The Business Year

Eduardo Enrique Ortiz Arango

COLOMBIA - Real Estate & Construction

Targeted Investment

GM, Exiplast S.A

Bio

Eduardo Enrique Ortiz Arango has spent his professional life working in Exiplast, which was founded by his grandparents some 40 years ago. He has worked in every facet of the company, and studied commerce and advertising for a time in the Politécnico Gran Colombiano. He went on to take specialized courses in materials at Cerritos College in Los Angeles for two years, which led to the introduction of new material use in Exiplast’s products. In addition, he has completed a range of leadership and business innovation courses, most recently at the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce.

"Fortunately, the attitude of the Colombian entrepreneur is one of a willingness to take risks and chances."

Exiplast is celebrating 40 years. How has the company evolved over these past four decades?

Exiplast is a family-owned business, and was initially a very small venture that my grandfather started. At that time, Bogotá was being constructed with low-density housing, and my grandfather had a small metal business in which he constructed metal doors and metal structures for roofs. Over time, he identified a need for new materials to be used, as many people began to use glass to cover garages and auxiliary structures. With the help of my father, they began to utilize fiberglass and plastics, going door to door to take the measurements of each space to provide tailor-made pieces. My grandfather’s legacy was developed by my father, who made it more industrial. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the depression in the construction sector made business difficult, so we looked at different areas and started working in the transportation business. Fortunately, the attitude of the Colombian entrepreneur is one of a willingness to take risks and chances, so we have been successful in introducing new concepts and solutions.

Exiplast has diversified over the years. What sectors do you believe have the most potential for growth?

Oil and gas and water treatment have great potential for growth. Issues regarding reduced water supplies mean that the water infrastructure needs to be redeveloped, and this presents opportunities for the use of fiberglass or composites, because water loss is related to corrosion. We conducted a small market research study and identified some opportunities in this area. Our business is spread across construction, which is how the company started, and we have business lines in transportation, oil and gas, and water treatment.

What are your expectations for Exiplast’s new joint venture?

We used to represent Danpalon, a manufacturer of polycarbonate sheets from Israel, but in 2013 we entered into a joint venture with it and opened a new business for Colombia and the region. The new business is going to be working in Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela. It will manufacture polycarbonate sheets for sustainable architectural purposes, mostly roofs and facades. We have been its representative in Colombia for the past 18 years, and as the company is in an expansionary phase, it was willing to expand its operations here, too. It has a development pipeline of new products, which is interesting, and so our objective here is to push these new products, which is mostly focused on sustainable systems for facades. This year has been great not only for the new company, but for Exiplast, because our numbers are growing at a double-digit rate. We came from a low rate of growth in 2012 and 2013, and in 2014 have a lot of expectations due to high international interest showed by international investors in our country and also because of the economic stability the country is demonstrating year by year.

“Fortunately, the attitude of the Colombian entrepreneur is one of a willingness to take risks and chances.”

What is Exiplast’s growth focus?

Our focus is based on innovation and our strategy is to start a close dialogue with our customers and begin identifying what they are going to be doing inside of their projects. With this information we come up with custom-made solutions, looking to improve their key performance indicators (KPIs) and ensuring a return on investment (ROI) that matches expectations.

What factors are making Colombia an attractive destination for foreign investment, particularly in the construction sector?

Colombia’s macro economic numbers and government policies are working. The country is viewed through a different perspective, particularly for this region, and we are receiving many international investors with new projects because the new free trade agreements (FTAs) allow them to manufacture in Colombia and export to the region. Our geographical location is beneficial if you want to export to Central America, South America, or even North America. This situation makes the free trade zones (FTZs) a very interesting project developing market.

Exiplast’s goal is to become a world-class organization by 2020. How are you planning to achieve this?

We are taking this one step at a time. We are first considering our human resources potential, as we understand that people are the most important capital in the company, and so we have a very structured, professional career development process for the people who work in our company in order to develop their competency. We are also accompanying that with a transformational cultural program, which focuses on principles and values. This is a program in which everyone in the company gathers around a round table in groups of eight to 10 people, and has an hour-long to talk about principles and values. We feel we also need to develop and structure our peoples character and for them to take that home and into their community. In order to compete as a world-class organization, we are also planning our investments regarding new technologies. We have strong competitors in the region, and the strategy that has helped us counter their attack into Colombia is our unique products; the legacy that my grandfather left for our company.

© The Business Year – August 2014

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