Business Profiles

Sowing the Seeds: Asia Plantation Capital Group

A key cog in the vast Plantation Capital Group, APC Group SA has a real understanding as to just how vital effective plantation management is. Endeavour Magazine spoke with Gary Crates, CEO Europe, to find out more about the innovative operation.

Asia Plantation Capital has been in operation since 2002, in a private capacity, but was officially established in 2008. This move lead to APC Group being founded in 2014 and they have made a lot of ground in the two short years that they have been operating in force.

Set up to support human resource recruitment functionalities for European, African and American market entry, the group has just announced the opening of new management head office in Geneva. Gary Crates commented, “As a major, global economic hub, Geneva was identified as the ideal location for the strategic move in response to the increasing demand for Asia Plantation Capital and the Group’s numerous and growing range of end products in the European market.”

The sky’s the limit; new head office in Geneva to spearhead APC Group’s global expansion

Responsible for the marketing and timely distribution of the 100% natural Oud oil, essential oils, Bakhoor, Agarwood chips, incense and numerous other timber products, the new head office will certainly have its work cut out for it, but it’s a challenge that the group is confident it will overcome, with grace and precision. “As part of the Group’s wider expansion plans, the office will also act as the independent management and administration centre for the Group’s global operations, including Africa Plantation Capital and America Plantation Capital, and will be home to its corporate governance and compliance teams.”

With such an extensive mandate of responsibilities in place, it makes perfect sense that the new head office is located deep in the heart of the central business district of Geneva. In good company, the group will be neighboured by prestige, luxury brands, as well as highly respected governmental, financial and environmental institutions. Surrounded by such impressive set-ups as this, it’s little wonder that APC is held in the high regard that it is.

Gary Crates, speaking about the move to Geneva commented that, “We are thrilled to finally be operational in Geneva, and have every confidence that our Swiss headquarters will serve as a bridge between Europe, America, Africa and Asia that will provide some great opportunities going forward. We firmly believe that Geneva is the prime location to establish our marketing team that is focused on distributing the group’s range of sustainable end products. These include the APC ‘Boo Bike’, bamboo luggage, and a new revolutionary sustainable fabric brand called ‘Boo-Tex’, in addition to teak and hardwood flooring, as well as our signature, 100% pure, natural Oud oil and other essential oils.”

Utilising Europe’s impressive, world-class credentials

He continued: “Geneva is also a significant strategic location for us, as CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is based in this thriving city. All our Oud (Agarwood) products are certified and approved by this body, that has become so vital in the fight against illegal trade, and we share with it the values of sustainability and the importance of known provenance.”

We wanted to know what other reasons played a part in the decision to relocate to Geneva, as despite the impressive credentials that the business district can boast, there had to have been more to the decision than that. “Another deciding factor was Geneva’s skilled workforce and its reputation for excellent logistics, as well as its global reputation for fairness and transparency; reflecting everything that we stand for as a company. With a growing number of clients in Europe, the headquarters will also be tailored to meet the specific needs of the European market, in addition to providing local support and administration to Asia Plantation Capital and the Plantation Capital Group’s growing client base in the region.”

Of course! The natural connection between a company that has high-level marketing and human resource provision at its core would naturally gravitate to a region where exemplar skilled professionals and honest, integrity-driven business practices reign supreme. In addition, APC has been welcoming increasing numbers of European plantation owners and influential investment managers into its ranks, making Geneva a truly natural fit.

A genuine commitment to doing business sustainably

So what makes APC so unique in its field that it has been able to rise so far beyond and above its competitors? The answer is simple; it genuinely adheres to a programme of sustainable and ethical business practices, leading to a number of awards that have recognised the huge strides forward that have been made by the group, but awards are not the driving force at the core of this inspirational organisation. If they were, change and industry turbulence would have a shattering impact. The plantation industry of Aquilaria Trees is undergoing a transformation. Traditionally, the vast markets for Oud oil and Agarwood have been served by illegal loggers removing wild tree stocks. As a result, the trees are now critically endangered in the wild and are protected by CITES and the IUCN. The only long-term supply solution is for sustainable plantations, where APC are both the largest and most successful company operating in this field.“

 Just imagine operating within a clear set of ethical and environmental boundaries, only to discover that it would be this stringent approach, most likely seen as extra work by competitors, which would prove to be the unique selling point of the entire company. It’s little wonder that the staff turnover at APC is impressively low, but there are other factors that keep team members loyal and determined to carve a career within this forward thinking operation. We asked what Gary Crates thinks about staff development, Motivation, fulfilment and team building are key cornerstones of our success and we achieve this trust through very progressive, open management and prominent social responsibility programmes involving all our staff.” With in excess of 2,000 members of staff in situ, this honest approach is vital and directly leads to the kind of after sales support and customer service that puts large organisations up on an operation pedestal. We actively encourage our clients to visit our plantations in Asia and meet the management and our staff that will take care of their trees for them and in addition, we keep clients abreast of developments with regular newsletters and an annual report that details the growth of their trees.”

Investment in R&D and new product development

 Investing heavily in research and development, it makes sense that the next few years have a lot of exciting projects on the horizon for APC. We asked Gary Crates to expand on them for us,

“Following a very successful launch into France and Switzerland we are now expanding into Germany, Luxembourg and Austria, all of which will be supported from our Geneva Head Office.” In addition, he talked about proposed product expansion; Whilst we are already world leaders in the management of sustainable Aquilaria trees, we also manage plantations of Teak, Vetiver and Patchouli. In 2016 we are also now launching large scale sustainable Bamboo plantations in Kenya, Africa and will be offering the new products to clients later this year.” Perhaps the most exciting development, however, is; Part of the APC Group, Fragrance Du Bois has recently opened in Paris and is actively searching for a retail opening in Geneva and Zurich. The company is a unique, luxury fragrance house that takes its inspiration from the beauty and purity of nature itself. At the heart of all Fragrance Du Bois’ creations is the 100% pure Oud oil, which is sustainably produced on the brand’s own plantations, managed by Asia Plantation Capital.”

 The world is about to be taken by storm, by the APC Group, but we don’t feel concerned by the monopoly of their industry that they are certain to enjoy. Rather, we are impressed to encounter a company that operates in accordance with such high levels of integrity and honesty and with sustainability at the core of everything they do, the future certainly looks bright and sweet smelling.