October 11, 2022
Flaiban, CEO of Los Grobo: “The next campaign we are going to invest 111 million dollars”
Enrique Flaiban, head of one of the most versatile economic groups in agribusiness, analyzes in an interview with PROFILE what are the goals that are set in the long term and what profile the employees they are looking for in the interior must have.

Presentation is not necessary, because the Los Grobo group is one of the largest soybean producers in the country and also a prolific vertically integrated business that has been growing since 2000, when it began to transcend its operations from the Buenos Aires town of Carlos Casares. . Today they have storage plants, their own brand of supplies for the activity (Agrofina); They provide logistics services, and even export directly.

In their agricultural business alone, this year they plan to "bury" about 111 million dollars in the new campaign, something like US$16 million dollars more than those who invested the previous cycle. In addition, they have plans to create a strategic alliance to offer producers fuel in exchange to facilitate the day-to-day business. All so that the farmer "does not open his wallet but pays with his grain account," explained Enrique Flaiban, the Group's CEO.

In an in-depth talk with PROFILE, the manager analyzed the movement that the Soybean Dollar gave the sector in September, although he assured that they still have 40% in stock of their clients' stored grain. Along the same lines, he recognized that those who sold did not massively advance their purchases of inputs, although they did pay in cash. "September sales remained at the levels we had projected, however, 'we sold more short', that is, many customers have already paid for these inputs, with which they will then have free availability of the grains they harvest.

Los Grobo's plans for this year also contemplate the possibility of opening new operational branches, although the head of the group acknowledged that the main impediment to doing so is "the lack of talent." On this and many other topics, Flaiban elaborated after almost 1 hour of interview.

–What is your analysis regarding the soybean dollar?

-First of all, I think it was a success for the government that expected to reach some 5 billion dollars and ended up with more than 8 billion. In addition, he helped unlock many situations on the field. Operationally, we had to move because we had soybeans delivered without setting a price from many customers who took advantage of the measure. It was all an ant job, with terrible planning.

How did it impact you operationally in the company?

-Our work table where the buying and selling of grains is discussed with customers, from the first of September in the morning we began to work quickly on the operation and generated a large movement of millions of tons.

–Do you still have grains from the producers that did not get to set a price?

-Yes, because some preferred to stay with soybeans. About 40% of the stock was still left. Producers are still waiting because they come from three good cycles, and they keep soybeans as their savings account, which they then consume for the sowing and for the following campaign.

– And how long do you think that 40% can last?

-We estimate that it will be downloaded in the coming months to 1 year. And then comes the next harvest.

-Was the sale of inputs more traction since the producer was "more liquid"?

-Okay, yes. The sale of short-term supplies gained more traction, but not greater volume.

–Did the producer take the opportunity to advance purchases for the next campaign?

-No. In September we did not see higher sales but we closed with the estimated sale, although we did close more sales in the short term, in cash. In general, the producer usually buys more financed, with which what they did was, instead of committing the grain forward, pay with the pesos obtained and when they harvest they will have all the grains of the harvest.

How is this campaign going?

The fine is complicated with the climatic issue, with quite dry areas. It will be lower in hectares and in tons. The thickness is also delaying the planting of early corn due to lack of moisture. We are expecting it to rain soon in some places,

– What is the expected increase in costs?

Well, it's a complicated subject. This year there is an average increase between 25 and 30% in costs compared to the previous campaign in terms of seeds, agrochemicals, fertilizers, labor and transportation. Due to this condition, we decided not to continue growing in hectares planted this cycle. We had been growing 10% per year, but now we are going to keep the area almost the same, because the working capital has increased by more than 15 million dollars. So we will maintain the portfolio of the 74 partners, with the fields that we already have in operation.

A business that is much more than just planting grain

Los Grobo's business is combined. Flaiban defines it as a "virtuous circle" because in its value proposition they offer customers all kinds of supplies and services they need to face the campaign, from the sale of supplies (fertilizers, seeds, agrochemicals). They also have their own Agrofina agrochemical production plant, with which they position themselves as the No. 8 player in Argentina and the main independent company. "In the operating centers we provide the service of marketing grains, logistics, sale of inputs, in addition to managing the production itself," he graphed.

