Luis Alejandro Pagani

  • Interviewed 18 November 2008 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Andrea Lluch, Research Fellow, HBS
  • Clip Duration – 5:23

Mr. Pagani describes his business career at Grupo Arcor. He analyzes different business cycles and crises undergone by the company, along with strategies and challenges faced during the company’s internationalization process. He also examines labor, management, and corporate social responsibility policies, as well as the relationship between for profit companies and the state in Argentina. Finally, he identifies the distinctive features that have defined him as a businessman.

Interview Excerpt

R: Antes de recibirme de contador público, hacía algunas tareas dentro de la empresa en summer job, o sea, no formalizadas. Me gradúo en el año ‘83 e ingreso en el área comercial de la empresa, hasta que viajo a Estados Unidos en el año ‘85/‘86.  Regreso en el ‘86 y me reincorporo en el  área comercial como Director de dicha área hasta el año ‘93, teniendo bajo mi gestión los temas de marketing y  ventas, digamos que es un poco mi gusto y, creo, mi fortaleza. Luego, a fines del año ‘90, fallece mi padre; así que en el año ‘93, asumo la presidencia del Grupo Arcor.

Ahora bien, ¿desde el año ‘93 hasta la fecha cuáles han sido los momentos de mayor –digamos- impulso y de tomar decisiones clave? A lo largo de ese período,  la Argentina era un país de oportunidades  donde  se acercaban varias multinacionales, pensando en la potencialidad que el país tenía, fortalecida por la creación del MERCOSUR. En ese lapso, diría yo, ‘93, ‘97, ‘98, muchos competidores nuestros -empresas locales que tal vez eran centenarias- tomaron la decisión de vender. Eso se dio mucho en ese ciclo, en los ‘90. En nuestro caso, por el contrario, redoblamos la apuesta, tanto en la Argentina, como en nuestra expansión internacional, haciendo foco en Latinoamérica. Y, entre el ‘93 y el ‘99, realizamos una serie de  inauguraciones de plantas industriales con fuertes inversiones. Es un ciclo en el que Arcor invierte casi mil millones de dólares, tanto en la Argentina como en el exterior, acentuando, sobre todo, la expansión latinoamericana, con foco en  Brasil, que es el país del gran desafío, el país de las oportunidades. Todo esto, digamos, en relación a la fase industrial, que vas a poder ampliar en ese libro.

Como verás, en la historia de Arcor, en los primeros 40 años, privilegiamos el know-how industrial,  la productividad, ‘bajar los costos’, porque está en nuestro ADN. Tal vez, en este período ‘93-2000, entramos, si querés, más en la fase marketinera: empezar a  posicionar la marca Arcor, a tener un marketing distinto al que teníamos, un poco porque era una de nuestras falencias, pero también porque hacia allí nos conducían los nuevos jugadores. Entonces, ese ciclo –creo- fue muy productivo para  Arcor. Luego, transcurre, lamentablemente, la crisis 2001-2003, y afortunadamente Arcor se encontraba preparada para afrontarla con éxito. No muchas empresas pudieron traspasar esa crisis, lamentablemente. Después de todo ese crecimiento de la década del ’90, hubo que transcurrir tres años muy duros. Pero, en general, el desempeño de Arcor en esos tres años dentro de la Argentina fue positivo.  La empresa intentó, por sobre todo, no afectar a su personal.

A: Before graduating as a Certified Public Accountant, I used to work at the company during the holidays, a summer job of sorts. Upon graduating in 1983, I joined the company’s commercial area. In 1985-86, I traveled to the United States. When I got back later that year, I joined the commercial area yet again, this time as director, and I held that position until 1993. I was in charge of marketing and sales -the areas I prefer and where I have expertise. Later, at the end of 1990, my father died, and, in 1993, I became president of Arcor Group.

From 1993 up until today, the company has undergone several key periods in terms of growth and decision making. This was a time of opportunity, when Argentina’s potential, strengthened by the creation of MERCOSUR, attracted many multinational companies. In 1993, 1997 and 1998, many long-standing and traditional local competitors decided to sell out. That was a distinguishing feature of the 1990s. However, at Arcor, we opted to double our bet, both in Argentina and abroad, focusing on international expansion in Latin America. Between 1993 and 1999, we inaugurated several industrial plants, with considerable investment efforts. During this stage, Arcor invested nearly US$ 1 billion, both in Argentina and overseas, with a special emphasis on Latin American expansion and mainly into Brazil, a country ripe with challenges and opportunities. Now, that is just a glimpse of our industrial operations – a topic you may choose to elaborate some more in your book.

As you can see, during its first forty years, Arcor concentrated on industrial know-how, productivity, and “cost reduction”-its key DNA components. In the 1993-2000 period, we entered into a more marketing-oriented stage, seeking to position Arcor’s brand name and introduce changes into our marketing strategies. Marketing was our weakness, and new players in the industry were forcing us to step up our marketing practices. In my opinion, it turned out to be a most valuable period for the company. However, a while later, the 2001-2003 crisis struck the country. Luckily, Arcor was prepared to navigate it successfully. Unfortunately, few companies were able to survive that crisis. Come to think of it, after experiencing tremendous growth in the 1990s, we had to endure three extremely difficult years. All in all, Arcor performed very well during those years in Argentina, concentrating its efforts on safeguarding its work force.

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