At thirty six Chris Persaud could easily be mistaken for a laid back, carefree post-graduate hopeful with a host of ideas and a dream of one day taking a tailor-made place within a niche suited to his talents…………except that Chris may have already found his niche in business through a company which he built from ground up and which in a few short years has moved quietly close to the very top of Guyana’s agro-processing sector.
No major agro processing event, going back to GuyExpo and including last September’s Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GuyTIE) has escaped the attention of UMAMI nor has any opportunity to grow the market share of the company, either at home or abroad failed to catch the eye of the company’s astute proprietor. As if to make the point as emphatically as he can he presses the fingers of one hand deliberately against those of the other, counting off the places in which UMAMI has realised market penetra-tion……….”Tortola, St. Croix, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, the USA,” he says, bending the pressed fingers back for emphasis. As of December, thanks to successful negotiations realised at GuyTIE in September, Barbados will be added to that list. Arising out of the Green Expo of a week ago a Trinidad and Tobago market could be opening up shortly.
Several days ago Stabroek Business had agreed to visit his factory operations at Lusignan to see his modern production assembly line comprising components acquired in Germany, Turkeyen and here in Guyana. Perhaps not surprisingly, when we arrived there he led us, first, to a stack of cartons piled almost to the roof and proudly declared that it was part of a consignment of UMAMI Tomato Ketchup destined for St. Lucia. A few feet away a lab-coated employee was operating the assembly plant in the process of completing the consignment.
He insisted on dwelling on the company’s sleek, automated assembly line, comprising three integrated components commencing with a huge kettle for cooking the mixtures comprising UMAMI’s 23 different sauces and condiments and concluding with a capping and labeling mechanism. It is, he says, the only production assembly line of its kind in the Caribbean, its automated nature allowing for a production process that embraces every component from mixing ingredients to a pre-determined recipe to removing the finished product in sealed, labeled bottles from the Assembly Plant.
Mindful, he says, of quality control considerations the manufactured product is held in the factory for 24 hours to monitor for any possible product deterioration.
But being close to the top of the country’s agro-processing pile is not enough for UMAMI. After he had thoroughly ‘talked up’ his equipment Chris sat us down to afford us limited insights into his expansion plans, still incomplete but very much in the making. Those plans, he says, hinge on the outcomes of ensuing negotiations that have to do with land acquisition and the significant expansion of UMAMI’s current operations.
Ranked alongside his significantly upgraded factory operations and his success in market penetration is the linkage of his operations to the agricultural sector, a relationship he parades as though it were a badge of honour.
All, he says, is still far from well with the agro-processing sector, his seemingly biggest concern being with what he says is the prohibitive cost of moving goods overseas. These days, airline costs could reach as high as US$3,000 per pallet and, he says, there is an urgent need for shippers to create a cost-effective LCC (Less than a Container Load) hub.
Still, he says that Caribbean countries remain his best markets though he continues to eye what he says is a potentially “hugely lucrative” diaspora market.
Outside the confines of his modest Lusignan factory, Chris talks incessantly about “growing” and about assuming an even more prominent place on the local market. He disclosed that before year-end UMAMI will be making custom-manufactured packets of ketchup for local chicken outlets. Meanwhile, he is already contemplating the manufacture of cooking oil.