MADE IN MEXICO

Mexico 2017 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to José I. Escalante de la Hidalga, Director General of Velsimex, on recent divestments, social responsibility, and future challenges and opportunities in the industry.

José I. Escalante de la Hidalga
BIOGRAPHY
José I. Escalante de la Hidalga has over 30 years of experience in the agrochemical industry. He worked for several years before starting his own enterprise, Velsimex. Escalante serves on several boards and has also founded non-profit organizations. He holds several degrees, including a PhD in management from Century University.

What have been your biggest achievements with Velsimex, and what is your trajectory?

At the beginning, Velsimex was comprised of three Mexican partners. Later, we shared the ownership with Sanachem, a South African corporation, then an American company, and DVA, a German company. We started as the smallest of the 92 companies in the industry, but we are now one of the eight major agrochemical suppliers. In June 2018, we will celebrate our 30th anniversary. This year we are entering a new phase since our German partner just divested, which means that we are now composed of 100% Mexican capital. We now aim to expand more aggressively here in Mexico and in the region.

What does it mean for the company to be 100% Mexican?

In my experience, I have learned that having excellent partners is vital. When you and your partners have different objectives, planning becomes too difficult. Our German partner wanted to have more subsidiaries that were directly below them. We wanted to operate more as an independent supplier because there was a potential market for us to compete as a technical agrochemical supplier in Latin America. Because of our different objectives, we chose to part ways. We have a subsidiary in Panama. We are planning to operate in all of Central America through it with formulated products. Later on, we will return to synthesizing technical products to export to all of America first, and then the rest of the world. The plan is to be competitive against Indian and Chinese firms and products.

How has social responsibility played an important role in your operations?

I have always thought that if one has the good fortune of being born with the means and the abilities to thrive, they have a responsibility to give back. This is especially true in a country like Mexico. On one hand, we are one of the 15 largest economies in the world; on the other, 50% of our population is living in poor conditions. We have a commitment, as ones that have provided for themselves, to create something for others as well. We need to focus on helping Mexicans develop themselves. We spend more than half a million pesos a year on programs aimed at children and workers. Around 10% of our employees have a master's degree and/or PhD, and many of those have been possible thanks to the support we provide. We also have excellent opportunities for development within the company, and many people that join the company at entry-level positions finish their careers in more elevated ones. We prepare employees to work in many different parts of the country and the company. We are creating citizens that can bring real value to Mexico in many different forms. Employees who dedicate themselves to our company for many years are extremely valuable to us and we want to give back to their communities in some way. Social responsibility is vital. One of the most important responsibilities we have is to the environment. I believe social responsibility will play a key role in the sustainability of the whole world.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Mexico's agricultural sector?

The victory of Donald Trump in the US created consternation concerning the future of Mexican industry and agriculture. Though Mexico has many commercial agreements, it has to look for other markets and partners. This diversity is one of the tools that helped us develop our economy. We have become the economic powerhouse we are today in great measure thanks to these agreements. China, in particular, represents a great opportunity for Mexico. China is a huge potential market for Mexican agricultural products, and there is the possibility that they could be a real game changer for us.