A DIF­FER­ENT KIND OF BUSI­NESS

Jamaica Gleaner - - FEATURE -

THE GROUP, with a to­tal work­force of some 2,300, has been build­ing out a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent kind of busi­ness, putting in sev­eral e-com­merce type, tech­nol­ogy-re­lated firms. It ac­quired a sub­stan­tial mi­nor­ity in­ter­est in So­cial Me­dia Group, head­quar­tered in Puerto Rico. In­vest­ing “a cou­ple mil­lion US dol­lars”, ICD ac­quired about 35 per cent of the par­ent com­pany and 45 per cent of So­cial Group’s lo­ca­tion op­er­a­tion of Gus­ta­zos, an on­line daily deals busi­ness for the pur­chase of meals, va­ca­tions, etc. He says the busi­ness has done very well in Ja­maica and they been open­ing up new mar­kets in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, Panama, the Ca­nary Is­lands and else­where.

Most re­cently, the trans­formed ICD hold­ing com­pany ac­quired a mi­nor­ity in­ter­est in a start-up com­pany, Am­ber Con­nect, which is a ve­hi­cle­track­ing and se­cu­rity de­vice with soft­ware that pro­vides alerts and gran­u­lar data on the move­ment of a ve­hi­cle. Af­ter one year of op­er­a­tion, some 3,000 of the de­vices, which are also able to re­motely dis­able ve­hi­cles, have been sold lo­cally with con­sumer sales and sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness trans­ac­tions, with the Ja­maica De­fence Force, Na­tional Wa­ter Com­mis­sion and a pi­lot with the gov­ern­ment-owned Ja­maica Ur­ban Tran­sit Com­pany, mak­ing up the bulk of sales. Great busi­ness prospects are open­ing up for this prod­uct in places like South Africa, Mat­alon has re­ported.

At the same time, the legacy busi­nesses such as WHICON and BCIC have con­tin­ued to do well and have them­selves adopted dig­i­tal strate­gies to help them com­pete ef­fi­ciently in their busi­ness seg­ments. “That is the fu­ture. If you are not run­ning your busi­ness with the ben­e­fit of tech­nol­ogy you are go­ing to find that you fall be­hind the com­pe­ti­tion,” he said. This strat­egy has helped BCIC gain en­try into the Bar­ba­dos mar­ket, since July this year, with a sales staff lo­cated there and all back-of­fice op­er­a­tions done in Ja­maica through a com­puter por­tal. The early suc­cess of this ven­ture has im­pli­ca­tions for even­tual roll-out else­where in the Caribbean re­gion and glob­ally.

HELPED TO CHANGE LIVES

As trans­for­ma­tive as he has been in busi­ness, Joseph M. Mat­alon has also helped to change lives by public ser­vice, com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and through char­i­ta­ble work. He ex­plained the gen­e­sis: “The fam­ily has al­ways had a very strong ethos of public ser­vice, in par­tic­u­lar giv­ing back to Ja­maica, which ob­vi­ously is a coun­try that has treated us very, very well. While grand­fa­ther Mat­alon came here at the turn of the 20th cen­tury, my grand­mother’s fam­ily had been in Ja­maica for nearly 250 years, so I am a bit of a na­tion­al­ist.” This com­mit­ment to Ja­maica man­i­fested it­self in ser­vice on sev­eral gov­ern­ment boards and com­mit­tees span­ning dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal ad­min­is­tra­tions. The former chair­man of the Devel­op­ment Bank of Ja­maica, and cur­rent chair­man of the Of­fice of Util­i­ties Reg­u­la­tion (OUR), has also been a mem­ber of the En­ergy Sec­tor En­ter­prise Team (ESET) and served on sev­eral tax re­view com­mit­tees since the 1980s. He also served the ex­ec­u­tive of the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica for many years, in­clud­ing three years as pres­i­dent. The ICD Group chair­man is also proud of his work as a di­rec­tor of 1834 In­vest­ment Lim­ited, for­merly The Gleaner Com­pany, for the past 30 years. He is now a di­rec­tor of the RJRGLEANER Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Group fol­low­ing the re­cent merger of RJR and The Gleaner Com­pany (Me­dia). “I have re­mained with The Gleaner and with the RJR Group be­cause I be­lieve it is very im­por­tant that there be a strong lo­cally owned and pro­fes­sional me­dia group in Ja­maica. It is one of the things that makes our democ­racy work and work very well. We have one of the freest me­dia in the world. It is im­por­tant that we main­tain that,” he ex­plained. The is­sues fac­ing youth in Ja­maica and dis­ad­van­taged, un­at­tached youth in par­tic­u­lar, have al­ways stirred a re­sponse in him, Mat­alon pointed out. His first in­volve­ment in this area was with the St Pa­trick’s Foun­da­tion, where he raised funds for youth ac­tiv­i­ties and is now its hon­orary chair­man. He has also been in­volved with the Mul­ti­care Foun­da­tion, which has been a long­stand­ing af­fil­i­ate of ICD Group and was started by his un­cle, Aaron Mat­alon. Here, Joseph Mat­alon works with about 30 schools, en­rich­ing the cur­ric­ula of those schools in the ar­eas of sports and the visual and per­form­ing arts. Prob­a­bly his sig­na­ture in­volve­ment in youth projects has been with the Youth Uplift­ment Through Em­ploy­ment (YUTE) pro­gramme that grew out of the PSOJ’s so­cial and eco­nomic re­sponse to the Tivoli in­cur­sion. A pro­gramme of re­me­dial nu­mer­acy and lit­er­acy for youth who are not in school, skills train­ing and men­tor­ship was de­signed and a first phase im­ple­mented. The young­sters are also taught soft life skills in dis­pute res­o­lu­tion, team build­ing and life plan­ning. The PSOJ di­vested it­self of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the YUTE pro­gramme in 2012 and since that time, that co­in­cided with the end of Mat­alon’s pres­i­dency of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, he has taken on the co­or­di­na­tion of the pro­gramme from his ICD of­fice in down­town Kingston. Now, the YUTE ini­tia­tive and the Mul­ti­care Foun­da­tion have been merged into the Mul­ti­care Youth Foun­da­tion, serv­ing young­sters from ages six to 16 and 17 to 29. Mat­alon also serves as a di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Youth Foun­da­tion.

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