Nice to meet you, Peru!

Our guest today is Svetlana Poklad. This woman, with her outward gracefulness, is a real battery and at the same time a charger for everyone around her. The founder of the POTAN INTERAMERICANA group of companies, Svetlana came to Peru from Eastern Europe more than 27 years ago and has set up a successful business in this unique country – an oasis of economic stability, a centre of gold, silver and lithium deposits, a country with 83 microclimates out of 122 existing in the world and the wisdom of Indians.
OLGA: Can you tell us a little about how it all began, the key facts of business formation in the new homeland of Peru, your holding company, volumes and directions of business.

SVETLANA: I came to Peru in 1994. Peru was chosen almost by chance, as it was possible to get a visa here. The first business I set up in Peru was a wool export, and then I developed another business, a Peruvian ocean transporter company, that was in 2001. My technical and economic proposals were the best in Peru in a public competition. Our company managed to get the biggest contract with Petro Peru. This was the first big win and gave me confidence and a sense of the scale of my own capabilities. From that moment on, I fell in love with large-scale projects.
I then realised that I had to take charge and implement all the cycles and become a shipping agent, and then a general agent (port services).
At that time our company was the first in Peru transporting oil, oil products and liquefied gas in Peru. Prior to that, the business had been managed for many years by a Chilean company. We are now operating in the South American region and our contracts have reached quite a high level. We have started to handle large public contracts in the neighbouring countries.

OLGA: Later on, your business expanded into gold exporting, construction, right?

SVETLANA: Mineria (gold and silver mining) became another profile of our business a few years ago. We have brought together small producers. When selling gold, the profit is minimal, as it is an expensive product. But by providing contract supplies in large quantities, the work becomes profitable and interesting.
The big producers have their own market. The most offended in this chain are the small producers, who make an average of 75% or even 80% of Peru’s total market.
We decided to help develop the small miners, to organise production and then to market the product.
What my company has undertaken is that we are now bringing together almost all the small producers, that’s about 5,000, and we are becoming their backbone.  They are supplying us with products. But you must never work with an illegal product. They will never export it, because gold goes through very strict inspections for that.
What do you mean by “combine them”? Permits, the transport used to transport it, bringing the production in line with international environmental requirements in force today. In other words, to pull them up to a level that allows them to sell in the country, and us to take them and then sell them for export. Our customers are Europe, India and Dubai. Our goal is to become like the big Swiss player Metalor. By working with small producers, we are raising the standard of living in the country. We have a social mission, education of children.
By joining a holding company with construction companies, we started to develop the construction business. It is the most profitable business. Because Peru is a stable country. We have built commercial centres and residential areas in Lima and other cities in Peru. More than 2,500 objects have been built in all that time. The land does not freeze and the climate is mild, so construction can be done all year round. Costs are low, because all components for construction are in the country, and labour costs are low.
Peru is a tourist country, we have Macho Picchu, Nazca, many different cultures – Chimu, Inca, Moche. Our country attracts tourists and has a good standard of living. Peruvians themselves like to relax. The calm ocean in the north of the country. Tubmes is the most prestigious beaches, the sand is the best. Now our plan is to build resorts in key tourist areas, both in the north of the country, close to the Ecuadorian border and on the Amazon and in the mountainous Cusco Valley. This is a necessary social objective for the country, which has been given a central place by the Peruvian government.

OLGA: Now, having developed at a high level, building on your established connections in business and in relations with the government, you are engaged in projects in which you plan to accept money from outside investors. Tell us about the opportunities that investors acquire by investing in Peru.

SVETLANA: We used to implement everything ourselves. We have a very strong team where work is based on understanding, tolerance, trust, and a focus on results, that decisions have to be made and implemented. Our children have now set up their own businesses or are joining functions within ours. This goal has been achieved. We are confident in ourselves, established relationships, a strong team, and the profitability of existing lines of business.
Peru today is practically a state without industry. That is, only agriculture and raw materials. And there is a political and economic interest in changing this. And there is a readiness to enter and carry out more global projects.  Construction is a very profitable business. Lithium is the biggest deposit, not in Bolivia, but in Peru, in our country. And we’re not just interested in selling it, but in producing it. Batteries, for example.

OLGA: Your group may also grow and make a holding structure in Europe. Do you have such intentions?

SVETLANA: we understand that in order to attract international attention, to attract international partners we have to make a step forward ourselves, make ourselves known and make partnerships convenient. This is why we have decided to shape our face in Europe by maintaining and exaggerating our business volumes in Peru. And we will gradually move in that direction.
OLGA What is the advantage that an international partner or investor who decides to cooperate with you on projects in Peru acquires? What paths does your group open for investors who want to make a passive income and diversify their assets?

SVETLANA: He gets attractive returns and economic stability. Although politicians change, we work for the long term and we have built relationships with all the necessary structures, and this team has been working for decades.
The investor in projects in Peru benefits from the protection of the investment, thanks to the reliable legal system. The returns on development projects can exceed the most optimistic expectations of European investors. We can also support our investors in obtaining residency, which then automatically becomes Peruvian citizenship. Low labour costs, our own local materials, we don’t go to contractors, we provide the infrastructure with our own facilities, as we have both administrative and project resources in our group.

OLGA: Which countries are investors coming to Peru today and in which sectors of the economy?

SVETLANA: Canada, the United States, China, Spain and others.

OLGA: How does the banking system work for business?

SVETLANA: Banks in Peru provide credit. You have to show 20% to 30% of your capital and proof of solvency.

OLGA: How stable is the legislation and how are the laws implemented in practice, from your more than 27 years of experience as an entrepreneur in Peru.

SVETLANA The state invests in socially important projects on a competitive basis. Peru is a capitalist country where private property is protected, whether it’s a modest house on a hectare of land or many kilometres of banana plantations, public respect for private property is a historical value and tradition.

OLGA: My favourite question I ask successful women in business is how much it hinders or helps you in business in Peru that you are a woman, how unique or accepted that is.

SVETLANA: There are strong women in Peru. There is a great deal of respect in society for women. They respect knowledge, education, correctness. Historically the ownership of gold has been in the hands of women, and they don’t lead a secular life, there’s no such habit formed, but the habit of managing and disposing of business. The trust factor is the first, no matter what gender.