ECUADOR - Real Estate & Construction
General Manager, Imptek
Juan Pablo Sotomayor graduated from the School of Human and Social Sciences at Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito, with a degree in Tourism Administration and Eco-tourism. He began his career at Imptek 10 years ago as Coordinator of Market Investigations in Ecuador before moving into International Sales as an Executive, and subsequently Director. At the end of 2014, he assumed his current position.
Our company has been in the construction business for over 35 years, manufacturing asphalt membranes for water proofing systems. We started as a small business and are now one of the most prominent enterprises in modifying asphalt throughout Latin America. Our products are exported to markets beyond Ecuador, which has been one of the main factors behind our growth and involvement in international markets.
The foundation of this industry is quality. Our standards for quality are the reason the market prefers our products. This industry—specifically in Latin America—is a price-driven market, and it is difficult to sell on quality, despite our best efforts to orient the market toward a better quality proposition. That said, our prices and quality are both appreciated, which is a strategic benefit when selling our products to international markets.
We have implemented two major changes. As I mentioned, our initial product line was modified asphalt for waterproofing purposes, but a few years ago we began using the product for pavements, road construction and maintenance. All roads in Ecuador are now being improved, which has led to a new market, separate from the segment we initially entered. We are now also diversifying into heat and noise insulation.
At first, we were not dependent on state infrastructure projects, and in fact I would argue that it was our growth that influenced the development of infrastructure. The government began to use the asphalt we were promoting, instead of local unmodified product. Our asphalt also has a component that ensures elasticity, making it more resistant to damage. Highways sustain a considerable impact from vehicles and require asphalt with shape memory, which is why the government today is using our asphalt for all infrastructure, buildings and highways.
At the moment, the chief investment has concerned our new plant. We have relocated our infrastructure from a plant of 10,000 sqm to one of almost 50,000 sqm. Furthermore, we are planning to open the first Imptek beyond Ecuador in Colombia in mid-March if everything goes to plan. We have been exporting for 15 years, but this will mark the first time we establish ourselves as a known brand in another country.
We have been exporting our products from Mexico to Chile and the Pacific Coast. The international market represents 30% of our current total sales and we expect it to account for 50% within the next five years. Last year we saw a marked decrease in our sales to Colombia as the Colombian peso was devaluated to Ps2,400/dollar, as a result of which Colombia lacked the financial muscle to import products from Ecuador, or in fact anywhere but Europe. We faced aggressive competition from European products. Despite Ecuador’s strategic geographic advantage concerning exports to Latin America, we still face high costs in transportation, especially over land, to Colombia and Peru. We are a solid provider, but have found ourselves encumbered by the macroeconomic environment nonetheless. Colombia is a much larger market than Ecuador, and should be our natural export destination. Our installed infrastructure demands that we look to bigger markets. We are currently at only 50% capacity at the new plant. We have a strategic plan to identify markets in the US, Mexico, and Brazil. We are always looking in America and hopefully one day also enter Asia. We made an effort to introduce our products in Spain, but there are many competitors of our pedigree already present in that market. If the euro rises up, we could potentially do business, however.
The cornerstone of our strategic model and for our business is our well-defined corporate culture, which stresses that every action we take has a reaction. We strongly believe that our growth has to be equal to that of the community.
For 2015, our main goal is to produce at a minimum capacity utilization rate of 70% at our new plant. We have started out at 50%, and adding that 20% would enable a rise in sales of over 50%.
That depends heavily on the political environment, although 2015 stands to be a quiet period. The government is not set to invest more in new construction, or extend credit to banks or individuals for real estate purchases. Next year is set to be one of election campaigning for 2017, which will doubtless see economic growth on government spending. External factors, however, such as the trajectory of oil prices will remain a question mark over economic performance.
© The Business Year – February 2015
ECUADOR - Energy & Mining
General Manager, Electric Corporation of Ecuador (CELEC EP)