPont’s largest operations in Latin America. However, Colombia is also very significant. We’re getting a lot of support from the corporation to identify the needs of the market and how DuPont can be part of that growth in this environment. Colombia is very active in energy—oil and gas in particular—and DuPont has a strong portfolio in that area. Infrastructure is another area where we are working very hard here in Colombia, providing new roads that the country needs. And now we’re signing agreements and we have technology that can improve and enhance paving. We’re present in one of the most important projects, the Ruta del Sol II, which is 528 kilometers in length and incorporates DuPont paving technology. We are also planning to be part of other projects in Colombia. Agriculture and nutrition are other areas we are interested in. In Colombia the middle class is growing, meaning the level of consumption is growing as well, and we want to be part of that in terms of nutrition and solutions for the food industry. DuPont also has corn seeds in its portfolio and we’re gaining a share in that area as well.
In terms of crops, what have been your major developments in the country?
Corn is an area we’re investing a lot in, and our technologies are improving the way farmers grow their seeds. They’re becoming more productive by using our technology. This means that a farm in Colombia can produce more with our technology than it used to produce without it.
Are there any new areas you are willing to expand into?
We are always looking for opportunities. In 2011, we announced the purchase of a company called Danisco. And now we’re in the process of leveraging the portfolio that Danisco brings into what we already had. It brings in a lot of technology as well as different areas of ingredients. In terms of resins, we provide solutions to the packaging industry as well. Through our extensive portfolio we are able to put together complete packages for various industries. That is our focus right now.
How will the recently ratified free trade agreement (FTA) with the US impact operations?
I think it is going to be good for all of us. We think that it will help the economy as a whole in Colombia to grow, and we want to be part of that growth. At DuPont, we see it as a win-win situation. It’s going to be good for the US and it’s going to be good for Colombia. And as the economy grows, we want to be part of that growth.
You grew 35% in 2011. What are you expecting for this year?
Even though 1Q2012 was very strong and we see a good 2012, growth is probably going to be slower than it was last year, but it will still be a strong year for us. The economy grew 6% last year. The last projection I heard for 2012 was 4.4%. We’re probably not going to grow at the same rate as 2011, but it’s still going to be a good year for us. We’re positive.
How would you assess technological and scientific development in Colombia?
We leverage all of the capabilities that DuPont has on a global basis in terms of technology. We have more than 8,000 scientists around the globe and we try to adapt what we have on a global basis to use that capability for local needs. There is a need to improve the infrastructure here in Colombia, and now we’re using a technology that can help to provide better and longer-lasting road paving materials. We’re always looking for opportunities and how our technology and our people can use their knowledge for local needs.
Do you carry out R&D in Colombia?
We don’t have a lab here, though we are connected through our technical organization with Brazil. There is a vice-president in Brazil who is in charge of R&D, and we have local people who report through that line. Whatever needs we have to develop with local companies and institutions we channel through that line.
What other advantages does Colombia offer for further investment?
In the oil and gas and mining areas we have a business called DuPont Sustainable Solutions that is focused on providing service and safety consulting. We provide support for managing the environment and improving safety in the operations. We have ways to grow here and support local needs. We also have a strong portfolio in protective wear as well, such fire-resistant clothes. These products are useful for people working in refineries who face danger from fire and also from chemicals.
How do you assess the investment climate for foreign companies wanting to come to Colombia?
I think it’s pretty good. We can say that because we’ve been here almost 50 years already. In 2013 DuPont’s operations will turn 50 in Colombia. With the number of FTAs increasing and the economy continuing on its growth curve, the climate is strengthening.
What trends can you identify in the local economy?
The investment that we’re seeing in the oil and gas area is very tangible. Agriculture and nutrition are certainly areas people are investing in because of the growth of the middle class. And something very particular in Colombia is the infrastructure. It is taking time and people are complaining a lot, but Colombia is going to improve its infrastructure and there is going to be a lot of investment in that area. We want to be there and we want to be part of the solution business in that area.
Are you launching any new projects soon?
On a global average, we produce one patent every two days. DuPont is always introducing new technologies. Elvaloy is the product that we are using for paving. We’re definitely always looking for good opportunities to launch new products, such as new seeds in the corn area. DuPont has also launched new technologies to produce corn. We are additionally working with the government to provide nutritional solutions to children, and that’s something we’re planning to do in the next few months. We’re also launching projects like Protera, which is for fire and electrical hazards. Every year we launch new products targeted at local needs.
This interview will be published in 'The Business Year: Colombia 2013'. To pre-subscribe please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
© The Business Year - October 2012