Reinaldo Solari

  • Interviewed 2 September 2008 in Santiago, Chile, by Andrea Lluch, Research Fellow, HBS
  • Clip Duration – 2:41

Mr. Solari chronicles the inception of Falabella and its evolution, surveying its development through the highs and lows of Latin American retailing. He reviews the diversification and integration strategies pursued by his company over the years as well as the creation of its credit area and its expansion across the region. As he describes Falabella’s financing options and its management professionalization process, he delves into the relationship between business and society as well as Chile’s corporate culture.

Interview Excerpt

R: Yo pertenezco a una familia de diez hermanos; soy el noveno, y nacimos casi todos en la ciudad de Iquique, al norte de Chile -alguno en España, dos en Italia- pero los hombres, principalmente, nacimos todos en Iquique. De recién nacido, me llevaron a Europa, donde estuve diez años viviendo en Italia. Cuando volví con mi madre -mi padre que se había quedado en Chile había muerto en el año ’28, cuando yo tenía 3 años- no sabía hablar castellano y tuve que aprender en la escuela, donde nos criamos.

Yo gocé mucho con mi familia; eran todos hermanos mayores, todos deportistas, buenos trabajadores, buenos empresarios y fueron haciéndose un nombre dentro del comercio de Iquique. Alberto venía a Santiago a hacer negocios y se juntó con uno de los hijos del señor Arnaldo Falabella. El vendía ciertos artículos de tejidos que mi hermano compraba. En una oportunidad, conoció a su hermana Eliana, empezaron con el pololeo (noviazgo) y se casaron. Así es como se juntaron nuestras dos familias.

Al principio, Alberto se fue a vivir a Iquique con su señora, Eliana Falabella. Al poco tiempo, murió uno de sus cuñados que trabajaba en una tienda de sastrería que tenía el suegro de mi hermano en la calle Ahumada. Así que fue su suegro a buscarlo a Iquique para que se viniera a trabajar con él a Santiago. Mi hermano Alberto vendió la parte que tenía del negocio en Iquique a sus otros hermanos y se vino a Santiago a hacerse cargo del negocio, que en otros tiempos debió ser muy bueno, pero que estaba atravesando por dificultades económicas. Él tomó el mando y transformó la antigua sastrería en algo nuevo, que es una tienda por departamentos.

Yo llegué a Santiago en el año ‘40, a principios de enero, a estudiar, a terminar mis estudios de humanidades, y después entré a la escuela de ingeniería de la Universidad de Chile, donde me recibí como ingeniero civil con especialidad en cálculo.

A: I am the ninth of ten children, and almost all of us were born in Iquique, a city in the North of Chile – except for one who was born in Spain and two who were born in Italy. But nearly all of us boys were born in Iquique. I was taken to Europe as a newborn, and I lived in Italy for ten years. When I returned with my mother - my father had stayed behind in Chile and died in 1928, when I was three -, I did not speak Spanish; I had to learn it at school.

I enjoyed my family very much. My older brothers were sportsmen, hard workers and good entrepreneurs, and they made a name for themselves in Iquique’s business community. Alberto would come to Santiago to do business, and he teamed up with one of Mr. Arnaldo Falabella’s son. The latter sold textile items, which my brother bought from him. On one occasion, Alberto met Eliana, Falabella’s sister. They started courting; they got engaged and, eventually, got married. Thus, the two families came together.

Initially, Alberto and his wife, Eliana Falabella, lived in Iquique. Sometime later, one of Eliana’s brothers, who ran a tailor shop owned by his father in Ahumada Street, passed away. Then, my brother’s father-in-law went up to Iquique and asked him to go work with him in Santiago. Alberto sold his business share in Iquique to his brothers and came to Santiago to take over the tailor shop. The business, which had probably seen better times, was experiencing financial difficulties. Alberto took the helm and transformed the old tailor shop completely, making it into a department store.

I arrived in Santiago in early January 1940. I was intent on completing my studies. I entered Universidad de Chile’s Engineering College, majored in calculus and graduated as a civil engineer.

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