When Baruch Ivcher said recently that “Peru was sleeping, but now it has woken up,” he was not referring to the mattress manufacturing company he presides over.
In fact, Productos Paraíso del Perú has three basic divisions: mattresses, foam and plastics. Founded in 1967, Productos Paraíso was the first company in the country to receive a “Made in Peru” certificate from the Ministry of Production. Indeed, Mr. Ivcher’s company has become a reference point in Peru’s industrial sector, in particular for its level of quality, which is recognized beyond Peru in much of Latin America.
Mr. Ivcher says that Productos Paraíso will this year start exporting 15,000 mattresses per month to Chile, while its capacity will expand from the current 63,000 mattresses per month to 100,000 within the next 60 months.
The company’s marketing and sales emphasis will from now on focus a lot on quality, because previous advertising campaigns – although highly successful – led some consumers to perceive Productos Paraíso’s main product as the “mattress of the people”.
Mr. Ivcher wants his company to stay in the first line of technology, which has earned it the ISO-9001-2000 quality certificate. Productos Paraíso has invested heavily in technology, producing its goods with state-of-the-art technology that comes mainly from Europe. “I only buy the very best machines for my factory,” Mr. Ivcher insists.
The company has invested almost $30 million over the past 10 years in its expansion process based on R&D, quality and innovation. It is thought to be the country’s first business to apply biodegradable technology in packaging and plastic bags, which it supplies to the majority of Peru’s supermarkets and chain stores.
Productos Paraíso’s trademark is its Zebra foam, the raw material for its products and mattresses. Each color represents a different density in the mix, which is a guarantee of origin and quality for the consumer.
“Our foam is striped like a zebra, which identifies it as a product of Paraíso,” Mr. Ivcher says. “I have always thought that what I have is not sufficient, and for that reason we send people to international trade fairs, we visit other types of factories and the machine manufacturer with the aim of learning and innovating. At Productos Paraíso we have developed world-level products and technology.”
Our foam is striped like a zebra, which identifies it as a product of Paraíso. We have developed world-level products and technology.
President of Productos Paraíso del Peru
Indeed, another strong factor of Mr. Ivcher’s company is innovation, proof of which is the development of its Zebra foam.
The Zebra foam factory supplies more than 75% of the country’s market that includes furniture and upholstery. To remain at the forefront of innovation, the company has invested in the best technology available and has adapted it to the Peruvian market.
Productos Paraíso aims to increase its output, sales and exports by 100% in upcoming years. In particular, it will focus on its plastics division, partly because of the possibilities in the U.S. market.
Mr. Ivcher, who is considered one of the most powerful men in Peru, has always thought of himself as the first among equals. His factory has 1,330 employees who he regards as members of his family. He offers all of them the chance of changing their lives, in many cases sponsoring their education.
He says of his company: “Paraíso is the real Peru.” His workers took care of the factory and maintained production even when Mr. Ivcher went into exile due to the persecution by the controversial Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who ruled between 1990 and 2000, and his then powerful intelligence service chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.
“My workers looked after the factory and continued working. They slept in the factory to prevent Mr. Montesinos from burning it down, and that went on for four years,” recalls Mr. Ivcher. “Our workers represent the capacity of work, the capacity of leadership and responsibility, and Peru’s heart and soul, and that is why the true Peru is here.”
As an example, he refers to the period of Fujimori’s persecution. “While in exile, I was like an idiot who didn’t know what dangers I was passing. I was no hero. I was not afraid of them until I returned to Peru and discovered the dangers I had passed, and the people that were with me could not say no; they had to continue forward.”
He says his female manager of purchases and exports spent 284 days in prison. “I asked her ‘Charlito, please, denounce me, save your life’. She responded: ‘How am I going to denounce you, I am a devout Catholic’. And she didn’t do it, she was jailed for 284 days. She completed 25 years in the company a few months ago. This is the quality of people that Paraíso has, and for that reason, if we are talking of an empire, we are talking about the Paraíso family.”
Another example of the company that Mr. Ivcher wants to give is the following. “When you visit the factory, you can see many people who have been working here since the factory began operating. The sons and daughters of some of them work here today but they are university graduates, they already have different lives to those of their parents.”
Ever since he first started in the factory, Mr. Ivcher has told his employees: “You are poor, it is not your fault, but if your children are poor it will be your fault. Here you have every chance to progress.”
“One of my most important female employees is the daughter of a worker; she undertook her studies and Master’s degree with grants paid by us. I have another female worker whose father is in the mattress division. She is now the number two in acquisitions and productions. In Productos Paraíso you can prosper, and it is we who take charge of that. I always say that if anybody wants to know the true Peru, he should come to Productos Paraíso,” he says.
Mr. Ivcher points out that Peru has reached its impressive industrial level largely thanks to companies like his. In Peru, family firms make up 80% of the total, and 98% are small or medium sized companies, and yet the industrial sector plays a fundamental role.
“The Peruvian worker is extraordinary. Give him faith, give him trust, teach him, and you will see the results,” he says. “For example, our machines are very sophisticated and totally computerized. One of the people who administers them began as a worker, and today he is showing a unique capacity with technology that costs $20 million.”
Mr. Ivcher gives the Law of Concerts as an example of Peru’s new sensibility. “Before, an international artist who came to Peru had to pay 30% or 40% of his income in taxes. The government did not realize that an artist who attracted 100,000 fans provides work for at least 10-20,000 people. This Law puts us on the same level as Argentina or Chile. And now the best artists in the world come here to perform.”