DISTRIBUTION

Jamaica 2019 | MANUFACTURING | B2B

The art of smarter distribution systems is as much about people as it is technology.

Richard Pandohie
RICHARD PANDOHIE
CEO
Seprod Limited
Gassan Azan
GASSAN AZAN
Chairman & CEO
MegaMart

What has driven your recent success?

RICHARD PANDOHIE With 78 years in business, Seprod is older than independent Jamaica and is very much an indelible part of the national footprint. 2018 was the first time in our history that we won both awards for the Champion Manufacturer and Champion Exporter for the Country awards. This is the result of extensive work done over the past decades, in particular the past three or four years, where we significantly accelerated our investment and re-tooling. We are arguably the largest food manufacturer in Jamaica, with businesses spanning grain and cereals, dairy, sugar, biscuits, and oil and margarine, and almost 2,000 people. We have invested heavily over the past three years, including the acquisition of a former Nestlé manufacturing facility in Jamaica. The acquisition included the purchase of two brands, namely Betty and the international brand, Supligen. When considering the acquisitions and retooling, over USD100 million has been spent over the last four years.

GASSAN AZAN The success of MegaMart after 20 years is primarily due to its incredible staff, who go above and beyond to ensure that customers are comfortable and happy. There is also something to be said about creative merchandising and marketing, which have taken the level of shopping even higher. In terms of strategy, the layout and fixtures of the Waterloo Road location have changed overall to a more hypermarket look. Coupled with that, we also emphasize the fresh food departments and ready-to-eat areas. As far as our expansion plans go, they are in the form of backward integration of our logistics hub and strategic partnerships with our agricultural suppliers in order to achieve the goal of selling fresher produce. We are also in the process of developing our online site, which should be launched in early 2019 and will fulfill all our customers' online shopping needs for that segment of the population.

How have you helped develop the local economy?

RP For 50 years, there was only one wheat milling facility in Jamaica; however, several years ago we partnered with a US Fortune 500 company, Seaboard, in a 50/50 joint venture to build a grain mill. Now, we are engaged in wheat and corn milling and focused not only on the Jamaican market, but the entire Caribbean. With corn milling, we now sell to other manufacturing companies in Caribbean markets that for the first time do not have to import from outside the region. In fact, we see ourselves substituting imports not only for Jamaica, but the Caribbean, where the food bill is staggering. We are engaged in flour and corn and will continue to go further up the value chain with products, such as pasta mix bases, all of which are huge contributors to the list of extra-regional imports. We will also expand our operations to produce gluten-free options from indigenous products such as cassava and sweet potato. As for our social responsibility activities in Jamaica, we have factories located in socially challenged communities and therefore not only make donations, but more importantly improve the capacity of our young people. Our foundation is focused on introducing young children to technology to change their worldviews, teaching critical thinking, and applying technology to real-life problem solving. We also give them the opportunity to see the world by sending them to Malaysia and the US.

GA MegaMart's contribution to the local economy is immeasurable. The two biggest areas would be the employment of a large number of people along with the purchase of locally grown fruits and vegetables, not to mention all the other products produced in Jamaica. We are also environmentally involved. I feel strongly about the ban on plastics, and MegaMart was the first, in conjunction with National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), to introduce reusable shopping bags approximately eight years ago. We donated the proceeds from the sale of these bags to NEPA to help clean up the environment, and we stand ready to support any efforts in this direction by the authorities.