Costa Rica 2017 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Peter Ossenbach Kröeschel, General Manager of Grupo Capris, on the company's evolution over time, the areas with great potential, and the growing popularity of its online store.

Peter Ossenbach Kröeschel
Peter Ossenbach Kröeschel has over 16 years of banking experience in Costa Rica. He has led Grupo Capris for the past four years as CEO. Before this, he worked for Citigroup 11 years, starting as Country Risk Manager and later moving up to the position of Corporate Bank Head, which he held for eight years. He joined Banco Banex as Head of Analysts and later became Corporate Treasurer after its acquisition by Banco del Istmo. He holds a bachelor's in finance and business administration from Boston College.

How has Grupo Capris evolved into the market leader?

My grandfather founded the company in Costa Rica in 1954 in the beginning the company focused on automotive and industrial maintenance, or MRO, gradually moving into other markets over the years. It was involved in the coffee business early on, and Cafe Capris was the largest exporter of coffee until being sold in 1969. In 1987, Capris Medica was founded with a focus on laboratory services in hospitals mainly in the areas of clinical chemistry and haematology. Over the years, the company diversified geographically and now has a presence in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. In each of these countries, we have a different focus. It is a complex business because each of the market segments we participate in has different challenges, competitors, and market strategies. Those are our main businesses; however, we also have a vested interest in the renewable energy and energy efficiency market through a subsidiary called GBT. The reason we are in so many different markets and excel in most of them is that we listen, innovate, and adapt to our customers' needs. Once the decision is made to enter a market, we try to become the relevant player in that market.

Over the years, Capris has been consistently diversifying its portfolio. Which services show the most market potential?

The ones growing fairly quickly are the medical business, MRO, and wholesale. These are growing quickly, and the company is changing both its portfolio of products to adapt to the changing product demand patterns as well as the way it communicates to its customers on a regular basis with technologies that have been mature in other countries, but are fairly new in Costa Rica and Latin America. We use vending machines to make our products available 24/7 for our customers and also enhanced our product portfolio with a significant amount of new products to service the growing segments of the economy. Other ways we are trying to meet the requirements of the customers by enhancing and improving the supply chain solutions we offer through our website, which provides our customers with an efficient communication channel providing our VIP customers with all the tools they need to enhance their supply chain process. Today, it is the most developed platform available in the region. From this platform, customers can access up to 35,000 products online in a customer-friendly manner, order products, and see their account statements and the status of any order that has been placed.

How do you see the market evolving in the next five years, and where do you see Grupo Capris within this outlook?

There is a great deal of competition right now. There were USD350 million in internet purchases in Costa Rica during 2013. That grew in 2014 to USD500 million, which is a 30% annual growth. Costa Rica has a higher internet penetration rate than most of the countries in the region; therefore, we foresee increasing numbers of people coming to our online store. That is why we have strategically decided to develop the platform and make it more user-friendly, and we will soon have the plugin from DHL to allow for speedy deliveries. The platform was actually developed for industrial and wholesale companies, and not necessarily for end users or home users, but we are changing that given that we have sold products to Germany and Spain over our platform, and we see that tendency growing. These end users have found something competitive in what we offer, even in such highly competitive markets. We need to develop and invest even more in our multi-platform electronic services. We also have an open return policy that is not necessarily the norm in our region. We will return customers' money if they are not satisfied with the product or made a mistake ordering it, which is a way of incentivizing our customers to actually start using the platform.