Nearly 3,000 people filled Barcelona’s Fórum Auditorium for the XVII ESADE Alumni Annual Conference, at which Inditex and IKEA were recognised for being European companies that continue to exceed revenue and profit objectives through innovation in management despite the current macroeconomic climate. In addition, Wuaki.tv was recognised as the year’s best start-up.
Xavier Sanchez (Lic&MBA 97 / SEP 08), Director of ESADE Alumni, opened the conference by thanking alumni, award winners and sponsors for their support. Mr. Sanchez then give the floor to Miguel Trias (MBA 89), President of ESADE Alumni, who highlighted some of the association’s activities in today’s challenging political and economic climate. "We have become one of the most active networks in Europe", said Mr. Trias, "with more than 16,500 members and over 700 activities organised each year. ESADE Alumni will continue to work in three areas: supporting the professional development of ESADE graduates, fostering the entrepreneurial spirit and performing important work through Alumni Giving Back". According to Mr. Trias, some companies, such as Inditex and IKEA, have proved that it is possible to reinvent the world by making innovation a centrepiece of their business models. "The key is to engage and align people, thereby getting them involved in a major project in an environment of ethics and freedom", he noted.
The next speaker was Eugenia Bieto (Lic&MBA 73 / PhD 08), Director General of ESADE. Ms. Bieto noted that ESADE is growing and constantly improving, as evidenced by the new programmes and degrees that it will offer next year, the launch of the BBA programme taught entirely in English, the new option of taking the double BBA-Law degree in just five and a half years, and the consolidation of ESADECREAPOLIS as an innovation centre. Beyond all this, Ms. Bieto insisted that ESADE’s greatness lies in its capacity to train professionals with a strong sense of ethics: "The entrepreneurs who emerge from our classrooms every year offer a clear example of our contribution to society. We know we play a key role in wealth creation, and we are committed to job creation".
Mr. Sanchez then took the floor again to introduce Javier Santiso, Academic Director of ESADEgeo and Chair of the OECD Emerging Markets Network. According to Mr. Santiso, Spain must seize the opportunity to tap into the growth currently taking place in the emerging economies of Latin America and Asia: "We must continue to invest in these countries and internationalise Spanish companies and exports with these markets in mind. The internationalisation of emerging multinationals offers yet another unique opportunity for Spain to position itself as a hub for corporate headquarters on the European continent – a bridge and springboard for Latin American and Asian multinationals in Europe". Mr. Santiso proposed that Spain become the "Latino connection" for the numerous multinationals looking to set up shop in Europe. He also stressed the growing importance of trade between emerging countries (China and Brazil, for example) as well as the presence of Asian companies at the top of the main high-tech rankings and indices.
The next speaker was Pablo Isla, President of Inditex. During his remarks, Mr. Isla reviewed the fundamentals of Inditex’s business model, which in 2010 generated a turnover of €12.5 billion and a net profit of €1.732 billion. He noted that Inditex currently has 106,000 employees and 5,500 stores in 82 countries, and that in 2011 it entered several new markets, including Australia, South Africa, Taiwan, Azerbaijan and Peru. "At Inditex", Mr. Isla said, "everything revolves around our customers and our stores". By dealing with geographically proximate suppliers - 49% of Inditex’s products are manufactured in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, while 14% are manufactured in other parts of Europe - the company is able to respond quickly to new fashion trends. "This proximity to production centres is clearly a hallmark of our business model", said Mr. Isla. "We also think it is important to establish long-lasting, respectful relationships with our suppliers, as it is in the interest of both parties".
Another hallmark of Inditex’s business model is the fact that its central services are designed to serve its sales departments. "We are a sales-based company, one hundred percent", said Mr. Isla. "We focus on the customer, hence the importance we place on our retailers. We cannot fail in terms of implementation. We send clothing to our stores twice a week and we roll out new collections every few weeks, so we make purchasing and shipping decisions constantly. In this, we cannot fail. It is therefore essential that we have an efficient logistical system". Inditex’s plans for the future, according to Mr. Isla, include increasing online sales, continuing expansion throughout China - where the company already has stores in 42 different cities - and implementing the environmental commitments set out in its 2011–2015 Sustainable Inditex Plan.
The next speaker was Mikael Ohlsson, President of IKEA. Mr. Ohlsson began by acknowledging that many of IKEA’s values overlap with those of ESADE Alumni and Inditex. "Perhaps this partially explains our prestige and leadership", he said. Mr. Ohlsson briefly reviewed the history of IKEA, which has essentially led the transformation of the furniture and decoration industry. "We have shown that the rules are not written", he mused, "that there are no limits to dreaming and improving, that we can innovate, that there are imaginative ways of eliminating unnecessary costs that add no value and reducing environmental costs. The key is to have talented people and channel their skills to meet the goals we set".
IKEA’s designers have played a fundamental role in driving this change in terms of strategy, innovation and integration. "Our idea is to offer a wide range of functional, well-designed home-furnishing products at prices most people can afford", explained Mr. Ohlsson. "When we create furniture and decorative items, we make sure that their transportation and storage cost us as little as possible, and that most of our packages are flat". IKEA has 1,300 suppliers in 50 different countries. It is owned by a foundation and not publicly traded. "We could say that IKEA is conservative from a financial standpoint and humanistic from a social standpoint", said Mr. Ohlsson, before noting that the company plans to invest €2.5 billion to open 14 new stores in Spain by the year 2020. The group’s worldwide turnover was €23.1 billion in 2010.
Pedro Fontana (Lic&MBA 74), Chairman of the ESADE Foundation Board of Trustees, then took the stage alongside Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Trias to present the 2012 ESADE Awards to Mr. Isla and Mr. Ohlsson. Jacinto Roca (Lic&MBA 99) collected the ESADE BAN Best Start-up Award on behalf of the company he co-founded, Wuaki.tv. Mr. Roca expressed his gratitude for the award and, in an inspiring speech, encouraged conference-goers to launch their own projects. The only way out of the current crisis, he said, is to "break new ground".
Closing remarks were given by Andreu Mas-Colell, Catalan Minister of Economy and Knowledge. Despite the fact that current problems are forcing us to focus on the most immediate challenges, Mr. Mas-Colell urged the ESADE graduates in the audience to keep their sights trained on the long term, which is where the country’s future lies, and to continue acting as ambassadors for their alma mater.
Presidents of leading companies will be participating in the round table discussion titled "New challenges in a global environment":
- Pablo Isla, President of Inditex
- Mikael Ohlsson, President of IKEA
- Javier Santiso, Academic Director of ESADEgeo and Chairman of the OECD Emerging Markets Network
- Hon. Sr. Andreu Mas-Colell, Minister of Economy and Knowledge of Generalitat de Catalunya
By Xavier Sanchez (Lic&MBA 97 / SEP 08), Director of ESADE Alumni
Speech by Miguel Trías (MBA 89), President of ESADE Alumni
Speech by Eugenia Bieto (Lic&MBA 73 / PhD 08), Director General of ESADE
8.00pm "New Challenges in a Global Environment"
Lecture by Javier Santiso, Academic Director of ESADEgeo and Chairman of the OECD Emerging Markets Network
Speech by Pablo Isla, Chairman of Inditex
Speech by Mikael Ohlsson, Chairman of IKEA
ESADEBAN Best Start-up Award
ESADE Awards ceremony
By Hon. Sr. Andreu Mas-Colell, Minister of Economy and Knowledge of Generalitat de Catalunya