A DIFFERENT KIND OF BUSINESS
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.