By Piritta Torro, International Marketing & Business Development
Inspiring Presentations, Productive Networking
The 2011 HECNA Global Forum took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 18-20, followed by an extended visit to Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic on September 21-22. As Valorie Langille of Arrow Plastic summarized it, the Global Forum once again proved to be a one-of-a-kind industry learning and networking event: “When else during the year do we spend three intense days discussing/thinking/learning how to grow and improve our international business? At each HECNA Global Forum, I learn something NEW that directly and immediately impacts how I conduct our international business.”
The executive education speaker of 2011, Dr. Sundaresan Ram, returned to the Global Forum with a very important and timely topic: Customer Centric Marketing. Presenting the two components of an effective customer-centric strategy, Product Positioning and Customer Gap Analysis, Ram got the Global Forum attendees to analyze the emotional benefits their company or products offer to the customer and to think about the gaps in creating and delivering their product to the customer. “You need to be superior on something that your customer sees is relevant” and “People don’t buy a product for just what it does, but also for what it means”, were messages that will be remembered by the attendees.
Perhaps the most eye-opening presentation at this year’s event was that given by Patricia Vélez of Ambiente Gourmet in Colombia. Ms. Vélez told about her company, with 22 stores and rapidly growing in Colombia and Latin America – followed by an overview of Ambiente Gourmet’s innovative and comprehensive social media strategy. From email newsletters to Facebook and Twitter and from Flickr to Vimeo, they cover it all, with great style and extremely successfully. “What does this mean for our business – what should we be doing with our social media strategy?” was a common question among the Global Forum attendees that afternoon.
Two more key retailer presentations followed, showing exciting cooperation opportunities. Future Group, India’s largest and fastest growing retailer, was introduced by Premal Muni of Shine Brand, with detailed information on the group’s different retail formats, logistics and sourcing needs. With over 15 years of experience with both Sam’s Club and Walmart Puerto Rico, Ms. Rosana Díaz discussed Walmart Puerto Rico, how they operate, and how their sourcing and purchasing works. It was especially interesting to hear about how different seasons present special business opportunities to suppliers and are heavily promoted.
Allowing the Global Forum attendees to choose presentations based on their business needs and interests, the break-out sessions provided more in-depth information on three key markets. Dan O’Donnell of Grupo O’Donnell presented Colombia, Luis Tabja of XOL Peru presented Peru and Hakan Zihnioglu of Furla presented Turkey – discussing what makes these markets so attractive, and what is important to know in order to be successful in doing business there. The fourth break-out session, led by Eveline van den Bosch of HIDC, provided an overview of the opportunities, challenges and logistical considerations in the European market and information on how the Holland International Distribution Council can help companies save money and time in their European operations.
After an early morning flight, the visit to Dominican Republic started with a whole-day Santo Domingo retail tour. Casa Cuesta, Supermercado Nacional, Casa Mora, Ferreteria Americana, Paragourmet… from housewares specialty stores to supermarkets to homewares department stores, the retailers visited provided a great introduction to the market. “I never knew they had such beautiful retailers here”, was the comment from many, praising the stores seen.
The second day in Santo Domingo started with a Dominican Republic market overview by Megan Schidgen of the U.S. Commercial Service, followed by three key retailer presentations. Nabia Salcedo of Paragourmet Todo Para Cucina, Cecilia Carballo of Vitros and Carmen Rodriguez of Ferreteria Americana each introduced their companies, discussing their business models, plans for the future and what they expect from their suppliers. The good news was that all were interested in doing and growing business with U.S. brands and companies!
As with all of the attendees that participated in both Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic parts of the Global Forum, Julio Cruz of Anchor Hocking Company was happy with the two-step program: “It was a great experience; two countries that are part of Latin America, and although there is only about 50-minute flying time, there is a totally different way to conduct business, and even the Spanish is a bit different. It was well worth my time to attend both segments of the Global Forum, to see both markets and learn from the retail speakers in Santo Domingo as well as the retail and general session speakers in San Juan.”