The T&T Chamber once again recognises and honours our Champions of Business 2017 award recipients and their achievements.
We invite you to read their profiles and celebrate them all over again.
See why they were selected to be a Champion of Business.
Do you know someone who can be recognised this year? Please read on.
BE INSPIRED…BE BOLD…BE BRAVE…BE FRESH
2017 BUSINESS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
The T&T Chamber is pleased to reproduce a profile of Dr. Rupert Indar, Sr., who was inducted to the Business Hall of Fame at the 2017 Champions of Business Gala Award Ceremony and Cocktail Reception, held on November 11, 2017 at NAPA.
Introduced to the numerous achievements of Dr. Rupert Indar, Sr., one must acknowledge his exceptional discipline and phenomenal time-management skills. Dr. Indar has managed to distinguish himself as a surgeon and as a business man, while still finding time to serve as a director of such institutes as the Bank of Commerce and the Intercommercial Bank. As if that were not enough, he has regularly contributed in the field of his passion – horse racing – as an avid fan, owner, breeder and member of a number of the sport’s administrative bodies. However, it is with the formation of the Southern Medical Clinic in 1969 that Dr. Rupert Indar most clearly demonstrated that most necessary trait of the business entrepreneur: the ability to identify a need.
Born in San Fernando, Dr. Indar’s father ran a garage and owned the first tow truck in San Fernando. As the only tow truck in the area, it did a bustling trade and, while Dr. Indar claims to have acquired most of his business acumen from his mother, the advantages of his father’s tow truck as a “first-mover” could not have escaped him.
Dr. Indar attended Naparima College and then Queen’s Royal College before moving to Dublin in 1946 to enter Trinity College where he did his medical studies. He would practice as a surgeon in Ireland, England, Finland and the USA (becoming a Fellow of the Royal English College of Surgeons as well as of the American College of Surgeons), before eventually returning home to Trinidad and Tobago in 1962.
It was while working at the San Fernando General Hospital that Dr. Indar recognized the need for additional healthcare services in the country. “I realised that, while the services there were good,” he says, “they were not forward-looking.”
With a colleague, Dr. Indar decided to pursue the idea of a purpose-built private hospital, finding a small group of shareholders as well as investing his own money. It was a risky move in a sector that was normally dominated by public investment. He had always maintained good relationships with his bankers and took the opportunity to meet with them and learn.
In 1969 the Southern Medical Clinic (SMC) opened its doors. The facility would be the first clinic in San Fernando which did not derive from the conversion of an existing building but was instead built specifically for the purpose of housing medical facilities, including a full X-ray laboratory and other testing facilities.
Around the time that SMC was getting started, Dr. Indar also embarked on another business venture, Carib Containers Ltd. The company, which produced paper products such as cups, was founded mainly as a means to help boost the economy, creating jobs and localizing products previously imported. Dr. Indar sourced machinery from abroad and at its peak Carib Containers was able to employ fifty people. Dr. Indar successfully ran the company until deciding to sell it to focus on his work at SMC.
“In everything I do, particularly in surgery, I plan. I make plans and go through what are the possibilities. So that, at the time of execution it goes nice and smooth.”
Having travelled extensively, Dr. Indar had been exposed to the care available in first world countries and he also stayed abreast of new developments in medical technology. For the most part he would research new equipment himself and determine the viability. In the early 80s, SMC became the first institute in the country to have a CT Scanner. “I’d have to say that we had to work 24 hours a day, because it was the only one in the country. People came from north, east… all over,” he recalls.
SMC would later also acquire the first MRI machine in the country and in 2008 the facility was expanded to include the Millennium Wing where radiation and chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients was introduced. Apart from their numerous contributions to various charities, SMC also established SMARA, a cancer support group to provide counselling for cancer sufferers and their families. Today the Southern Medical Centre is considered one of the region’s premier providers of specialist health care.
Dr. Indar retired from active surgery in 2010 but continues to do administrative work and remains the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the company. “Most people at my age would have retired, but I figure, as long as I’m here, I’ll do what I can.”
Throughout, Dr. Indar somehow found time to indulge in his hobby of horse racing, serving in various capacities including Chairman of the Betting Levy Board and President of the Arima Race Club.
It seems he has been recognized for outstanding accomplishment in just about every field into which he has ventured. He has been inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame, presented the Keys to the City of San Fernando and in 2008 was awarded a Hummingbird Medal (Gold) for his achievements in medicine. In 2009, he was also nominated for the Queen’s Royal College Hall of Honour.
On being inducted into the Business Hall of Fame, Dr. Indar is humbled, acknowledging that the award is usually reserved for people of a more directly business background. “Throughout my working life I’ve been mainly medical, a surgeon, with business principles applied. It’s a big challenge when you run a private hospital… It’s a great honor and a privilege.”
