Reinventing in Difficult Times: An Exclusive Interview

Nelson CabreraExports, GeneralLeave a Comment

This interview was originally published in Dinero Magazine, a popular financial and business magazine in Latin America. Please note, this article is a translation as the original article was written Spanish. The story as it was published can be found here

LILLY + Associates president, Nelson Cabrera, states that it’s very important for the company to stay in Venezuela.

While some transnational corporations are shocked by the Venezuelan crisis, LILLY + Associates, an international freight forwarder is not intimidated and remains committed to maintaining its operations in the country.

“We have learned in the history of Latin America, that abandoning the country where you are working is not an option. It’s had its good times, where we received good results and when bad times come we need to reinvent, but we are focused on staying in the country,” said Nelson Cabrera in the interview with DINERO magazine.

LILLY + Associates is an international freight forwarder, specializing in global logistics. They are headquartered in Miami, FL and have a 40,000 meter distribution center in Colon, Panama, distributing many of the top global brands to Latin American and the Caribbean from Panama. LILLY also moves raw materials from Latin America and the Caribbean to North America and Europe. They also own offices in China, which are dedicated to export to the American continent.

Cabrera explained that some of the companies in the field and in other areas tend to disappear when they face difficult situations in some countries because they respond to the interest of a very large group of shareholders. This situation hasn’t just happened in Venezuela, but in many of Latin American countries through the 70s and 80s.

“Everybody left the region because Latin America was going through a very delicate economic situation such as the one Venezuela is suffering from today. The rest of the region has gone through this, so multinationals tend to leave when things don’t go as expected and they overexpose themselves when things are very good,” the manager said after emphasizing that that is not the case for the company.

Lilly – he explained – is not just offering logistics service to companies, but there are giving highly important “credits” to their clients in Venezuela. This freight forwarder also bankrolls freight and in “worst-case scenario,” they offer support for foreign purchases.

The president of the company stated that decreases in oil have forced imports to decrease, nevertheless, they see the positive support President Nicolás Maduro is offering to shore up exports.

“We see there are many opportunities and, to a typical Venezuelan exporter, we offer the export service from Venezuela to the most remote city in the US because we know how the system works in the US,” Cabrera added.

He claimed that his Company is an option for other companies that are looking to penetrate the US market, because of their vast knowledge of both markets.

What is your market share?
We have concentrated a significant percentage in Venezuela where we have five offices. When the company was founded 20 years ago, we had an important share in Venezuela and we have seen the brand grow. What we learned from other countries like Peru back in the 80s when they had hyperinflation of 10,000 percent, is to stay there in the country or countries. If the situation gets too rough, abandoning is not a good decision, but to reinvent to keep long-term business relations.

When you talk about reinventing your presence in Venezuela, what do you mean?
To stay in the country, we must reinvent ourselves to a certain point and offer more services and products, more than the transnational companies that have left the country. We see that as an opportunity since the competence is big in other developing countries. We have competitors that are stronger than us and it makes it harder to compete against them. A country like Venezuela still has a lot to offer to companies like us and to local businessmen as well. We like being here.

How do you see the client in Venezuela?
Many of our companies and clients are very strong in the field of domestic appliances.

How long has LILLY been operating in Venezuela?
Our offices in Venezuela have been working for 10 years, but I would say that we have been operating for over 25 years. The market has changed, then we saw the need to open our own offices 10 years ago, in order to offer a door to door service to many importers that asked for more extended services, such as merchandise delivery.

Are you planning to expand your operations?
Yes, definitely. I think we should go further in distribution and have our own warehouses so we can distribute foreign brands that want to penetrate the market. We have received many calls from brands that do not know how to operate in Venezuela.

What are your growth expectations?
In terms of global logistics, there is always a direct interrelation between the transportation and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each country. If the GDP is growing, the imports and exports are growing too, and because of that, there will be more cargo movement. On the other hand, if the GDP is dropping, logistics and transportation won’t be needed.

As many of the companies in Venezuela, the business decreased in 2016. We understand, without getting involved in the political issue, that this is a purely financial situation. The oil drop will obviously decrease any economic activity in Venezuela, and we weren’t the exception. According to the statistics, we still are one of the tops freight forwarders in Venezuela.

What does Venezuela mean to Lilly?
Venezuela has given so much to our Company and we feel very comfortable operating here. We know the consumer, the businessman, the entrepreneur, and know their needs. We always try to be very competitive, to give the best service possible and best benefits in Venezuela.

It is very important to businessmen to have those benefits at port in every transportation and logistics structure, but we see a country with many opportunities. Once Venezuela undertakes a correction in terms of its economy and continues diversifying it, it’s very likely that this will be the country with the biggest growth in all the region in the next 20 years. This will be a possibilities filled country.

What would you say to businessmen?
There are too many opportunities in Venezuela.

What are the growth expectations in the region?
We have a presence in all of Latin America and the Caribbean with correspondents that know how to work in the country. We operate in North-America, Asia, Europe and other countries in the area. We have always seen the potential, and the economic activity inside the region growing to a scenario where Peru sells to Guatemala, Guatemala sells to Venezuela, Venezuela sells to Nicaragua. I think that protectionism will increase in the next 5 or 10 years. If USA increases its protectionism among the politics that (Donald) Trump is announcing, then Latin America will have to depend on Latin America.

Photo source:

Nelson Cabrera
Nelson leads global business development efforts within ShipLilly and has been featured as a logistics expert in numerous publications, including SupplyChainBrain, The Bulletin Panama, Logistics Management, and the Miami Herald.

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