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Pernod Ricard West Africa | Company Profiles

Unleash the power of people

Sola Oke, Managing Director of Pernod Ricard Western Africa, discusses the importance of people and its talent management strategy

Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project manager: Kyle Livingstone

“Talent is everything – there is no organization without its employees. “

For Sola Oke, Managing Director of Pernod Ricard Western Africa, there is nothing more important for her business. Pernod Ricard is considered one of the leading African employers in 2020 with around 95% of its staff coming from the region.

“Talent retention is essential and one of our key pillars is unleashing the potential of people,” says Oke. “We truly value our employees and for that we need to understand that initiatives that concern the well-being of our employees are fundamental to us. We also make sure to develop our talents, develop people in roles and move them cross-functionally while ensuring that they have opportunities where possible. It’s not only about bringing specialist knowledge to the country, but also about offering opportunities for local talent. I am certainly the product of it and Pernod Ricard is one of those organizations that are doing it successfully.

Humble beginnings

Pernod Ricard is the world’s second largest producer of wines and spirits. Created in 1975 by the merger of Ricard and Pernod, the group has developed through organic growth and acquisitions. Pernod Ricard, which owns 16 of the “Top 100 Spirits” brands, has one of the most prestigious and comprehensive portfolio of brands in the sector, including Absolut Vodka, Ballantine’s, Glenlivet Scotch whiskeys and Jameson Irish whiskey, for to name just a few. Pernod Ricard brands are distributed in more than 160 markets and by its own sales force in 73 markets.

The Nigerian subsidiary of the company was established in 2010 to meet the needs of the Nigerian market. The firm is in charge of importing products and developing local marketing for all the brands in the Pernod Ricard portfolio. Oke has been in his current role since August 2020.

Having started out in the computer industry, Oke actually found his place in the beverage industry “by chance”. “Then I moved into marketing because the team needed a project manager and I fell in love with him,” Oke explains. “I joined the innovation team and joined Pernod Ricard as Marketing Director before taking on a Managing Director position before coming here.

Come to think of it, Oke thinks that Pernod Ricard has always offered opportunities, which he himself has taken advantage of. “Pernod Ricard is an organization where there are transversal opportunities. I moved to South Africa as Managing Director focused on five countries surrounding South Africa: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique and it was an incredible trip ”, underlines- he. “I love to travel, so it was ideal for me to travel through the five countries before COVID-19. For me, it’s about meeting new people, understanding cultures and exploring consumers in multiple markets and knowing how to differentiate yourself and locate the strategy you have to get our products into the hands of our consumers.

Pernod Ricard is a consumer-driven company and strives to be customer-centric in everything it does. Oke’s Nigerian team operates as a small, young, nimble unit that reflects the brands it serves by immersing itself in those brands. Oke believes this ability is what sets him apart from others in space.

“For example, Jameson is changing the narrative in Nigeria where we focused on specific communities to immerse the brand. We have built capital for the brand through these communities and now much of the rest of Nigeria is joining, ”says Oke. “We created this really cool brand where everyone wants to be seen drinking the brand.” Indeed, according to the latest International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR), Jameson has grown 216% in a single year to become Nigeria’s leading whiskey brand.

Setting the standard

In addition, maintaining its position as the world number one in luxury spirits is important for Pernod Ricard. “Quality is vital to us,” Oke emphasizes. “We have the largest portfolio of spirits brands in the world and there is no category of spirits in which we do not have a product, so we are able to tap into this global resource and seek opportunities on our market. If we see an opportunity in any category, or if we see the potential in something, we don’t have to start over from the beginning – we can embrace it, adapt it, and make it local.

The importance of establishing key strategic relationships with partners is integral to long-term growth within the organization. Oke recognizes the value of building mutually beneficial and lasting relationships with suppliers and emphasizes how vital it is to develop these partnerships over time.

“We produce our traditional spirits such as Imperial Blue locally and have grown the team in terms of understanding the production process, our quality requirements and brought in experts to train the local team,” says Oke. . “We have a dedicated production manager on site who guides the process and continues to train the team to make sure the product is up to the standard we want. Training, education and exposing them to the experts are important and we continually have sessions with them to increase understanding of our brands. This is not a supplier type relationship, we value long term partnerships and develop those relationships over time.

For Oke, there are several key characteristics that any potential partner must display in order to partner with Pernod Ricard. “Trust and integrity in the market in which we operate is important,” says Oke. “They must have a concern for quality in their business and have a passion for the business. The values ​​must be aligned with our own and at these suppliers we seek this commitment. We also need them to have that capacity for innovation and that level of agility, especially in the industry in which we operate.

Go green

In today’s world, sustainability is no longer just a “good to have”, but something of the utmost importance. Pernod Ricard is currently leading a campaign to phase out plastic and promote responsible consumption across Nigeria.

“We have achieved our goal of phasing out single-use plastics by the end of June 2021,” says Oke. “For example, we have started using recyclable materials in the production of the plastic cups that we use for events. In this context, we have developed our relationships with local suppliers to help us achieve this. Some of our suppliers didn’t have the machines but armed with our commitment, they got the machines and started local production in Nigeria when they didn’t have the capacity before. The other thing we do with the suppliers is our secondary packaging – we start producing them locally through these local partnerships.

When it comes to promoting responsible consumption, Pernod Ricard takes its position seriously. Indeed, Oke explains that his company tries to promote the positive message in all of its advertising campaigns. “We train many bartenders on our brands and products to make sure the responsible drinking message is carried by the people who serve the drinks,” Oke tells us. “We also promote hydration in many of our messages and reminders that we send to our consumers.” Pernod Ricard’s new disruptive responsible accommodation campaign focuses on “Drink more water”.

For the future, Pernod Ricard aims to be the leader in wines and spirits in Nigeria and West Africa. However, Oke goes further and insists his company wants to do more for the local community.

“We want to be an organization that is deeply rooted in our communities and gives back,” he tells us. “Beyond just being a business in Nigeria, we want to be known as an international business, but also locally recognized for being an important part of the communities in which we operate and having a positive impact on them – c is important to us.


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Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes

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