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2017 BUSINESS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
The T&T Chamber is pleased to reproduce a profile of Mr. Lall Paladee, who was inducted posthumously to the Business Hall of Fame at the 2017 Champions of Business Gala Award Ceremony and Cocktail Reception, held on November 11, 2017 at NAPA.
Mr. Lall Paladee is inducted to the Business Hall of Fame
In his lifetime Mr. Lall Paladee went from being a door-to-door salesman to the owner of Pennywise Cosmetics Ltd., one of the largest retail chains in the Caribbean in the field of health and beauty supplies. Yet, despite this transformative success, Mr. Paladee is likely to be best remembered for his tremendously charitable spirit.
Born to Kausilya and Shree Paladee on November 20, 1935, Lall Paladee grew up in Tunapuna in a family of very modest means. He began his sales career at an early age, selling haberdashery items such as hairpins and clips, from store to store. Initially he went about on foot, until he won a bicycle in a raffle and incorporated it into his business.
“With that bicycle he would travel to Port of Spain, buy zippers, pins, clips, ribbons. Then come back home, use the bicycle and ride from Tunapuna up to Cumuto selling shop to shop,” recalls his son, Satnarine Paladee. “And whilst he did this, my mom would be sewing the whole day, helping supplement the income to the family. And even against that background, they were able to send all of us to college. They continued stressing the importance of education.”
With little formal education in sales himself, Mr. Paladee advanced his business, moving up from a bicycle to eventually purchase a Husky van which allowed him to expand his inventory. He took a stall in the Tunapuna market. This would sow the seeds for the eventual opening of the first Pennywise store in Arima around 1987, which would be followed by branches in Trincity Mall, Tunapuna, Chaguanas, San Fernando, Grand Bazaar, Port of Spain and then Princes Town.
As Mr. Paladee’s fortunes improved, so did the extent of his charitable works. Yet his compulsion to help others predated his success. “We were six of us staying in one room,” says his son, “and he saw a family in Bamboo that was suffering. And he said, ‘You know, these people will not be able to make it where they are.’ And he went and built a one room for them and gave them a car, that they would be able to have an income afterwards. And this is the motivation for all of us from then; knowing that, yes, you can work hard, you can strive to be successful in material things, but don’t ever lose focus as to what we were put on this earth for.”
As a Hindu, Mr. Paladeeserved as a manager of the Tunapuna Hindu School for many years, building a cafeteria for the school as well as supplying books, uniforms and meals for students of the school who needed it. He was also a devout follower of Sai Baba and built a Sai Centre in 1983, which accommodates all religions. His generosity similarly knew no denomination and was guided only by his empathy with those in need.
On Friday 4thSeptember 2009, at the age of 73, Mr. Lall Paladee passed away peacefully at the Sai Centre he founded. With his wife Shanti he raised six children – five boys and a girl – who have carried on his legacy. Prior to his passing, he had already handed over the running of Pennywise to his sons. He had however continued in his charitable works up until his death and had imparted his ideals of the value of service to his family. “This is something that has impacted us to the level of what we have become now,” Satnarine says of the business.
Mr. Paladee kept his mark-ups low and fostered a loyalty in his customers who saw him as a benefactor to the community, earning the nickname: Mr. Service. “My father’s belief was that he was here to serve. To serve with as much love as he could, to as many people as he could,” says Satnarine.
Today, Pennywise Cosmetics maintains the legacy of Mr. Lall Paladee. The company continues to thrive and expand its product range and is currently the distributor for such perfume lines as 5th Avenue, Britney Spears, Versace and Karl Lagerfield, to name only a few. In its success the company continues to see opportunity for increasing its output and efficiency. Their charitable work has benefitted from such improvements too: it now takes just three hours, instead of the previous three months, to build a house for a recipient family, through the use of pre-fabricated housing.
“It is love that we’re here to generate,” says Satnarine. “And at the end of the day, it’s not us doing it. We’re just being allowed. We’re just being allowed to participate in a wonderful, miraculous journey that our dad, Mr. Lall Paladee, had started.”
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THE 2017 “INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN…T&T OWNED COMPANY OF THE YEAR”
In November last year, Bermudez Biscuit Company was the recipient of the 2017 Internationally Known…T&T Owned award at the Champions of Business Ceremony. The Bermudez Company stands as a shining exemplar among our home-grown businesses, and especially with current economic conditions, their story serves to inspire. The T&T Chamber is proud to feature the profile of this member company.
