Ajegroup is the international name of the business group created by the Peruvian family: Añaños Jerí. This multinational Peruvian company in the soft drinks industry, with sales of 3.000 liters or approximately US$ 1.500 million up until the year 2011, holds the second or third place of the market share in 16 countries of America and Asia, including Mexico, the largest soft drinks consumer in the world after the USA. This family business, currently managed by the second generation, is additionally the most globalised Peruvian company and by 2020 plans to become one of the main 20 multinational companies in the world, goal which they hope to achieve by increasing their consumer base in the Asian market.
Their most global brand is Big Cola, which is the official sponsor of F.C. Barcelona from Spain in Latin America and the English Football league in the Asian market; additionally, they have 15 other brands in several categories: soft drinks, juices, re-hydrators, water, beer, bottled tea, soy milk and energizing drinks.
The business adventure of the Añaños family began in 1988 when Jorge, the eldest of six brothers, and his father Eduardo, obtained a loan and the money from their savings in order to install a small bottling plant for soft drinks in their house in the city of Ayacucho, with an initial capital of US$ 30.000.
Ayacucho is a city located in the mountains of Peru, 2.746 meters above sea level and 555 km from the city of Lima. In the eighties, the social and political violence created by the subversive group Sendero Luminoso was reaching its most critical point, affecting the supply of products to the different provinces of Peru. This situation was even more aggravated by the attacks that the delivery trucks from large companies such as Coca Cola, Pepsi or the Peruvian company Inca Kola suffered, generating a shortage of demand. In the face of this crisis, Jorge Añaños convinces his father to open a company in order to supply the internal demand of soft drinks in Ayacucho, with an initial production of 48 crates per day. The approach of the business, from the formula of the drink to the distribution method was devised by the Añaños from the beginning.
This family enterprise was more successful than expected, and in 1991, the other five brothers (Angel, Arturo, Carlos, Vicky and Alvaro) entered the business, through a drinks factory in Huancayo, a city with a lot of commercial activity in the centre of Peru. Two years later they opened another factory in the city of Bagua, in the northern part of the country. The good reception in these first markets gave the family the necessary impulse to take the risk of entering the market in Lima in 1997, which is the main market in Peru with almost the third part of the national population. Once this goal was successfully achieved, the next step became very clear: internationalization.
Venezuela was the first foreign company in the global path of the Añaños and was initially chosen because of its hot climate, a higher consumption per capita than that of Peru and an almost exclusive use of glass containers, which gave them a competitive advantage by penetrating the market with non returnable PET containers. Once again they were successful, encouraging them to penetrate more markets in the region: Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Brazil has been the latest in their Latin American expansion.
However, the next step in their global expansion would be even more ambitious and unprecedented for a Peruvian company: to capture the Asian market. During the year 2005, Ajegroup inaugurated their first factory in Thailand, followed years later by Vietnam, Indonesia and India.
The strategy employed by Ajegroup to achieve this exponential growth in little over two decades has been clear: to attack markets with an unsatisfied demand due to elevated prices, and to maintain a low cost policy in order to compete with prices, delivering quality products but in larger containers. Ajegroup was also known to invest moderately in advertising, until they acquired the rights to use the images of the players of F.C. Barcelona and the English Football League in the year 2010. Not even has the global crisis been an impediment for the company´s plans, since they aim for markets with low resources.
This growth has led the Añaños to turn their family company into a corporation (even though Ajegroup is not in the stock market), with the hiring of managers for their branches. However, the decision making of the divisions on a geographical level are led by the brothers: the group President is Angel Añaños, and his brothers are in charge of the South American markets (led by Alvaro Añaños), North and Central America (led by Arturo Añaños) and Asia (run by Carlos Añaños).
Currently, Ajegroup´s finances are managed from an office in Spain, which allows them to adapt to the time zone in Asia (morning) and Latin America (afternoon); the marketing division is located in Bangkok (Thailand) and the new products or production lines are usually tested first in Peru before they are introduced into other markets.
What began as a small family enterprise is now consolidated as the Peruvian company with the largest global scope, even more so than large corporations that have been in the market for over 100 years. All of this thanks to a solid family nucleus, a clear vision of target markets, and well defined strategies. In the year 2013 it is expected that 70% of the demand for Big Cola will come from Asia, after penetrating China (possibly during 2012) and in this way manage to capture a market of 4 thousand million consumers: almost 60% of the world population with a product manufactured by a Peruvian family owned company.
Author: José Carlos Lumbreras: Investigation Unit Chief of Peru: The Top 10,000 Companies
English version: Guillermo Salazar
Originally published in Tharawat Magazine, January 2012.