A civil engineer from the Ecole des Mines de Paris, Xavier Laloum spent the first part of his career at Soletanche Bachy, part of the Vinci group, with a technical background (R&D and then the design office), then a commercial background in Colombia from 2007. He then became CEO of Gomez Cajiao in 2015, a company that joined setec in mid-2018.
A naval engineer and graduate of the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo, Jorge Luiz Babadopulos began his career at the National Institute of Technological Research of São Paulo.
He was successively project manager, technical director, president at TUV Rheinland, and then president of Geris Engenharia e Serviços, before taking over the general management of setec hidrobrasileira in 2020.
setec hidrobrasileira was founded in 1954 and Gomez Cajiao in 1972, both companies joined the setec group in 2011 and 2018 respectively. What impact has this had on your business or strategy?
Xavier: Our clients appreciate having in one company an impressive local track record, with technical and contractual expertise, and the support of a large French group. Our activity in recent years has continued to remain strong in the road, port and mining sectors as before the purchase, but the guided transport sector (metro, train) has increased in importance compared to what it would have been without the group. The group also allowed us to enter the field of PMO (Project Management), with projects such as the Bogota Metro or roads in Peru. Our strategy will continue to evolve, in particular to be in line with that of the group, with a view to increasing the focus on green industries, despite the fact that Colombia is a country that is heavily dependent on low value-added raw materials for many years to come.
What are your latest achievements and current projects in Brazil and Colombia?
Jorge: In Brazil, we won six public contracts for the design of sewage systems, one contract for road design, one contract for design quality control in the railway sector and one contract for commuter lines in São Paulo (concession).
Xavier: About 60% of our business is in the road sector. This is followed by the guided transport and industrial sectors, particularly mining. Finally, there is a small amount of activity in the construction and water/environment sector.
The consortium in charge of the construction of Puerto Antioquia (Eiffage – Ethuss) has decided to award us the design of their onshore infrastructure of over 30 hectares.
Can you tell us about the group’s development prospects in the Latin American countries? What are the opportunities and how can we seize them?
Jorge: There are many opportunities in the design and construction of infrastructure, in sanitation, roads, railways, ports, telecommunications, which depend on private investment, as the state currently has very little investment capacity.
Xavier: Gomez Cajiao’s main task this year is to stabilise Colombian and Peruvian activities. However, we remain active in other nearby markets in the event of an interesting opportunity that may or may not require the participation of other companies within the group.
Emphasising local skills through ‘hybridisation’ is one of the commitments made by the group, do you think this is important and why?
Jorge: It is important to spread the group’s values throughout all companies, as well as new technologies, tools and processes.
Xavier: The market in our area is very competitive and there is relatively good technical expertise among our competitors. That is why it is vital, commercially speaking, to be able to carry out our offers by maximising the contribution of local, in this case Colombian, personnel. However, for certain skills, French expertise remains necessary.
It is important that for these core competences, it is possible to transfer them via hybridisation to our local staff, who have very good technical learning skills as a result of a solid initial training.
The group is also committed to carrying out its ecological, climate and energy transformation or also to realise the digital transition. Are you also involved in these major transformations?
Jorge: Certainly, Brazil must accomplish its ecological and digital transitions. We encourage our teams to participate in these transformations.
Xavier: Colombia itself is on the path to phasing out fossil fuel exports. Digital transformation is also an objective in the transport sector. It is therefore necessary that Gomez Cajiao, like the country in which it operates and he group to which it belongs, actively participates in these major changes.