Going Global in Trinidad
On July 2012, Chez Mana, the alumni of INSEAD and the University of Pantheon-Assas partnered for the first time to create an event that brought together leaders of international business, law and media to discuss what companies should look for when going global.
Chez Mana added its signature touches by presenting Heritance wine from Bernard Portet, the co-founder of Clos du Val and an icon in the wine industry, along with paintings from Jeremy Sutton’s Cirque du Soleil series. The paintings were displayed in the beautiful Veranda room of the Sofitel Hotel and attracted many people including the management of Sofitel who expressed interest in buying or having future exhibits of Jeremy’s work.
The panel discussion sparked a lively interaction among the panelists and the audience. Atul Singh, Seksom Suriyapa, and Paul Tour-Sarkissian answered questions posed by moderator Venilde Jeronimo regarding best approaches for developing a global business. When considering strategies for going global, Atul said that companies should not treat a whole area as a homogeneous block but should evaluate each country individually. Seksom gave the example of the software market in Brazil which is very promising right now. He said that China also presents many opportunities but strategic alliances are needed there. Paul and Seksom underlined the importance of hiring people locally in order to have successful companies.
Paul emphasized building strategic alliances in foreign countries before establishing presence. Seksom explained that the conventional approach can work well for technology. When there are established mature markets, the beaten path is the best path to take. Partners are essential for introductions and risk mitigation. You cannot just walk in and figure out everything on your own. China is a classic case where you have to establish a level of trust when you want to do business there.
After this event, I left the Bay Area for Trinidad. Trinidad’s harmonious combination of beauty, cultural variety, and economic vibrancy gave me another perspective of how a global economy can thrive.
Iere, the land of Hummingbird was discovered in 1498 by Christopher Columbus who changed its name to Trinidad and claimed it for Spain. In addition to the original Indian inhabitants and Spanish settlers, the French revolution brought an influx of French planters and slaves. In 1797, a British naval force under Sir Ralph Abercromby arrived in the Gulf of Paria. The Spanish Governor capitulated without a fight. Trinidad became a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population and Spanish laws. In 1834, slavery was abolished.
With the end of slavery, plantation owners faced a severe labor shortage, and the British filled this need by importing indentured servants, mainly from India. The importation of labor from India continued from 1845-1917 superimposing Indian culture on a population already diverse. Today the population of Trinidad is 40% Indian, 39% black,18.4% mixed race and the remainder white and Chinese. In the early 20th century, Trinidad changed from an agricultural to a petroleum economy.
Trinidad has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources. During a 16-mile hike from the Brasso Seco village to the Paria Bay, I was impressed by the biodiversity of the island.
I saw exotic plants I had never imagined such as the cannonball tree. When its round heavy fruits fall to the ground, the sound is like an explosion. The durian trees had fruits that looked like porcupines. There were breadfruit trees everywhere but not the ones that Captain Bligh loaded onto the Bounty. I saw bee hummingbirds that were no bigger than the end of my finger.
One animal I was not as pleased to see was a poisonous snake lying on our path. Our guide Carl jumped about three feet in the air when he saw it, then he took his stick and flung it a safe distance away. I heard the sound of the waves and emerged from the rain forest to see an astonishing work of nature. The Cathedral Rock in the Paria Bay took my breath away.
Trinidad’s resources includes an abundance of oil and gas. This has given it one of the highest per capita incomes and economic growth rates in Latin America. It has a very good reputation for international business. However, its economy is very dependent on oil and gas which accounts for 40% of GDP and 80% of exports. There is a desire to diversify the economy to include tourism, agriculture and manufacturing but to date the economy remains at risk to shifts in the oil market.
Roger Neckles, the wildlife photographer has been following his passion and love of birds in this paradise.
I see Trinidad as a country with great potential. The beauty and diversity is there waiting for an explorer with open eyes and a keen imagination to unlock its opportunities.
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