In its 35 Los Grobo branches they have commercial, administrative and supply warehouse employees, and at the same time they have 15 storage plants where they provide services to customers who deliver the grain. "This means that, from the beginning of the campaign, to marketing, logistics, storage and shipping for export or local services, we appear throughout the chain," says Flaiban.

He also acknowledges that they have another business in mind. «We are looking to enlarge the palette of services in a sector that we are not yet in and that is the fuel part. We think of a strategic alliance to give producers an additional service. We want to go with a solution for the producer that does not mean opening his wallet but using his granary account so that, through exchange sessions, they can also refuel », he clarified.

Talent, the scarcest resource in Argentina

The lack of talent today is not exclusive to the IT sector, or the Knowledge Economy, but affects other disciplines, such as agribusiness. An interesting fact that Enrique Flaibán highlighted in the interview with PROFILE when he assured that today they do not open more branches in the interior "due to the lack of talent."

-What is needed to open a new branch?

-Excellent question because it is the most difficult. It's the talent. It is getting the talent in each place and that is a scarce commodity in many sectors, and in Argentina as well.

-It does not go through the potentiality of the region but through Human Resources.

-Exactly. First, it's not just planting the flag, but we have to come up with a value-added strategy. In general, in the areas where we have storage plants there is an interesting growth, because we not only sell the storage space but we also grow in the sale of inputs.

-In those four years that you are in the company, how many centers were opened?

-We opened four places, in Hilario Lagos (La Pampa), in Lobería, we also took an additional position in Tandil where we doubled our capacity and we are taking in San Andrés de Giles. These positions, together with the branch, repower the area. There we have to go out looking for talent and in those places in the interior several companies fight for the quality of talent. For this reason, the hardest thing for us is to find talent that can be added to the company's culture.

-What is the profile of someone looking to join the company?

-It is a profile of someone who is innovative, helpful, who knows how to do business, who is integrated into the company and can have 360 ​​communication, not only with their clients, but with their peers, in addition to receiving the support we offer from Casares. It has to be a dynamic profile that handles digital tools.

-Among the characteristics you don't mention professional training...

-We have many people in important positions who are not professionals, and who have grown through experience. The title is preferable, but it does not make a difference whether a person knows or does not know. It is not even decisive that it comes from the sector. That is my case, I am an accountant and I come from other areas. What matters is that in your profile you have that value of transparency and gift of people that we value so much. As does our stable base of 3,000 clients who have been with us for many years.

-What differentiates them in their value proposition from the competition?

-We believe that the innovative spirit of Gustavo (Grobocopatel) penetrated deep, and the professionalism that Victoria Capitals added as the controlling shareholder now, allows the company to grow in an orderly and very professional manner.

-How is the branch opening plan going?

-That plan continues. We have 4 or 5 more openings planned. Two years from now we plan to have 45 branches from the current 35 but growing intelligently.

–And the plans with the collection?

-We want to continue growing in the volume of collected grains as well. Last year we reached 2.2 million tons, behind the big exporters, in addition to ACA and AFA. It is an extremely important business because being located in two important corridors that point to Necochea and Bahía Blanca gives us a strategic position to offer good service to customers and exporters. And also to structure our own exports directly.

–What volume do you export?

-Last year we exported 100 million dollars.

–But they also have the heading of agrochemicals and seeds….

-Yes. There we also set out to grow. We have our own wheat, Limagrain, which we market almost 15,000 bags this year, in addition to a hybrid corn that we make with Rusticana and now we are after another corn that has an inoculant and we are developing with Rizobacter and it is going to be a revolution because it is resistant to drought. Our bet is after crops that differentiate us from the rest by being focused on sustainability and the technology applied in the development of seeds.

Investments, the wheel that does not stop

The investment model of this company puts the weight on doing it "intelligently" while the money goes after the businesses that generate value. “In storage plants we are growing with strategic alliances with partners that have the asset. Today, strong investments are made in technology through digital channels. We are going to invest about 10 million dollars in Agrofina, the storage plants and the IT part," Flaiban assured.

Of course, the great investment of the next campaign will be in working capital. “We went from 245,000 to 256,000 cultivated hectares, with which we almost remain in the area, but the total investment will be 111 million dollars compared to 95 million the previous year,” commented the CEO and in that line he recalled that “ Today a large part of our flow is going to be invested in the next campaign. It is an important bet that we make as a group to continue doing business going forward », he concluded. And it is a wheel that does not stop.

Automatic translation from spanish.

Go back