FB in Times of Crisis: Jacto Group, Brazil

August 28, 2020

As part of the IFERA series on “Family Businesses in Times of Crisis”, we are pleased to share with you the interview of Rania Labaki, associate professor and director of EDHEC Family Business Centre, with Alessandra Nishimura, third generation member of the shareholders council and head of family governance of Jacto Group. With a history that started in 1948 in Brazil, Jacto is currently present in more than 100 countries. Its activities cover logistics, health care, industrial cleaning, polymer processing, manufacturing high-technology agricultural equipment and machinery, portable manual and battery-operated equipment, and innovative solutions for precision agriculture.   The COVID-19 pandemic had a ripple effect on the world economies and societies. How has the family business been particularly impacted? In Brazil, our businesses have first shot down in March for around two weeks. As we operate in the “essentials” industries, such as food, logistics and health, our businesses re-opened while facing the challenge of ensuring safety conditions for our employees. We operate in different States in Brazil and in other countries such as Argentina and Thailand and we have commercial offices in the US and Mexico. So, when the Covid-19 hit we had to think both locally and globally. We had to adapt the measures depending on the evolution of the pandemic in each location. At the same time, while we know of some industries hugely impacted by the crisis, our health and Agri businesses were impacted to a lesser extent and in some cases flourished with an increasing demand. So, our focus was really to decrease the impact of the crisis as much as possible on our employees. In addition, a past economic crisis taught us the advantages of being debt-free: “We don’t take money to grow; we grow with what we have”. This certainly makes it easier for us to go through the current crisis. On the family side, we have also learned about the importance of a united family. This crisis reiterated that and had a positive impact on the frequency and quality of interactions among and across generations. How did these changes translate into initiatives or strategies? Dealing with the unknown is the hardest thing. Usually, we take decisions based on information that is reliable. We first investigated how companies in other countries were handling the crisis. As shareholders, we have put together a crisis committee that met on a weekly basis, then bi-monthly. Our priority was to provide support to employees and to ensure their safety rather than the continuity of the activities. We started even to consider these questions prior to the lockdown. During the two weeks in lockdown, we created many videos and manual guides and banners for the factories to share information that we trust. These included explanations on the steps to follow starting from the time the employee leaves home until reaching the workplace and the behaviors to follow at work. All the material was translated in the country’s language and disseminated through our social media platforms. We also did polls to check whether our employees would feel safe to come to work, by measuring their emotional level. If they were […]

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FB in times of crisis: EKKI Group, India

August 11, 2020

As part of the IFERA series on “Family Businesses in Times of Crisis”, we are pleased to share with you the interview of Rania Labaki, Associate Professor and Director of the EDHEC Family Business Centre, with Kanishka Arumugam, co-CEO of EKKI Pumps, Deccan Pumps Pvt Ltd, and second generation member of EKKI Group. With a humble start four decades ago, a few members of the Arumugam family, themselves agriculturists, manufactured Agri pumps that virtually boosted the green revolution in India. Today, the family business stands as one of India’s leading providers of advanced pump and water technologies for agricultural, building services, industrial and public utilities markets, and has a global presence in more than 20 countries.   The COVID-19 pandemic had a ripple effect on the world economies and societies. How has the family business been particularly impacted ? When the government imposed the lock-down last March, people in India were clearly not prepared for the scale of the shutdown. Many of them do not live close to their workplace and could not move back to their hometowns given the short notice. They mostly rely on daily or weekly wages for their living, which went missing overnight, creating subsistence issues. Although our factories had to shut down, our primary focus was our employees for whom we particularly care. We provided accommodation and food while continuing to pay salaries. As part of the culture and the specificity of the healthcare system in India, people tend to save money for difficult times, making them withstand for a little while. The government lifted the lock-down in April with restrictions as the survival of the population and economy was at stake. Our factories started to operate again while taking all necessary safety measures. Still, activities were impacted due to disruptions in the supply chain, but we had a sound bottom line with a debt-free balance sheet. Our conservative financing strategy allowed us to deal with the situation more serenely. On the family side, my parents moved back to our family farm. Interestingly, I was happy to see my father finally taking his first break since he started the business in 1981.   How did these changes translate into initiatives or strategies? This crisis allowed us to engage in new strategic directions, to accelerate the implementation of existing ones and to optimize our organizational structure. First, we took the last few months to think and pivot further our business model towards a sustainable water technology company. Fresh water is the basis of life on our planet, a basic human right, a critical factor in the health of our global environment, and a vital part of the business operations in a wide range of industries. But this resource is fragile and prone to crises. According to the United Nations, 4 billion people—more than half of the world’s population—suffer from water scarcity every year. The diversity of freshwater species has declined more than 80% since 1970. And in 2018, businesses worldwide reported $38.5 billion in financial losses related to water scarcity or pollution. In India, we have significant water pollution issues and around 10% of electricity is […]

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FB in Times of Crisis: Groupe Simone Pérèle, France

August 4, 2020

As part of the IFERA series on “Family Businesses in Times of Crisis”, we are pleased to share with you the interview of Rania Labaki, Associate Professor and Director of the EDHEC Family Business Centre, with Mathieu Grodner, third generation member and CEO of Groupe Simone Pérèle. His grandmother, a pioneer and visionary, started her first atelier in Paris back in 1948. Today, Simone Pérèle is an international group that designs and manufactures apparel and fine lingerie serving customers worldwide.  The COVID-19 pandemic had a ripple effect on the world economies and societies. How have the family and the business been particularly impacted? Our businesses stopped operating as soon as the lock-down was promulgated. That was unprecedented. Our businesses were not prepared for such a violent cease of activities. Our employees showed an exemplary behavior though as they adapted fast to the situation and were committed in line with the interests of the business, in a context where their personal situation was somehow complicated. The business carries strong values with meaning, such as sustainability, authenticity and respect; all rooted in our history back to the founder, my grandmother. Those values represent our DNA and are the pillars to which employees can relate in times of crisis. There are of course some differences among people in the pace of adaptation depending on the generation they belong to, but overall, the adaptation to the crisis was natural. This crisis could also be a test for any family in business. What appeared clearly in our case is that we could count on a strong family cohesion. Our unity was not only a facade but a socle with strong foundations. The education and governance work we have done over generations has paid-off. How did these changes translate into initiatives (or strategies)? Our main priority has been to ensure the safety of our teams. Depending on the nature of their work, the employees were either allowed to work from home or had to work part time to accommodate the new situation. As we operate in different countries, we had to manage these adjustments while accounting for the different stages of the pandemic and the confinement restrictions. Our other priority has been to ensure the financial health of the company. Given that the production activity and our shops were shut down, we wanted to avoid cash-flows difficulties. The family business is 100% owned by family shareholders who are very committed to the Simone Pérèle project and its sustainability. They renewed their commitment and their trust by providing exceptional financial support during this period. Our communications became more regular in order to reassure and inform them about the strategic challenges we were encountering. We also relied on the support of our other partners and used the state-guaranteed loans that the French government has encouraged to help businesses during the pandemic. Family businesses are known for their values of social responsibility, acting as ambassadors of the territories in which they are rooted. How did these manifest themselves in your country? Simone Pérèle is a French or even a Parisian company with a close relationship with its territory. That […]

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