IGNACIO OSBORNE

Spain 2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ignacio Osborne, Chairman of Leading Brands of Spain Forum and Chairman of Grupo Osborne, on the growth of the organization, public-private sector collaboration, and the internationalization of Spanish firms.

The Leading Brands of Spain Forum was founded in 1999 with only 17 companies, but today it has more than 100 members. What can you tell us about the Forum's evolution and achievements over the years?

During the first 19 years, the Leading Brands of Spain Forum was chaired by José Luis Bonet. As for its objectives, the Forum comprises two aspects: a private association supported by membership fees and the foundation, which is one of the pillars of the Forum. The private association's fundamental objective is to improve the competitiveness of Spanish companies by strengthening their brand image, which constitutes a fundamental added value. Our main goal is to develop strong and competitive brands, not only in Spain, but around the world. Then, there is the public-private board, which we have established with the current administration, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including entities attached to those ministries such as ICEX, the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, and Turespaña. If Spain's reputation is based on the reputation of its largest brands, then smaller Spanish brands can also benefit from it. This has been the core of our mission for over 20 years.

“Spain for Sure" is a campaign launched by the Leading Brands of Spain Forum in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the EU, Global Spain, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, and CEOE. How did the idea for this campaign come about, and what are its main objectives?

The idea came from the Secretary of State of Global Spain, specifically from Manuel Muñiz, on the occasion of the eighth promotion of Honorary Ambassadors of Spain Brand. In recent months, I spoke with Muñiz on many occasions, and after thorough discussions we concluded that now, more than ever, it is necessary to promote the Spain brand. To further promote this initiative, a virtual meeting was organized with some of our Spain Brand ambassador from different fields such as sports (Pau Gasol, Rafael Nadal y Fernando Alonso), science (Valentín Fuster, María Blasco y Pedro L. Alonso), culture (Antonio Banderas, Edurne Pasabán e Isabel Coixet), and the King and the Queen of Spain. This meeting was organized during the hardest times of the lockdown to analyze the effect of the crisis in the international reputation of Spain. “Spain for Sure" has two meanings. On one hand, you have the term “sure," which is related to the concept of safety. On the other hand, there is the phrase “for sure," which reinforces the message that Spain is a safe country and open for tourism. We must send a message that we will do everything in our power to guarantee safety and ensure that tourists have a good time in Spain. We have undergone an intense period of fear, not only in Spain but worldwide. It is true that we must be cautious but we cannot live our entire lives in fear.

At the end of June, the Forum organized a meeting between its partners and Reyes Maroto, the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. What is your personal assessment of this meeting?

The level of involvement of that specific ministry in recent months has been impressive. It has paid attention to the voices of companies and logical demands of companies from all sectors. Unfortunately, Official State Gazettes do not reflect this. So, it seems that the upper levels of government are ignoring the ministry. We denounce this situation whenever we can, and this interview is an opportunity to do so. I have thanked the minister and her entire team a thousand times because, in the end, it is an issue that does not receive enough attention. At the entrepreneurial level, companies are the only entities in society that generate employment. The public sector plays a crucial role in the economy, but it must be fed with taxes, which are generated by private companies and their employees.

What is the strategy of the Leading Brands of Spain Forum in terms of strengthening public-private collaboration?

It is easy for us because we have been doing it for 20 years. Our board of trustees constitutes an example of public-private collaboration and a wonderful relationship with all ministries. As the government representatives in the board use to say, “It is nice to come to a place where the private sector gives more than it asks for." This is one of the principles of the Forum. Criticizing politicians for no reason is Spain's national sport, and we are brilliant at it. But you have to do a professional job backed with data from all sectors, regions, customers, and markets. Backed by data, you must explain to the government the best environment for companies to increase their competitiveness and gain international market share, which in turn will benefit Spain.

What are the main priorities of the Forum for the rest of the year and 2021?

The priority of the Forum is to strengthen the functions it has always had. Given the current situation, if the Forum had not existed, we would have had to create it, since being united in this situation is one of the great advantages the Forum offers. We have many important companies in the Forum, and SMES can lean on them to export their products and on the Forum to establish relations with other companies. Such collaborations will enable us to enhance the competitiveness of Spanish companies in the coming years and improve the image of Spain abroad, just as in the 2008-2014 crisis, when internationalization was promoted in an impressive way. There are many companies that started back then and established infrastructures outside of Spain thanks to the Forum's efforts. The economic conditions in the next few years will not be optimal because it will take some time for purchasing power and consumption to recover. Furthermore, the tourism sector, which is an important source of income for Spain, will not recover quickly either. Due to these reasons, the internationalization of Spanish companies is essential for the country, and in order to achieve this, we must continue to support each other.