The figure of Paisa businessman John Gómez Restrepo – who established Grupo Familia – is well known and respected throughout Colombia, so much so that in 2009 he received Ernst & Young’s Lifetime Entrepreneurship Achievement Award.
The only son of five children, John Gómez Restrepo began working at the age of 14 and founded his first company, Productos Familia, convinced that many products imported to Colombia could be produced locally.
Mr. Gómez set up over 30 successful companies throughout his career before finally concentrating his efforts on his group’s four major activities: Productos Familia (Familia), a consumer goods and personal care manufacturer; Brinsa S.A., a salt and bleach producer; Productos Quimicos Panamericanos S.A. (PQP), a manufacturer and marketer of chemical products; and a reforestation company.
Today, Mr. Gomez’s five children head Grupo Familia, now international and present in over 20 countries. “PQP has factories in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Brinsa also has a factory there, and Familia does business throughout Latin America, except Brazil,” explains Álvaro Gómez, son of John Gómez and President of PQP.
PQP and the secret of innovation
PQP was founded in 1974 and today is a leader in the water treatment industry, producing and commercializing over 45 chemical products for industrial purposes. It is the largest aluminum sulfate producer in the Andean region, and the company recently became a strong competitor in the detergents market.
Colombia isn’t only going to be an industrial and tourist destination; we will be the food suppliers for a hungry world.
President of PQP
“We are seeing how in six years a Colombian company has acquired 20% of the domestic detergent market. Today we are the second manufacturing company and the only one that has two detergent towers, which is a guaranteed supply, and two manufacturing plants in different parts of the country, which assures our clients that if anything happens in one place, it is unlikely to happen in the other,” says the company’s president.
He takes the disciplines of innovation, satisfaction and proximity to the client very seriously. Passed on by his father, they are pillars that have been key to the company’s success.
“Innovation is a corporate culture and it must radiate from within the presidency of the company,” says Mr. Gómez.
He adds that distinguishing between “know how” and “know why” forms part of that culture and is key to understanding the needs of each client: “That is what we do here. Our chemical products are made in reactors, cooked, cooled, crystallized and filtered. These are processes and we are masters in the process, and as such, we know how we can innovate.”
FTA and the American market
“The Colombia-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) is going to create a ‘before and after’ in the economic history of Colombia,” assures Mr. Gómez. It is not so much the FTA itself, but more the fact that it has been signed with “a country like the United States, which represents 30% of the world’s economy,” he adds. The changes, as he envisions them, will be gradual with an initial influx of American products sought after by the Colombian population, after which the inverse situation will materialize as Colombian enterprises penetrate the American market. For this reason, PQP is targeting Colombian and other Latin American communities in Florida and Texas. “We will try to bring products they have used in their childhood or youth, products they want,” explains Mr. Gómez. Future plans
PQP is preparing to enter the stock market this year, with the group’s Brinsa and Familia subsidiaries following suit later.
According to PQP’s president, this move will “ensure the growth and internationalization of PQP, which is seeking to be a multinational company in this corner of the world, one that has nothing to envy of Procter & Gamble or Colgate. We will be seen as equals.”