Can you give us an overview of the company?
We are a family company, established almost 50 years ago. We used to be focused only on industrial activity, but we are now involved in several activities divided by separate groups. One is Groupe Palmeraie Développement, which is involved in real estate, hotels, leisure, golf, and the like. It is different from the second group, Palmeraie Industry and Services, which has four separate activities: industry, for which I am responsible; mining; education; and agriculture. Industry represents the largest part of the group, and we continue to develop it in Morocco. One of our strategies is to look into other countries, and our other strategy for Morocco is to invest in new activities. This is why we started our automotive business here, which has been operating for seven years. We supply Renault and Peugeot Morocco with filaments and some foam pieces. We started a JV with a Spanish group called Jobelsa Automotive to produce covers for cars solely for export. As a company, we are far surpassing the growth of Morocco, which stood at 2.4% in 2019, and we are almost at double digits. We have had double-digit growth for the past two years, and for the last seven years growth has been over 6%. We have a strategy to focus not only on our core business, but to also start new businesses. We just started a new factory here, a recycling project where we transform plastic bottles to fibers.
Can tell us more about your activities in the agriculture sector?
It is a new sector for us. I am not managing it. An investor acquired some shares and invested USD20 million in the company. In our case, we received almost USD30 million from the UK. With agriculture, we are mostly involved in fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, for export, mainly to Europe. This is a segment that we have received investment in. We are also developing a Moroccan type of date.
How have technology and innovation affected your operations in Morocco?
We have tried to imagine how AI could affect our business. In the future, it will replace everything. When we compare ourselves to European companies, we are at the same levels. We signed a license with Sealy, which is the worldwide market leader, to be the licensee in Morocco and the region. It is working in the same way we are doing here. Technology will not have a big effect on the business in the near future. Perhaps beyond that, people are considering putting sensors in mattress to analyze how people sleep through the night. We have made some technological advancements in distribution. We started with a website about four years ago. There is still a small turnover, but the next generation will only buy their mattresses and furniture online. In terms of production, for a Moroccan sofa, for example, we are able to deliver an order for a customized sofa in the same day if the order is made before 10 a.m. This has been enabled by technology.
How would you evaluate the Moroccan resource pool in terms of R&D?
We have more than 2,000 employees. For us, R&D is a strong part of our strategy. We have succeeded in the past because we invest in R&D. We have a big showroom to display our new products to our customers and distributors. We entered into a soft partnership with Dow, one of the biggest chemical companies in the world. We signed a partnership to have its service center and R&D department here. In 2018, we introduced in Africa the first mattress that repels mosquitoes, and we obtained a trademark. These developments are important to the country and continent, which is why we continue to invest in R&D.