The Bermudez Biscuit Company has successfully evolved over the years, expanding its markets while remaining true to their founding principles. The company’s model stems from a “ground up” approach which has served it well in its growth from a small family business to the present day where it exports to countries throughout the Caribbean (including Guyana, Suriname, Antigua, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Jamaica, among others) as well as to parts of the United States and Canada.
Founded by two brothers at the turn of the century, the Bermudez Biscuit Company began producing “salt biscuits.” Popular myth tells of the secret to the company’s initial success just after the Second World War. Bermudez at the time had one major competitor which had the firmer foothold in the market. At the outbreak of war however, with rationing and fuel and other supplies being short, Bermudez’s competitor decided to limit its distribution to the larger markets in the city centres. The Bermudez Company took the opportunity to service the many smaller clients in the outlying districts. It distributed directly to shops, a practice continued to this very day, and by the end of the war had earned the trust and loyalty of the outlying markets. It was on the strength of this clientele that Bermudez eventually bought out its competition to dominate the market.
Bermudez maintained the loyalty of these customers as well as remaining true to the ideology which earned that loyalty. To this day, the Bermudez fleet of trucks still set out in the early hours of the morning to distribute directly to shops and markets and will stop to service the smallest roadside vendor. “No sale is too small for us,” says Andre Jacelon, Bermudez Company’s Commercial General Manager. “A fifty-dollar sale is just as important to us as a five-hundred-thousand-dollar sale.”
The Bermudez Group is comprised of six manufacturing companies: Bermudez Biscuit Company, Holiday Snacks, Kiss Baking Company, The Jamaica Biscuit Company, Wibisco and Alimentos Bermudez. They are responsible for numerous brands, including Crix, Dixie and Dominos, which are staples in Trinidad and Tobago and are quickly becoming household names abroad.
Assigning importance to their smallest clients finds echo in the Bermudez Company’s internal policies where they harbour a culture of openness – encouraging anyone at any level of the company to disclose any problems encountered or ideas for improvement. The company encourages employees at all levels to participate, innovate and to make the company their own. “Ideas can come from anywhere. It doesn’t have to come from the top,” says Ingrid Lloyd, who herself began at the company as a Quality Control Inspector and was able to work her way up to fulfil the role of General Manager and her current position as the company’s Managing Director.
Another key contributor to the company’s success is that Bermudez remains extremely adaptive for such a large company. They are able and, perhaps more importantly, willing to implement changes quickly. “The non-bureaucratic approach and speed of execution, has always been something that has stood us apart,” says Lloyd. “We’re still able to be nimble because, if something makes sense, then we’re going to do it. Even if it’s not budgeted. If it makes sense and it’s going to help the business, that’s what we do.”
Bermudez continues to grow their export business beyond the region and into the Americas, preferring to work with distributors who embrace their system of distribution. They have also found their initial foothold in the diaspora market already familiar with their brands and have begun branching out from there, having enlisted into some of the chains such as Loblaws.
With these initial successes, Bermudez is already studying the European market. “It’s a long, hard road,” Jacelon adds, “but we have a very good product. And in most of these places there is a fair amount of West Indian consumers that help us start off. We may not be able to get into the big chains, but we can certainly start in the little mom and pop’s. Which again, even though the distribution is not the same, it’s almost in keeping in line with the culture of the company.”
Upon receipt of the award ‘Internationally Known…T&T Owned,’ from the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Jacelon, The Commercial General Manager, said, “Anyone would be proud to have acknowledgement of work done. This is an award more for the employees here than anything else.”
“We recognize that we need to celebrate more,” Lloyd adds, “because it’s important for the organization in terms of motivation. But typically, we just keep trying to raise the bar higher and higher.”
Yet, raising that bar never means moving away from their foundations. The Bermudez Biscuit Company’s success can perhaps be epitomized in their flagship product, Crix, which is synonymous with Trinidad and Tobago. “It’s bread,” says Jacelon. “Everybody has Crix in their house. Because, quite frankly, you can eat it with anything… So, I’m actually quite proud to be working here because of that particular product. I remember eating it. My grandparents ate it. My mother ate it. My son is eating it now. And I’m sure it will continue to move on for generations to come.”
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THE 2017 “EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR”
Caesar’s Army On the Move
Jules Sobion came from a family of legal professionals. Therefore, it was expected that Jules would also pursue a career in law. However, Jules realised that from an early age that he wanted to chart a different course. He started “throwing parties” while attending secondary school and soon realised that he enjoyed creating and marketing these events. When Jules decided to make “throwing parties” a career, there wasn’t initial buy-in from his family. However, Jules was determined to “challenge the norm” and prove that a successful career was not reserved for doctors and lawyers, but could also be achieved in non-traditional fields.
