Way to go, GraceKennedy

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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There is little doubt, if any at all, that the 96-year-old GraceKennedy Group, one of the country's largest conglomerates, is safely ensconced in the hearts of Jamaicans, both here and abroad.

This love affair is only going to continue, as far as we can see, with the planned roll-out of what seems to be a new digital phase, including self-checkout machines at its Hi-Lo Food Stores across the island and online shopping portal by year-end.

This is in addition to a financial service mobile app for on-the-go money, banking and insurance services, which the company anticipates is going to change the landscape in terms of how it conducts its financial services business.

Of course, it helps that the firm has not been shy about spending serious cash and kind as sponsors of many of the sporting events we love, including track and field led by the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championships; cricket — notably the Grace Headley Cup, symbol of rural schoolboy supremacy — football; softball, Special Olympics, netball and squash.

But the company means far more than that. It has become a symbol of pride for Jamaicans who traverse the globe, getting goose pimples every time they see the Grace logo which is now a cultural icon of no mean order.

The GraceKennedy story is also the story of Jamaica's rise from being a small sugar-exporting colony to a world beater, not only in sports, but in the development of a growing number of global brands, such as reggae, Sandals resorts and Sumfest, to name a few.

Today, the GraceKennedy Group comprises a varied network of some 60 subsidiaries and associated companies located across the Caribbean and in North and Central America and the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Grace brand has reached as far as Russia.

Therein lies the pride of a nation – a company that built on John Grace and Fred Kennedy's relatively modest import-based model to become a global consumer group spanning food processing and distribution, banking and finance, insurance and remittance services, with an investment in building materials retailing.

The company has also shown that Jamaicans can run such a mammoth entity profitably, as evidenced by its growth in revenues and market share. Earlier this month, GraceKennedy, in its audited financials, achieved another milestone - $92.48 billion in revenue, supported by growth in both its food and financial segments, feistily shrugging off a challenging year.

The Business Observer informed us yesterday that the company hopes to reach $100 billion in annual revenue before 2020 and continues to look at acquisitions for the group both in financial services and foods as the main drivers of revenue growth.

The newspaper quoted its dynamo of a CEO, Mr Don Wehby, as disclosing that the company was actively looking at Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana to expand the financial services businesses.

“In the past when you spoke about digitalisation, strategically as a CEO we said it was nice to do. But I can tell you it is a must to do now if you are going to stay relevant in this world,” Mr Wehby said.

The GraceKennedy CEO says the group would remain relevant and consumer-centric by the number of services it offers over the digital platform.

For that he has our undivided attention.

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