Banks DIH Ltd: A jewel in the crown of the Guyana private sector

Banks DIH Ltd is more than deserving of its considerable reputation as one of the flagship private sector enterprises in Guyana. Indeed, it is hard to believe that an enterprise that has been part of the local business sector landscape for more than a century has succeeded in continually re-inventing itself.

The D’Aguiar family (D’Aguiar Industries and Holdings – DIH) had been in business in Guyana since the 1840s. Banks DIH, by its own admission, once teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, but steadied itself and now fights the competition posed by both the emergence of new local businesses and imports from foreign ones of some of the same products and services provided by Banks.

What sets this uniquely Guyanese company apart is not only the fact that it has stayed the course and is still very much a considerable force to be reckoned with in the local food and beverage industry, but that, in the process, it has maintained a uniquely Guyanese image, earning its unquestioned place as an icon in the local business sector.

If the records of the Guyana private sector are strewn with companies that “went under” to one or another of the various maladies that afflicted the Guyana economy during the post-independence period, those same records will show that each year Banks DIH Ltd has, in one way or another, added value both to its own operations and to the sector in which it serves.

Banks has been steadfast in the face of ravages, among which have been foreign exchange scarcity that sometimes placed limits on its operating capacity and expansion plans, a protracted national electricity generating crisis that has increased operating costs across the entire private sector and competition from illegal imports which the company’s current Chief Executive Officer Clifford Reis has continually bemoaned without securing a great deal of remedial response from the authorities.
What the records will also show is that Banks DIH has never wavered in its focus on playing a social role in the country’s development, contributing considerably to projects and causes in the field of education and sport, among others.

Last week, at the company’s  Annual Shareholders’ meeting  Chairman Reis unveiled its “next level” initiative which includes the creation of a $21 million Sports Bar at the Stabroek Market Square and the transformation of the  Demico House building. It is, as Mr Reis pointed out an initiative designed to improve the quality of the services offered by the company as well to provide a facility which offers greater appeal for younger Guyanese. But it is much more than that. By targeting that particular area of the city for new investment Banks has drawn unerring attention to its mindfulness of altering the tattered image of the very heart of the city, a pursuit which neither the government nor the City Council have appeared to be particularly mindful of over the years. Banks will no doubt be seeking to put its own unique mark on the appearance of an area of the capital where it does much of its own trading and an area to which both locals and visitors to the country frequently find their way. In the final analysis the promised investment by Banks DIH Ltd will go far beyond the expansion of its own business operations. It will contribute to the enhancement of the image of the capital which, of course, will have far-reaching implications. It is a demonstration of the company’s adherence to the principle of corporate social responsibility which cannot be applauded loudly enough.

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