Pau Relat, Chief Executive Officer of MAT Holding, has a degree in pharmacy from the University of Barcelona and MBA in IESE. Has a wide experience in the chemical sector, developed in Industrias Químicas del Válles as executive director. He is president of the Commission of Internationalization of the Chamber of Commerce in Barcelona and member of the plenary, member of the General Council of Barcelona Fira and vice-president of FemCat Private Foundation of Entrepreneurs. Moreover, he was awarded as the Emergent Entrepreneurial of the year 2014 in Spain granted by EY, with the sponsorship of BNP Paribas and collaboration of IESE.
UfM: Let’s speak about your business experience in the Mediterranean region. Please tell us about yourself as an entrepreneur and about your company since its creation. In which Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries do you have experience as an entrepreneur? What were the first steps in the internationalization process?
Pau Relat (P. R.): MAT Holding is a global group specialized in crop protection and sustainable irrigation, as well as water conveyance and treatment. My career has been closely related to the group, where I have grown both personally and professionally. The company’s family origins have constituted a factor that has boosted the group’s competitiveness through a firm commitment to the professionalization of its management team – which has been responsible for the definition of the group’s long-term growth strategy.
MAT Holding’s history of internationalization began in 1993, when Spain was going through one of the worst economic crisis in recent decades. To guarantee the company’s subsistence – knowing full well that our product was competitive and differential enough – we decided to open ourselves to new markets, such as Israel, Morocco, Turkey, Italy or Greece. We initially focused on exports to later create an international network of distributors in more than 40 countries. Finally, we consolidated as a global company with the opening of subsidiaries. Currently, we are leaders in the sectors in which we operate and are present in more than 100 countries around the world.
UfM: Various projects and initiatives of the UfM Secretariat are aimed to provide young entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to transform their business ideas into a reality. What do you think about the socio-economic potential of the region for the creation and development of SMEs? What differences do you see among the countries of the region regarding the entrepreneurial culture and prospects?
P. R.: The Euro-Mediterranean region has a very high growth potential for the development of corporate projects by both big companies and SMEs. Young entrepreneurs have excellent development opportunities ahead, as a lot remains to be done – specially in terms of infrastructure, water treatment and everything related to the sustainable economy. The significant human pressure and water scarcity in the Mediterranean region will force us to look for solutions to meet the population’s future food and water needs. With regards to the different business dynamics, each country has its own singularities and degree of maturity, which means that economic perspectives will be different. In general, however, this currently is the group of countries with the largest growth potential.
UfM: As an experienced entrepreneur you have possibly seen various companies that struggled to stay in the market regardless a valuable idea behind their businesses. What could be the key elements for the success of businesses in the region?
P. R.: Developing a successful project depends on multiple factors. Obviously, you will need a good product or service that provides an answer to the needs of the market – thanks to its differential value. But it’s equally important to have a good knowledge of each country’s culture and particularities. Do not look for immediate profits, but rather commit to that country, to its population, associate with local partners with proven experience in that market. By doing this, it is possible to minimize risks and earn the trust of local clients and other potential partners.
The process of foreign market identification, opening and consolidation is long and costly. However, with a long-term vision, the right team and local knowledge it also provides interesting opportunities and allows you to spread risk by not binding yourself to the fluctuations of a single economy.
UfM: The UfM Ministerial Meeting on Labour and Employment is taking place next September in Jordan. In your opinion, to what extent favouring a climate for SMEs development in the region could encourage job creation? Could you cite any concrete example?
P. R.: Through initiatives such as the mentioned employment forum that will take place this month in Jordan, the UfM constitutes one of the region’s main drivers. It is a key organisation for the growth of the Mediterranean basin economies that works by promoting integration and cooperation between countries in said region. Each year, tens of projects are carried out to boost synergies between countries, to facilitate agreements between universities, to promote student exchange programs, to drive the creation of new businesses and the development of the business ideas of young entrepreneurs and even to improve the role of women in the business world. The UfM has become a very important accelerator for the region’s economic development.
UfM: The future of the Mediterranean region is strictly connected to the climate change and water scarcity issues. Would you consider this as a business opportunity for the local entrepreneurs? How could they use it not only to develop their own companies but also to confront the consequences of climate change?
P. R.: Sure enough, water is very limited resource and the way we use it and recycle it will be crucial to the region’s future. Projects that put the focus on the responsible use of drinking and irrigation water while respecting the environment will be better received, as they contribute to the sustainability and the improvement of local living conditions.
In a nutshell, companies and entrepreneurs that create new solutions and systems in which sustainability is a prime concern – therefore guaranteeing the correct management of resources for future generations – will have a significant competitive advantage.
UfM: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to a young Mediterranean entrepreneur who would like to start a new business idea in the region?
P. R.: The Mediterranean basin constitutes one of the regions with the largest growth potential in the world. There is still a long way ahead to improve infrastructure, to modernize production systems and water treatment, to optimize crop yields, etc. Young entrepreneurs must firmly commit to this region by evaluating risks and business opportunities. Usually, a lot of these projects have been cut short or haven’t materialised due to the lack of cultural knowledge regarding the region’s different countries, or due to an exaggerated risk perception that is not real. Youths must believe in the future and assume certain risks, by analysing their project’s viability in cooperation with local partners.
About MAT Holding
MAT Holding is an industrial group present in more than 100 countries in the five continents that operates in the phytosanitary (IQV) and water (Regaber, Hidroglobal and Dorot) sectors. With 80 years of history and headquartered in Parets del Vallès (Barcelona), MAT Holding develops and produces efficient and sustainable solutions for crop protection and irrigation, as well as for water conveyance and treatment. With an income of 220 million Euros in 2015, the group currently employs 560 workers and operates four industrial plants in Cheste, Israel, Mollet del Vallès and Parets del Vallès.