At a time when the automobile's presence as a mode of transportation was growing in popularity, the Tropical Battery brand emerged as one that would become among the most well known in the automotive industry in Jamaica. Even in the midst of an industry marked by rapid change and innovation, the company has continued to maintain relevance by being nimble and adaptable to new standards. This is Tropical Battery's Corporate Profile.
Incorporated by American businessman Tex Williams in 1950, Tropical Battery's core focus was to manufacture and distribute lead-acid batteries designed for use in automotive, marine and industrial applications. It is not clear whether the founder used his own funds or borrowed to finance the business, but 17 years later — five years after Jamaica won its independence from Great Britain — Williams sold his business to John Melville.
Since then Tropical Battery has remained in the Melville family with John Melville's grandsons Marc Melville, now serving as chairman; Alexander Melville as managing director; and Daniel Melville Jr as deputy managing director.
Today, the company is headquartered at Ferry Pen in St Andrew with distribution centres at the same location and another in Montego Bay. It operates six retail stores and service centres across Jamaica with three in Kingston and others in Ocho Rios, Mandeville, and Montego Bay, and has a network of approximately 1,000 resellers serving the Jamaican market.
Tropical Batteries was listed on the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) October 15, 2020, after an initial public offering valued at $325 million ($1 per share). The offer was oversubscribed by 50 per cent.
Commenting on the benefits of listing on the index, Alexander Melville told Jamaica Observer in an e-mailed response: "Our commitment to broadening our ownership structure has fostered a sense of unity and loyalty among our stockholders, many of whom are avid consumers of our products. A significant percentage of our team members have also invested in the [Tropical Battery] stock, effectively making them owners of the business. This strategy has not only generated value for our employees but has also increased their level of commitment to the company."
He added, "Moreover, our status as a publicly traded company has made us an attractive partner for international suppliers. The transparency and integrity of our operations have earned us numerous requests from suppliers to represent their products in our markets."
The company has not strayed too far from its core business, despite exiting the production of batteries in the 1990s to focus on the distribution of automotive batteries. It has also ventured into the distribution of several local and world-renowned automotive consumer product brands such as Caribrake brake fluid, motor oils and lubricants, coolants and tyres, among other car care products.
In 2022, the company further diversified by creating three new divisions — Tropical Renewable Energy, Tropical Finance and Tropical Mobility. According to Oliver Hill, CEO of the new subsidiaries, the company's expansion into electric mobility and renewable energy solutions is a "natural progression"given the important role energy storage plays in both emerging industries.
"The Tropical Battery group of companies is committed to enabling transition to a low-carbon future in the Caribbean by supplying top-quality solar power and energy storage technology to residential, commercial and industrial electricity consumers, and by supporting the development of an electric mobility ecosystem," he expounded.
Tropical Mobility is building a portfolio of electric mobility solutions to include electric ATVs, motorcycles, passenger vehicles, commercial vans, trucks, and buses. At the same time, Tropical Finance is focused on brokering financing with regional banks and multinational financing institutions to allow people to afford access to renewable energy and electric mobility solutions.
"The company has undergone a significant transformation and is now widely regarded as a premier energy storage solutions provider in Jamaica. Our extensive product range includes eco-friendly options, and we take pride in exporting spent batteries. Our distribution and retail network is well-established, covering the entire island," the managing director explained.
"Acquisitions have been a key component of our growth strategy. Our portfolio includes the acquisition of the Caribrake line of brake fluid, which has maintained its position as Jamaica's leading brake fluid brand. In addition, we have acquired the Autopower brand of batteries. More recently, we have extended our reach beyond Jamaica by acquiring a 50 per cent stake in Kaya Energy Group based in the Dominican Republic. Our intention is to increase our ownership interest in Kaya Energy Group to 80 per cent within the next two to three years," he continued.
Just two weeks ago, Tropical Batteries announced via a disclosure on the JSE's website the 50 per cent acquisition of KAYA Energy Group, which will be integrated with Tropical Renewable Energy.
In addition to facilitating the company's vertical integration into renewable energy design, engineering, installation and maintenance, the acquisition will allow the company to build on its environmental, social and governance framework — supporting the country's National Energy Policy which calls for an increase in Jamaica's reliance on renewable energy to 50 per cent by 2030.
At the same time, Hill told Business Observer that while the company continues to pursue mergers and acquisitions opportunities as means of expanding its footprint throughout the region; however, he said that the company is not in a position to reveal the progress of those negotiations until they are finalised.
Notwithstanding, Alexander Melville is bullish on Tropical Battery's regional growth.
"Indeed, we share a common vision with our sister company, Chukka Caribbean, which has expanded its operations to six countries across the region. Building on our shared experience and success, we plan to continue our strategic expansion throughout the Caribbean in the coming years," he revealed.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures is another company operated by the Melville family. With its roots in Jamaica, the attraction management company has expanded into Belize, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, Barbados, and most recently Antigua and Barbuda.
"We recognise that the key to our growth lies in our ability to identify new market opportunities, build strong relationships with our partners and customers, and deliver exceptional value through our products and services. Our experience in the energy storage solutions industry has provided us with a strong foundation upon which to build our expansion plans," the managing director added about Tropical Batteries.
To this end, the company is moving ahead with plans to explore new market opportunities and investing resources to support inorganic and organic growth, which, Alexander Melville said, redounds to the company being nimble and adaptable to change, especially in a dynamic market such as the Caribbean.
Furthermore, he said the regional growth of Tropical Battery will also result in improving the company's top and bottom lines as it seeks to deliver shareholder value as well as improve the company's engagement with the communities it serves.
In terms of future plans, Alexander Melville noted, "Our ambitious vision is to become one of the leading energy storage solution companies in the Caribbean characterised by excellence, profitability, and sustainability. To achieve this vision, we have put in place a comprehensive growth strategy that encompasses all aspects of our operations. We are investing in research and development to enhance our product offerings, explore new technologies, and improve our production processes. We are also strengthening our partnerships and distribution networks to increase our market share and build customer loyalty."
Reiterating the importance of integrating environmentally responsible practices in the company's growth strategy, the managing director reasoned that doing so will build long-term value for customers, employees and shareholders.
"As such, we are actively pursuing initiatives that reduce our carbon footprint and promote environmental stewardship," he stated.
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