One of the more interesting business houses to put in an appearance at this year’s GuyExpo was the Surinamese company Verenigde Surinaamse Holdingmij (VSH)-United, one of a growing number of entities from Guyana’s Dutch-speaking neighbour to have set up operations in Guyana.
Established in 1958, VSH-United, set up a showroom last November at 103 Carmichael Street, North Cummingsburg, next to Scotia Bank as a base from which to promote its range of services that includes shipping, trading, manufacturing, real estate development, insurance, banking, hospitality services and management services. Some of the company’s products including margarine, soap powder and shortening are now commonplace on the local market, a symbol of the business and commercial ties that have persisted between the two countries despite a territorial claim by Suriname that has seen interludes of bilateral uneasiness.
Stabroek Business spoke with Elon Sooknanan who is responsible for the marketing of VSH’s steel products in Guyana about the overall operations of the company and about the scope of its business in Guyana. VSH comprises 11 subsidiaries and one associated company.
Following a feasibility study the company took a decision that three of its subsidiaries—VSH Steel, VSH Trading and VSH Shipping—were ideally suited to having an operating presence in Guyana.
VSH Steel, particularly, has made significant inroads in the Guyana market, having taken advantage of the building boom particularly in the commercial sector. The company has fabricated and installed steel structures under contract with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat, Giftland Mall, Balwant Singh Hospital, Bounty Farms Ltd, the New Guyana School and the Pegasus Hotel. Its most recent major project was the fabrication of the Jubilee Anniversary Arch at Agricola.
Sooknanan makes no secret of VSH Steel’s pride of place in the constellation of entities comprising the company. Established in 1982 the entity employs around 60 persons and styles itself as a leading regional fabricator. While its steel is sourced from the United States, Europe and Asia the company executes all aspects of its planning, designing, fabrication and installation and all of its structures are manufactured at its steel plant in Suriname and ship to its external customers for assembly and erection. Sooknanan says that the Agricola Jubilee Arch was delivered to Guyana two weeks ahead of the agreed delivery date.
The company, Sooknanan says, produces in excess of two thousand tonnes of steel product per annum and employs a range of hi-tech equipment in its manufacturing processes.
Mindful too of the demand for products in the local mining, construction and farming sectors, VSH Trading has established linkages with those sectors in an effort to secure a foothold in the local market for the American-manufactured Red Wings brand of safety shoes, overalls, raincoats and other safety-related accessories.
VSH’s Country Sales Officer Dwayne Scott told Stabroek Business that the company’s presence at this year’s GuyExpo, which comes in the wake of previous appearances by other Surinamese companies, was intended to further popularize the presence of the steel, trading and shipping arms of the company.
Sooknanan admits that while VSH Shipping provides services to and from ports in Caribbean, North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America that service has, up until now, found the competition difficult to cope with. The company, however, is acutely of Guyana’s importance not only as a market in its own right but also as a bridge between Paramaribo and the rest of Caricom and consolidating the position that it has created here is now a priority.