The Business Year

Luí­s Roberto Rivas

COLOMBIA - Industry

Luí­s Roberto Rivas

General Manager, Industria Licorera de Caldas


Luí­s Roberto Rivas is a lawyer from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá, with a specialization in commercial law from Universidad de Caldas. He also specialized in senior management at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá. He was mayor of Manizales from 2005-2007, and has served as manager of the Caldas Liquor Industry since 2016.

Initiating a successful transformation of the company some five years ago, Industria Licorera de Caldas focused on manufacturing, marketing, and sales to successfully turn the business around.

The first period of 2021 has been excellent for the company, with sales recording 148% YoY growth. To what to do you attribute this positive performance?

This is a commercial business that’s 100% owned by the Caldas Department. As a result, all the revenues that we generate contribute to improve the revenues of the department. The successful result that the company has obtained is due to a long-term process that began five years ago. Furthermore, when we joined the company, the governor made a historic decision allowing us to manage the Licorera as a private company. That allowed us to create a board with a great deal of knowledge in finance, marketing, sales, and managerial skills. This gave us the opportunity to hire people for their talent, rather than due to political connections. We were able to completely restructure the company and have people in marketing and sales with knowledge of the matter and a comprehensive view of the market. We wanted a team that had both that view from the private sector as well as knowledge of public accounts. We hired an expert on organization that restructured the managerial team and reduced the five divisions in the company to just three: marketing and sales, production, and finance and administration. We subsequently initiated a transformation process. All these have helped us focus on the two core businesses of the company: manufacturing, and marketing and sales. We also implemented a corporate social responsibility program that includes innovation and invested heavily in technology to update the company.

The company is the market leader in rum. How does it maintain its leadership position, and what has been the strategy to navigate changing market conditions?

One of the many focuses for us is innovation. We launched a premium luxury product, a 21-year old rum called Leon Dormido, that has been extremely successful. That was the result of the planning and coordination of many divisions. The biggest challenge for us is internationalization. We had a significant challenge to turn the company around. The company recorded COP27 billion in earnings in 2015, COP30 billion in 2016, COP40 billion in 2017, COP50 billion in 2018, and COP59 billion in 2019. When the pandemic started in 2020, our on-premise channels were closed, namely venues, parties, clubs, and bars. All of these represented 50% of our sales. However, because we had a great deal of knowledge about the company, we managed to focus all our efforts on the off-premise channels such as stores and supermarkets. We also implemented an online platform for home deliveries and developed content to teach our customers to prepare their own cocktails at home. In 2020, we experienced a 10% decline in revenues, recording COP36.5 billion in earnings. In 2021, we expect an extremely successful performance.

The company has a great public image, with 98% favorable views in the department of Caldas. What is the company’s commitment to Caldas?

In 2008 and 2009, the company had a reputational crisis, and we worked hard to improve the company’s reputation. One of the issues that we started to work on was improving the public image of the company by participating in many activities in Caldas department. Now, based on public surveys, the company’s reputation has improved. All these are part of our policies to improve our public image. We have invested COP14 billion annually over the last four years in innovation, new products, machinery, labelling, improving the facilities, and our policies on environmental responsibility. We have 270ha of protected forest where a large amount of our water resources come from. We agreed with the government to distribute 60% of our earnings as dividends, while the remaining 40% is used by the company for CAPEX investments and to expand our presence internationally. We are present in Russia, the US and Latin America and are working closely with ProColombia to reach out to other markets.



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