One of Jules favourite characters was Julius Caesar, as such he was called “Julius” by many. So when Jules decided to form an events company, the name Caesar’s Army Limited was a natural choice. Jules assumed the role of General, CEO, and Commander in Chief. Jules recognised the need for a strong team, a movement – an army that others would be keen to follow. Today’s Jules has an army of dedicated “Romans” who work to ensure that events reflect the company’s core values of unity, regional integration and cultural representation.
A.M. Bush is one of Caesar’s Army’s signature events. This alternative concept for J’Ouvert is held on Carnival Saturday morning. It allows patrons the opportunity to enjoy the J’Ouvert vibes without having to leave to prepare for Carnival Monday ‘Mas on the road. The event started off with 175 patrons and has now grown to 3,000 plus. This event is also held in Jamaica and Barbados. His other signature events include: A.M. Beach, In.De.Paint.Dance, Mai Tai, Bacchanal Road and Bacchanal Blocko. The company plans events in a number of Caribbean Islands as well as in the United States. In 2018, Caesar’s Army will be on the road for Carnival with its band “Rogue”, a new collaboration with TRIBE.
Jules credits his parents for shaping his work ethic and attitude towards social responsibility. This has filtered into the DNA of Caesar’s Army. The company has adopted the Operation Smile Children’s Home in Gasparillo. Throughout the year, the company assists in supporting the emotional needs of the children. Members of the Caesar’s Army team are paired up with a child in a mentorship relationship. Furthermore, every year, the Army participates in its “Operation Smile” project. Jules and his team host a Christmas party for the children of the home. The Army gets the opportunity to share gifts and spend time entertaining the children. Jules admits that involvement in this community initiative has ignited a sense of purpose among the Army.
Jules’ ultimate goal is for Caesar’s Army to become the most professionally sought-after event production company that promotes a “One Love Caribbean” message, regionally and internationally.
These young innovators are among a growing body of striking out in the business world. The T&T Chamber recognises the need to reward talent and initiative and we are already preparing for the November 1, 2018 when we host the next Champions of Business Awards.
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THE 2017 “START-UP OF THE YEAR”
The Twigs Story
Nigel Jordan, originally from Nelson Street, Port of Spain, saw the sacrifices his parents made to give their family a better life to move to Arima. To help with the tough economic times of the 1980s, Nigel’s parents maintained a kitchen garden. Having a family of his own, Nigel kept the tradition and did the same. It was one fateful Sunday afternoon while helping his son with a school craft project, the first tea bag was created using herbs from Nigel’s garden. This sparked an idea for a business, and Nigel shared it with his friend Cheryl-Ann Baptiste. She was sold on the idea. The initial reaction from friends and family was not all positive, as many felt that trying to sell tea made from local ingredients was crazy.
Despite this, Nigel and Cheryl decided to form Twigs Naturals Limited. Nigel participated in CARIRI’s business hatchery programme which helped them understand the entrepreneurial process and the art of bootstrapping. Nigel is now a certified Tea Specialist and various family members have different roles in the company, including his young children who lead the charge in creating ideas for new blends.
The company’s success is due in part to its close ties with its suppliers – the farmers of Paramin and other areas across Trinidad. This partnership between Twigs Naturals and the farmers is critical in maintaining consistent quality and reliable supply of raw materials. Nigel and Cheryl admit that ebbs and flows of nature are challenges in running an agro-processing business. To help maintain freshness, products are sold in re-sealable, environmentally-friendly packaging with a degassing valve that expels air and moisture.
To date, Twigs Naturals produces 6 seasonings and 16 different teas, 4 of which are trademarked blends. Its products are available at over 18 retailers nationwide. The company’s line of Herbal teas includes Lemongrass, Ginger, Orange Peel, SourSop, Bay Leaf, Bamboo, Moringa and Tumeric. The company currently exports to Barbados and has plans to expand Internationally in the near future.
In just one year Twigs Naturals has attained international recognition. The company was the first Caribbean tea brand to be recognised internationally, winning awards in 2 categories at the Global Tea Championship 2017 held in Colorado, USA. The awarded second and third placed teas were Mint and Caribbean Christmas Tea (a blend of Wild Hibiscus and Anise seeds). The company was also the only awardee in the Single Serve Bagged Herbal Tea category. This competition proved that the world wants a taste of the Caribbean.
The team is deeply involved in the Vetiver Education and Empowerment Project (VEEP) of Paramin. The project seeks to promote the vetiver plant and its uses, particularly in the area of soil conservation and retention. This plant system has the potential to be used as a natural retaining wall along hilly slopes. The vetiver leaves are also used for handicraft and the company has not integrated the craft into its product offering by working with skilled artisans.