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GNCH has an incredible history filled with progress and success, with time it has become an icon of good management in Colombia

Interview - August 8, 2011
What’s your recipe?
MR. CARLOS ENRIQUE PIEDRAHITA AROCHA | PRESIDENT OF NUTRESA


GNCH has an incredible history filled with progress and success, with time it has become an icon of good management in Colombia. What’s your recipe?

This Company was founded in 1921 and it is characterized by a culture where the human being is the center off all corporate considerations and actions. This means respect for our people, the capacity to offer professional opportunities to anyone that works here. We have a talent-creating philosophy, a philosophy of adopting young people and helping them make a career inside the company. We don’t want the best on the market; we want to develop the best talents inside our company. This has led to a deeply-rooted culture of compromise. 

Our ethical behavior towards society, consumers and anyone related to the company has made Grupo Nacional de Chocolates the renowned company it is today.

This company is also known for its culture of permanent innovation in its processes, products and in the way we work in general.

It is said that Paisa managers have certain clearly defined qualities that give them a very successful business vision. How would you describe these qualities?

Good management has traditionally been typical in Colombia and particularly in Antioquia; we have tremendous human talent. Business development began in mining and then in general commerce but with tough geographical conditions, this has made us resourceful, supportive and hard working people. There are good universities in Medellin and, also, we have a strong anonymous society culture. If you take a look at the stock market you’ll see most of the country’s truly public companies are in Medellin.

The combination of good universities and companies that offer opportunities to well prepared businessmen, added to an entrepreneurial, resourceful and austere culture, has made us traditionally stand out in Colombia and Latin America. 

Your administration has made an effort to expand internationally and to continue innovating in the different markets you work with. How has this internationalization process taken place?

Colombian economy was very reserved until the nineties. “Chocolates” was one of the first companies that began exploring opportunities internationally, establishing subsidiaries in other countries in the region. In the last decade we have made over 15 investments from Peru to the United States, going through Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico, where we have industrial operations. This gives us the great advantage of being able to attend all these platforms. We have built a commercial web in eleven countries in the region, successfully taking our brands and products to millions of consumers and also exporting to Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.

So you have been growing inside Colombia and globally. What challenges have you establishes for the next few years?

In 2005 we assigned ourselves a goal: to duplicate our business by 2010; we achieved this goal before the end of the year.  We then decided to establish a new, even bigger and more inspirational goal: that by 2015 GNCH will be three times as big as it was in 2005. This is the path we are following right now.

Grupo Nacional de Chocolates has over 30 thousand employees, 5 thousand of which work outside Colombia. How do you manage your employees’ positive interaction and their fidelity to GNCH?

We work with people of great potential; we professionally form and train them so that they may progress and grow in their jobs, always considering their personal lives. We take into account their personal aspirations, their satisfaction and compromise with the company. This way we can analyze where we have failed and what aspects we need to strengthen, always working with efficient communication systems so that we may understand how our employees feel and what they expect.

We all share the same vision, we all feel like an essential part of a mechanism that takes us all into account no matter what position we hold in the company. This gives very high levels of satisfaction and engagement.

What social initiatives is the company developing to help the communities in the region?

Socially we work with programs developed by the Grupo Nacional de Chocolates Foundation, defined by four objectives: nutrition, education, income generation, entrepreneurship and support of art and culture. More than 6 thousand people in our Group donate time or money for these objectives.  We use a modern approach for the development of capacities and talent in the communities.

If you had to choose an especially significant moment from your professional career, which one would you choose and why?

I was a finance and investment banker for almost twenty years. I have been in the food industry for a little over 10 years. I would say the truly transcendental moment was when I changed from banking to the food industry. I won’t return to that world again and that change has marked a new path in my life, a much better one.

What message would you like to send to the American people to invite them to come and invest in Colombia?

The relationship between Colombia and the United States has changed and it has changed for the better. It is now a relationship of mutual opportunities. It has become an investment relationship, a relationship of mutual commerce and of the defense of democracy and the people’s freedom. Colombia has always been a great political ally for the United States but now we must become an ally of joint opportunities.

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