Nov. 3, 2021


María del Carmen Araujo Grijalva

Colombia

María del Carmen Araujo Grijalva

Executive President, Hidalgo e Hidalgo (HeH) Colombia

HeH has been able to leverage its extensive international experience to complete complex infrastructural projects in Colombia no matter rain or shine.

BIO

María del Carmen Araujo Grijalva has a master´s degree in economics from Boston University and studied at the Catholic University of Ecuador. She has been Executive President of HeH Colombia since 2017. She is a member of the board of several companies and concession holders of HeH Group including Concesionaria Vial del Perú, Concesionaria Vial del Sur, and Concesionaria Puerto Amazonas. She was previously the social responsibility manager at Construcción y Administración S.A. She has also been a consultant in public management development and decentralization at the World Bank and Interamerican Development Bank. She worked at Development Bank of Ecuador as external credit manager and technical coordinator of the Project on Modernization of the State at the State Modernization Council.


HeH started operations in 2011 in Colombia. How would you evaluate the performance of the company since then?

Expanding our operations to Colombia has been a positive experience for HeH. Colombia has a large and dynamic economy with an array of opportunities and challenges. We are an Ecuadorian company with 51 years of experience in the region. Peru was our first international endeavor 18 years ago and since then we have expanded our presence to seven countries in South and Central America. We are pleased with our work in Colombia during the last decade. Our growth has been sustained and we have focused in strategic areas in the country. Institutionality and rule of law are strong, as well as the flow of new investment projects. These factors are important for a company that seeks new markets, and they reinforce our commitment in Colombia.

The government wants to boost economic development via investment in infrastructure. What projects is the company focusing on?

HeH leads the waste management concession in two important locations in Bogotá, Engativá and Barrios Unidos, servicing 1.5 million people. It is a 24/7 job that has to be done 365 days a year. Our operations have not stopped a single day. At an infrastructure level, we completed the paving works of the south runway of El Dorado Airport. We worked around the clock and completed the project earlier than expected. One of the most challenging and successful projects is the Túnel de la Línea, which crosses the Cordillera Central in Colombia. HeH was responsible for finishing six tunnels, four bridges, and complementary infrastructure. This is a high priority project for the government and despite a temporary halt of two months during the pandemic, we were able to complete all major milestones on time. Looking forward, HeH is interested in participating in a government plan led by INVIAS, called Vías para la Legalidad. It supports investment in regions that were affected by violence and lack of presence of the government. Some of these regions include Cauca, Chocó, Arauca, Caquetá, among others. Central government bidding processes in Colombia are transparent, so we are confident that we can participate in some of these projects.

What are your views on the long-term infrastructure plan for the country?

Despite the pandemic, we were able to keep all of our projects running while protecting the health and wellbeing of our collaborators. HeH Colombia has 1,500 employees, and we preserved all those jobs with no pay cuts. Efforts to boost infrastructure investment reactivate the economy and strengthen employment generation. Bringing infrastructure to areas that have been forgotten will have an important economic and social impact. The infrastructure sector is extremely labor intensive, which is beneficial for millions of people affected by the crisis.

How do you use your international experience to ensure your practices and processes are efficient and meet world-class standards?

The Andean countries share a very challenging geography with impressive mountain ranges, deep jungles, vast desserts and coastlines, and everything in-between. Our experience handling projects in such diverse contexts has given HeH a unique competitive edge. For example, in our project in the Cordillera Central, we called upon world-class experts who had experience in the design and construction of tunnels in the region. This was a key component not only for this project, but to disseminate knowledge and synergies within the countries.

What is your long-term forecast for the company?

Our strength is focused on road and transportation infrastructure. We want to continue with our projects related to roads, tunnels, bridges, ports and airports. We also have extensive experience in sanitation. We are in a very strong position to continue working in waste management, as well as building water treatment plants. Our expertise in irrigation systems and hydroelectric plants are also worthy of being noted. It all depends on the needs and projects offered in each country.