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Gafsons Industrials is reinventing the good corporate citizen in Guyana

Interview - February 23, 2015

Mr. Sattaur Gafoors has always led the way for Guyana's private sector, now he is showing that altruistic behavior can also be good for your bottom line


Guyana is truly going through an exciting time at the moment. In a period of global economic recession, Guyana is one of the top five fastest growing economies in Latin America and is even forecasted to boast a respectable growth of over 5% in GDP for 2014, but what impact has the manufacturing sector had on this economic prosperity? 

Guyana experienced a phenomenal growth in its economy and an increase in the manufacturing sector since former President Jagdeo assumed office in 1997. Those already in industries retooled for increased production especially in the agriculture and mining sections.

Gafson’s Industries Group traces its roots all the way back to 1953 and it has since grown into one of Guyana’s largest private sector companies almost entirely under your leadership. Can you give our American audience a quick background on this impressive journey?

With his limited capital, my father started his business in 1953 selling locally produced lumber and as time went on small quantities of building materials, imported through local commission agents representing mainly British exporters. I joined the company in 1959 and shortly thereafter, looked at other sources of supplies such as from Europe and the then the “communist” countries.

When in 1970 the late President LFS Burnham invited Guyanese to venture into manufacturing we took that challenge and started the manufacture of louvre glass – nails – reinforced concrete mesh. This opened a new horizon in that many of the items then manufactured were exported to Caricom countries - Guyana being a member. Unfortunately, Guyana experienced severe foreign exchange shortages as from 1976 as a result of the world increased prices for oil, resulting in us not being able to import any raw materials nor spare parts to continue manufacturing.

I left Guyana in August 1980, took up residence in Barbados where I started a manufacturing business similar to that I had in Guyana. I then extended my businesses to Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and Jamaica. These businesses are still in operation. In 1992, the late President Cheddi Jagan invited me to return to Guyana and on my return shortly thereafter I moved our manufacturing complex to LOC where we now have over 700,000 sq ft of covered warehouse for our manufacturing and warehousing facilities.

What would you say are your keys to success, I mean a lot of businessmen tried to do what you have done and failed so how have you been able to be so successful?

The key to success of any business is the loyalty of its employees. In the changing of our world environment there is need for revaluation of your vision statements so as to gear your employees for the achievement of those objectives.

What are some of the key initiatives that facilitate your growth and success as well as give back to the community?

Initiatives that we practice are:

  • In January of each year we present our budget to our employees and on the basis of projected profit they know, in January, what would be their bonus by the end of November that year.
  • Formats are given to each head through which they are able to monitor their progress in relation to the budget.
  • Improving the communication skills of our employees through Toastmasters training. We are the first company in Guyana to have recognized the importance of effective speaking and to have established a Toastmasters Club.

Employee satisfaction at your company is extremely high. Would you say your employees are loyal as well?

Yes, I am confident that my employees are loyal. Our “shrinkage” is less than 0.01% of our sales. Or annual attribution of staff above supervisors’ level is less than 2%. This is testimony of the loyalty of our staff. At our 2014 staff party we honored staff members with years of services from 10 years to 40 years.

What are you top priorities as the moment?

Guyana cannot continue to generate power using imported oil. Guyana has an abundance of water falls – the quicker we get involved in the generation of power through hydro, the greater would be the development of Guyana. Corporate companies should never lose sight of their responsibilities to the community. A number of organizations benefit from our contributions among them are medical outreaches and support for education and for sports. We are presently contributing to the reconstruction of a medical center that would provide help to persons who are suffering with diabetes – a problem that affects more than 10% of our nation

What sectors would you like to highlight for potential American investors?

Guyana has vast potentials for investment with a land mass of 83,000 sq ft. that affords opportunities for investments in forestry, mining, power generation and agriculture.

Sir you have throughout your career accomplished some incredible things from transforming this company to being awarded the Cacique Crown of Honor by the government, when you look back at legacy, what are you most proud of?

The Cacique Crown of Honor was given to me because of my contributions to my country and to my mind for leading a company that has good cooperate governance and for giving back to the community.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the souls of its people.” How then would you describe Guyana’s culture to someone who has never visited Guyana?

Guyanese are known for their hospitality for their gentleness and always willing to assist. It is one of the few countries where no religious animosity exists. I would truly recommend to all a visit to Guyana.