“Sales is all about understanding grower conditions in Africa”
Born in south Africa, Rein van Grieken, went back to the Netherlands as a 2-year-old. Visiting Africa continuously over the past two decades, he knows the people, the culture and the business climate. Joining Kekkilä-BVB he got the chance to put all his experiences into the growing business, supporting blueberry growers in sales.
– Travelling gives me energy, I like the contact with clients, being international and the freedom it brings planning my own working-life, he says.
Knowing grower conditions in Africa
Born in South Africa, Rein went back to the Netherlands as a 2-year-old. His parents had been living in South Africa for ten years and moved back when his little brother was born. The past two decades Rein has been travelling back and forth to Africa, visiting or living in almost every country of the continent. He studied in Nairobi, did his internship in Tanzania, worked with farmers in Uganda, and started a business helping orphaned children developing their business in Tanzania.
– What I am especially proud of in my early working life was when I worked in a project team to put up a non-government organization supporting orphaned kids to start and develop their own business, helping them with their business plan and the search for funding. The organization still exists, he says.
Why an international approach
Moving back to the Netherlands he started at Syngenta, a Chinese owned agriculture company. Having different roles in sales, he met BVB for the first time a relationship that grew stronger over time. Being offered a role as a sales manager for blue berries, area South Africa he felt like “coming home”. His role, to target the South African market and plan targets for Africa as a whole with a focus on new Businesses for soft fruits. He is also responsible for casing soil for mushroom growers all over the world.
– My value is my international approach I can relate to these customers, it is easier when you tell them that you are from Africa and have been travelling through Africa. They like that I enjoy the continent. For me the growers are the political system, I know them, their challenges and their needs. They look at me as more than a sales person due to my background, he says.
An agent in Africa
For Rein, sales is all about building relationships, same goes for growers in South Africa. Farms are quite big over there, and people really appreciate that he is coming, although he really would like to be there more often to facilitate the processes. Africa is a continent with large distances also within the countries.
– We are now working closely with an agent in South Africa and that feels great. It will facilitate invoicing and other administration for the growers, he says.
About the travelling Rein says it has always been a part of his life.
– I love the freedom it brings and what I gain out of it. My travels are my planning, these are my own days, as long as I follow my targets. Going to south Africa, costs me two weekends from home, I need flexibility from family, but I can also take a day of when I am back. When I am in South Africa, I also got to see my twin brother, he says.
Kekkilä-BVB and customer value
Discussing Kekkilä-BVB and how this integration into Kekkilä-BVB is part of making value to the customer. Rein says that when South Africa is having an own entity, Kekkilä will profit from it more easily. The market for vegetables is large and there is a great potential he says. In a bigger picture he says, he is also proud of the contribution to a greener or sustainable world.
– We supply a good income for Africa and for the farmers. Also, the way we are growing in pots saves nature, our growing substrate is also saving water, he says.