Coupled with solid Indian-Moroccan relations, Morocco’s business-friendly reforms have attracted a new cohort of Indian companies keen to invest in the North African country as part of a border scheme aimed at tailoring win-win solutions in a spirit of South-South Cooperation.
When asked whether this South-South cooperation agenda was part of his company’s calculus when deciding on its Moroccan expansion, Rajneesh Kumar Mittal, the CEO of Sumilon Eco PET, is quick to point at the urgency of turning the Global South into an “industrial hemisphere,” rather than the traditional provider of raw materials.
From India to Morocco
As he expanded on the point later on in a recent interview with Morocco World News, the Indian CEO did concede that Morocco’s business-friendly environment indeed played a crucial part in Sumilon Eco PET’s decision to establish a branch in the country.
“Always to get to a place where you can see stability of growth” is a key sticking point for an investor, he said.
But while the company’s success as a leading recycling and repackaging factory worldwide — it is in the top 5 of the food waste recycling industry — only gathered steam recently in Morocco, its Moroccan story is not all that new.
At the genesis of it all, there was the Moroccan Investment and Export Development Agency’s (AMDIE) unmissable promotion of Morocco, the “gateway to Africa,” as go-to investment destination.
With AMDIE’s PR efforts, Morocco’s newfound status as a prized destination for investors recently had a big moment in the global limelight with the bold launch of the attention-grabbing “Morocco Now” initiative during the 2020 Dubai Expo.
Long before its recent “15 minutes of fame” in the global media landscape with its eye-catching marketing of Morocco Now, however, AMDIE had long been engaged in promoting Morocco as a country of opportunities and attractive offers for foreign investors.
A circular economy-powered and sustainability-driven company specialized in the recycling and repackaging of food waste, Sumilon Eco PET is among the new cohort of Indian businesses choosing to make the most of Morocco’s business-friendly environment and growth potential.
In fact, so convinced was the Indian company with the positive prospects of its Moroccan venture that it was the first foreign group to establish itself in the now famous and coveted Tangier Free Industrial Zone in 2013. Taking 2014 to build its Tangier plant, the company’s Morocco branch’s products finally hit the global market in 2015.
Sumilon Eco PET manufactures eco-friendly, sustainable Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and its derivative RPET, which is prized for optimal food and beverage packaging given its lightweight, sturdiness, non-toxicity, and cost-efficiency.
Also a global leader in the manufacturing of BOPET films and Metallized Film, Sumilon Eco PET’s Tangier plant currently recycles 1 billion bottles for multiple packaging usages (wine, fruit juice, soda, etc.) and employs around 250 collectors of used bottles across Morocco.
The company’s inspiring “Moroccan success story,” as Moroccan business magazine Challenge recently described it, is as much a ringing vindication of its bet on the growth potential of the Moroccan market, as it is an illustration of Morocco’s sustainability and climate-conscious efforts.
Or, as Mittal himself admitted in our interview, a large part of his company’s largely encouraging figures had a lot to do with the social and institutional receptiveness in Morocco. “I’m very impressed with the green solar plants Morocco is doing in the south” he said.
Mitall added, however, that the bulk of the production at his company’s Tangier Plant is for export, especially to the European market.
“I think in Morocco the regulations are coming up for having the green content in the future. As a company, we are here and will be there [to serve the Moroccan market] when the moment the demand emerges.”
As such, with prospects of even more success in the future as sustainable business making wins more hearts and minds worldwide, the company has pledged to invest $20 billion — its initial investment in its Moroccan venture — on extension work at its Tangier plant.
Once that is completed, projections are that Sumilon Eco PET Morocco will be able to recycle around 2.5 billion bottles every year and expand its bottle collection network in the country by generating around 3000 indirect jobs.
Passion for sustainability
Sumilon Eco PET has an international market reach across the four corners of the world, boasting a solid presence in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil in South America; the US and Canada in North America; as well as Zambia and South Africa in the African continent.
In Morocco, the Indian company is the first to manufacture 100% of its products using recycled material. While this is a sure enough recipe for a sizable return on investment, Mittal is adamant that financial calculations should not be the backbone of business making in our age of sustainable development.
As he sees it, positive social impact is as critically important as the need to make profits. To the Indian CEO, investing is no longer just about making business as usual. And while profit maximisation still remains a crucial component of the business making equation, it should no longer be the sole focus of a company.
Beside stability and growth, he argued, another important part of the equation “is how you can create a positive impact on the people around you, which could be your colleagues working with you, which could be your customers, your supplies.”
Critics of the corporate world’s recent focus on “social responsibility” speak of a PR stunt by savvy investors more driven by the need to take advantage of the inescapable green revolution than by a genuine desire to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals.
Mittal’s response suggests Sumilon Eco PET is a true believer in the sustainability cause that happens to have realized long ago that beyond its nobility, the cause is actually profitable. For him, his company is the living proof of his conviction that a transition towards a green economy, daunting as it may be, is both possible and profitable.
