1. Marco Rabenefitra CEO JM IMPEX MADAGASCAR Top Five Sharp Business Leaders Making Their Mark in Industry 2022

How would you characterize the journey of JM IMPEX MADAGASCAR from the beginning to where you are now?

Well, JM IMPEX MADAGASCAR was established in 2018 and as I have just left my studies in Mauritius, I was the only staff member who did all the work to make things happen. Our main activity is the export of vanilla, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and any spices and pulses from Madagascar. However, JM IMPEX MADAGASCAR is mainly known as a vanilla supplier so far.

We began in a hotel room and step-by-step, we opened our own office, then we got a warehouse. If, in the beginning, we only exported a few kilos of vanilla via FedEx or DHL. Later, we were more focused on shipping hundreds of tons of spices in containers by sea. As I said earlier, in the beginning, I was the only person who worked for JM IMPEX MADAGASCAR. Now we do have a team of 10 permanent workers, and on average, 300 daily workers per month.

Walking through this long journey, what kind of challenges did you face?

As a new venue in the spices business, those who were in the business longer than we are not really pleased to see a new colleague as they rather considered us as a competitor. But the biggest challenge was at first with suppliers as if you are dealing with spices you find yourself sometimes obliged to pay advance to the collectors in order to get your delivery quicker.

However, so many times we’ve lost lots of money as the suppliers run away or they don’t come on time for delivery or they come with bad quality goods that we usually call rubbish. It causes a delay in delivery. Second, the covid19 crisis in 2020 caused a considerable crash down in orders, because the international demand decreased. If we get orders, even our clients have difficulty selling our products. So this caused the delay in our payments. These are the biggest challenges that we face in our industry.

What inspired you to establish a spices export firm?

First of all, I am from a farmer’s family and I grew up farming vanilla. Even when I was a schoolboy, every time I don’t have class. I went for a part-time job in a vanilla processing warehouse to work there.

It made me good at the quality management of vanilla. Also, when I was at the university, I used to work for a spice exporting company. It made me know about other spices very well. Hence, when I got back to Madagascar after my studies in Mauritius, I decided to open a company of spices as I fell in love with handling spices and I love the smells of them.

JM IMPEX MADAGASCAR is my dream that came true. As a reference, I would tell you about what JM IMPEX stands for. JM IMPEX is an acronym for Jean Marco Import and export. Jean Marco is what people used to call me when I was a kid. But since high school, I was only called Marco. JM makes me remember my source and if sometimes I feel discouraged this reminds me of where I begin and where I am right now.

What makes your company different from your competitors?

As I said earlier, I don’t consider those who are doing the same business as I to be my competitors. Rather, I consider them as my colleagues that I can approach in case of need of some advice or even a collaboration if it occurs. At JM IMPEX, we are really strict about the quality. We prefer not to ship at all than sending poor quality goods. For us, it’s ok even if we only export a small volume of goods but whatever we supply are always premium qualities. That is why we keep our motto, which says: “QUALITY OR NOTHING”.

What was your biggest challenge at JM IMPEX?

My biggest challenge that I will never forget was with an order of beans to Jordan. The beans have been tricked by the supplier and there were 100 tons. Everyone was mistaken, even the phytosanitary agent when he checked the batch he said the quality was ok. However, after a few days, I saw bugs coming out of the bags. So I decided to suspend the shipment because I don’t want to have my client thinking he was cheated. But when the client heard that I suspended the shipment, he complained at our Embassy in Riyadh. Later, informed our Government and the government suspended our export license and froze our bank account and made us pay a fine.

That was the darkest period in my life because I have been considered a bad person until the end of last year. The client understood what happened and he agreed for an amicable settlement. But for almost 1 year we were in trouble because of it. However, I am looking at it as an experience in business and we will no longer fall into such a situation.

Do you have any special memories that make you feel particularly proud of your contribution to the spice industry?

Despite many things that are being said about us or me in the business, everyone who used to work with us knows that the best quality products in the market are from us. Any time we restart working our clients always wants good products from us. Another thing that makes me really proud is that I am the youngest spices exporter from Madagascar because I am currently 26.

What would you like to say about your team?

My team is motivated and willing to learn a lot in the spices business. It took me 5 months to train all of them, starting from the executive team to the drivers and security agents. The security agents have been trained personally by me on the techniques of body checks, in/out procedures and even how to make your Opponent KO in 15 seconds (I am the current President of Kickboxing in Tamatave).

What leadership skills do you think propelled you towards success?

I had a dream and believed in that dream. I don’t accept anyone interfering in my dream.

Tell us about your life journey and academic experience.

I was born in a farmer family in the North-Eastern of Madagascar, a city called Sambava on 22/08 1995. I grew up with my grandmother and at the age of 15, I knew who my father was.

People always denigrated me during my childhood so this made me have a dream that one day all of them will look at me from down while I will be at the top. I studied law at the University of Tamatave and I stopped for a Bachelor’s degree because I was horrified by how justice in Madagascar is going. I got a scholarship at Greenwich University in Mauritius and I had to study for Bachelor’s degree in Business Management but I didn’t complete it because I had a dream. I came back to Madagascar and started JM IMPEX.

What will be your message to young, aspiring future exporters?

All I can say is go ahead with your dream because if you don’t you’re going to be the one who will realize someone else’s dream. There is no small or too big dream if the other could make it why can’t you?

What is going to be your next step?

I see myself being the President of the Republic of Madagascar at maximum in 10 years. In the meanwhile, I am figuring out who is going to be the future First Lady.

Comment here