This is the fourth installment in a series of articles profiling the people and the businesses at Samsung C&T’s branch offices around the world. The following story focuses on Samsung C&T’s office in Lima, Peru. Please refer to the third installment for information about Samsung C&T’s office in Hong Kong.
Back in 2013, the global economy was still reeling from the Great Recession, the U.S. hit by a taper tantrum after the Federal Reserve announced it would wind down asset-purchasing, and concerns were on the rise about China’s slowing economy. In the midst of all this, Peru was forecast to log an impressive 5.1 percent growth.
This was actually a downward revision for the South American economy, which triggered some concern that the most robust days of expansion may be over. Given that the Peruvian economy had notched up a lofty average of 6.4 percent growth from 2002 to 2012, there may have been reason for jitters, but no one could deny growth at that level represented a vibrant economy.
Opening a New Chapter
It’s against this backdrop that Samsung C&T saw the promise of stronger penetration into the Peruvian market. Having reopened its office in the capital Lima in 2011, the company in 2014 dispatched for the first time a rotational employee from Seoul to head up the operation.
Senior Manager Jean Seon Paik still remembers being “more worried than excited” as she boarded her flight to Lima. She had previously worked in Brazil and spoke Portuguese – which would later prove vital to her learning of Spanish and adjusting to her new surroundings. But she had never been to Peru, and it was the first overseas office she had been dispatched to as a rotational worker.
Despite all this, Paik was fully aware the job would come with myriad opportunities. Peru is the world’s second-largest copper producer, the third-largest silver and zinc producer, and the sixth-largest gold producer. Working in a country with such rich natural resources and a rapidly growing economy would no doubt broaden her scope of trading. Paik could find no reason to turn down the offer.
With a new head and group of employees all eager to advance their careers in a market teeming with potential, the Lima office was now ready to open a new chapter.
Solid Foundation for Strategic Growth
The Lima office is small and simple, but it’s located in the San Isidro district, a financial hub of the city lined with high-rises that light up the area at night just like in any other metropolis. The office only has six occupants but this is double the capacity before it relocated in 2015.
This expansion reflects the office’s growth over the years. Paik attributes much of this success to the solid foundation that members laid down, with an emphasis on efficiency, efficacy, and practicality.
To gain a strong toehold in the fields of steel, metals, and chemicals, the office went back to the basics. Thorough market research led to a review of overall action plans, a set of new goals, data analysis for each product to decide which would be of priority, and the final alignment of all this with headquarters. Paik recalls the first year being slow in terms of quantitative growth, but in the next, the office doubled its performance thanks to a focused product portfolio and business models implemented through newly established sales channels and fresh clients.
It wasn’t all peaches and cream, though, for an office separated by a 14-hour time difference with Seoul.
“Back when I worked at headquarters, there were certain moments when I felt I couldn’t fully grasp what rotational employees and heads of overseas offices were going through. Only after I experienced things firsthand did I realize what kind of conditions and situations they must have been facing,” Paik said.
Managing the time difference was one thing, the different business culture, especially when it came to sales, was another. Not only that, the office was also entering the market amid fierce competition and facing endless hurdles that stemmed from the inherent structure of the market.
In terms of the natural resources sector, the Lima office faced the challenge of neither having a warehouse nor blending facilities, which adds more value for mining company clients. As a latecomer, it was also starting off with relatively low sales records in the steel industry. Much of this was overcome through a collaborative effort with the Seoul headquarters and newly devised strategies.
With this, Samsung C&T’s Lima office was able to attain an annual average of 45 percent growth as of 2016 from its reopening in 2011. Just in the year 2016, it saw ninefold expansion on-year, having secured new products for trade in the steel industry and locked in a deal with copper concentrate companies for future production. This why the Lima office was recognized for its stellar performance that year with a grand award for Samsung C&T T&I Group’s overseas offices – a moment Paik said she will never forget.
“It was only after two years at my first overseas office that we received this award so it was a great honor. More than anything, I’m really thankful to everyone at the Lima office for their hard work and for all the support we received from headquarters,” she said.
Teamwork is something not just Paik but everyone at the office talks about. Not because it’s the right thing to say but because they genuinely believe it’s what produced tangible results. Members describe others in the office as giving their “200 percent” or “110 percent,” and “leaving no stone unturned.”
That may not be surprising given that Paik describes herself as being strict. But employees also mutually acknowledge that respect and communication play a big part as well. Each member of the team understands what their role is, what action plan is required to fulfill that role, and what significance that work carries in the company’s overarching business strategy.
The Journey Ahead
Growth at Samsung C&T’s Lima office has reached dizzying speeds over the years, placing it now within the top ranks of the steel trading industry in Peru. In terms of metals and chemicals, building up a stronger infrastructure for sales, diversifying product portfolios, and bringing greater stability to fields such as sodium cyanide and fertilizer trade will also be top priorities.
Members of the office are optimistic about the greater potential that lies ahead. By embracing the fundamentals of strong research, real-time tracking of new trends, continuous communication, and strong teamwork, the Lima office will likely continue to pave the way for Samsung C&T to extend its presence in the region and create fresh opportunities for growth.