Orane, chairman and CEO of Grace Kennedy at an investors
briefing at Hilton Trinidad.
Douglas Orane compares himself to a gardener. Unlike the
typical gardener, though, who nurtures plants, he nurtures
like to think of myself as someone who grows other peoples
careers and I love watching them developing and blossoming
in their own individual way, he said.
One look at the tall, well-dressed Jamaican chairman and
CEO of Grace Kennedy with his clean, long fingers and its
difficult to imagine him dabbling in dirt though he quickly
points out he can cook and does so when he has to advertise
At 57, he admits though to having a penchant for hiking,
and recently spent three days climbing up 13,900 ft of Machu
Pichu in Peru.
was seven of us and we had to camp. It was great. I like
the outdoors, he said in a recent interview with the
Hes just as comfortable playing in Brian McFarlanes
Washing this Carnival, which he admitted while clad in suit
and briefing investors on the achievements of his company
which reached a record $3.23 billion (US$53.8 million) in
profits before tax, an increase of $564.9 million (US$9.4
love my job. The work is a pleasure to do, he enthused,
nodding his head in affirmation.
He quickly adds that its his family lifehes
married with three childrenthat inspires him as well
as the social work he does in his spare time.
His understanding of his people came after he left Jamaica
to study abroad.
I was at Glasgow University in Scotland, I was able to interact
with a lot of Caribbean people and it was my first interaction
with them and it gave me an informed view of myself and
a view into the region. It also helped form Graces
new mission statementto satisfy the unmet needs of
Caribbean people wherever we live in the world, he
Orane heads one of the Caribbeans leading conglomerateswhich
is divided into four groups Food Trading, Retail and Trading,
Financial Services and Information Services.
have a diverse range of business which gives us a level
of stability as we dont depend on a single company,
Orane, whos been with Grace, for the last 25 years,
said he left his parents small business to begin work
as a corporate planner at Grace.
always had this curiosity about the corporate world and
I wanted to join a company that would be like if I started
it from scratch and that company would have looked like
Grace. The company is always changing to meet the demands
so each generation gets new opportunities, he explained.
He pointed out that Grace now conducts businesses in 36
countries but is committed to manufacturing as evidenced
by their J$1 billion (US$16 million) upgrade of four of
their Jamaican factories.
This, he believes, has given Grace, the only Caribbean company
to be listed on all four Caribbean Stock ExchangesJamaica,
T&T, Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean
States (OECS)the position of being a CSME-ready business.
globalisation, we went from being a protected island-economy
to an open one and we thrived in that new environment. We
operate as a CSME company already because we trade throughout
the region, have subsidiaries and are listed on all the
stock exchanges. We not only want to satisfy customers,
we want them to participate in wealth creationas we
do wellthey will do well financially, he said.
He noted that a regional stock exchange would remove all
inefficiencies which currently exist and would allow for
trading in a single block, which will obviously be more
Jamaican economy has done really well, as it has given us
in the Caribbean the self-confidence that we can do well
in any environment. A person who would have invested US$1,000
in Grace about ten years ago would today be worth about
US$17,000, he boasted.
He explained Graces position of giving their shareholders
15 per cent of its profits compared to other companies where
shareholders receive a higher percentage.
Jamaica, the inflation rate is higher than anywhere in the
Caribbean and it is prudent that we keep more profits to
finance other investments. In a lower inflation economy,
the dividends may be higher, he said.
He believes Caribbean companies can develop into world class
companies and create value for anyone, as long as employees
believe in themselves.
believe in the demonstration effect, when there is one success
others will follow. If you look at the Jamaican economy
right now, where there is a projected economic growth, a
declining interest rate and a demand for the tourism sector
to build new hotels to earn more foreign exchange and the
inflation rate is in the single digits, it is very encouraging,
As chairman, Orane said he spends more of his time helping
his staff develop leadership skills.
Grace formed its 2020 Vision, where we would like to see
the company in the next 20 years, investing in people was
one of those things. And this is something that I have spent
the last two years of my life working withhelping
people develop their leadership skills, he said.
He explained the companys meritocratic culture empowers
its workers and one of its visions was to double the productivity
of its people.
laughed and said we couldnt do that in the Caribbean
but in the last five years weve done just that,
He spends his spare time at his alma mater, Woolmers
High School, the first free school in the Caribbean.
my age, Ive realised that giving back is important.
Its easy to give to charitable causes but not a lot
of people have that philantrophic spirit. Im inspired
by John Woolmerwhen he died he left the majority of
his estate to form the first free school. Thats something
we need more of, he said.