“I think we should be very clear, as investors, that if we aim for sustainability, our agenda should be clear. Profitability follows, and it comes,” he commented. “I have no doubt that sustainable projects are profitable. It may not be as good as many other businesses but it’s not so back behind. And sustainability is a long-term goal, not a short-term goal.”
Such an attitude is a far cry from conservative voices sounding the alarm around the globe that sustainability is simply not good for business, or that benchmarking sustainability for business making will cause millions of job loss.
Mitall believes that his company’s passion for the environment helped them develop present and future business plans with, as ever, their traditional two-fold goal of profitability and sustainability.
Tangier is just the start of a broader Moroccan dream
With the projected additional $20 million investment in Tangier, the Indian green manufacturer is set to bolster its production in Morocco by 200% in the short term.
The goal of this new venture is to establish a strong foothold in Morocco and expand beyond, Mittal said, explaining that his company is considering the prospect of being listed on the London stock exchange in the long run.
When asked about his choice to found Sumilon Eco PET in Morocco as a SARL, the CEO explained that his long-term vision is to establish the Tangier-based company as the parent company for another branch in Morocco.
“In the medium term, when the port of Dakhla will be ready, we are deliberating the possibility of creating a company in Dakhla as a hub for Africa. When the Dakhla port is ready, we plan to acquire raw materials from Africa and recycle them in Dakhla,” he said.
“All these new investments will be held by our company in Tangier, which is Sumilon Eco PET, so it will become a much larger organization; an independent organization, focused only on green products, so this is our agenda, this is why we created an independent company here.”
Dakhla’s Atlantic Port is the flagship mega port of Morocco’s massive investments in making its southern region a continental and global commercial hub. The port cost a $1.1 billion budget and is due to enter into service in 2028, according to Oxford Business Group.
Once operational, the Dakhla port will offer the perfect infrastructure for businesses in Morocco to expand their operations in Africa and beyond.
With a projected processing capacity of 2.2 million tons of goods, the Dakhla Atlantic Port will become Morocco’s second-largest port, behind Tanger Med, the largest port in the Mediterranean region and in Africa. But the Tanger Med Port is only one of the many incentives that prompted him to flag Morocco as an important business destination.
Accounting for the incentives provided by the Moroccan government, Mittal explained that the country’s major attraction for business makers is the positive-attitude towards newcomers.
“We didn’t feel that we were out of our country. The people here were very welcoming, be it the investment agency of Morocco or the ministry of industry, be it the Willaya of Tangier and the administrative department. We were quite welcomed,” he said.
After describing at length the warm welcome his company received in Morocco from governmental bodies and ordinary Moroccans alike, the Indian CEO spoke equally positively of Morocco’s efficient business infrastructure.
In particular, he noted Morocco’s strategic location and the country’s 54 Free Trade Agreements with several countries, saying that both incentives open the gateway to over one billion consumers worldwide for Morocco-based companies.
“If you look at Tanger MedPort, it’s quite efficient to connect with Europe, USA, Africa, Middle East, and Latin America,” Mittal explained.
“Before coming to Morocco, I never imagined that we could deliver products to our customers within seven days in the north of America. Our customers in America treat us like we are an American company based in America because they receive our product earlier than they receive products in America.”
He further pointed out that his company was initially skeptical about the possibility of shipping products to the other hemisphere. However, Sumilon Eco PET now supplies customers in Australia from Morocco just as efficiently as from India.
In addition to political stability and the logistical incentives Morocco offers foreign investors, the North African country has recently set up multiple funds for business makers. Sumilon Eco PET benefited from the services of one of these funds for both its business ventures.
“We received incentives from the Hassan II fund [a state fund for Economic and Social development] for our previous project and even for the new project, the government is extending that help to us,” continued Mittal.
The necessity of a green transition
Numerous reports and studies have come to the conclusion that there is indeed a rising demand for green products, offset primarily by a base-effect of customers preference. It is true that many governments are still dragging their feet when it comes to delivering on their climate promises.
Still, with many global actors awakening to the climate urgency, projections are that most consumers’ embrace of sustainability and ecological-friendliness is bound to make ecological calculations an essential aspect of business making in the future.
According to some global estimates, searches for sustainable goods have grown by 71% since 2016, prompting businesses in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food, and fashion sectors to take into account consumers’ growing appetite for sustainable products.
A keen observer of such global trends, Mittal is spot on when discussing the inexorable transition to sustainable business. And his bold verdict is that companies that are not willing to turn green will go out of business as worldwide demand for green products gains momentum.
He explained, “If you look at the major brands on earth, across the world, I am not only talking about this part of the world, if you look at the USA, places like Australia, the United Kingdom, all the major brands on earth, want a minimum of green content in their food packaging, they insist for it, why they insist on it? It’s because the consumers are asking them to do so.”
For a very long time, industrialism was always linked to high levels of carbon emissions, standing at roughly 29.4% of all emissions. Naturally, taking the green turn for industry-based businesses was quite challenging.
As it relies on state-of-the-art technology, the production of green goods is prohibitively costly. But this did not prevent Sumilon Eco PET from setting up even more ambitious plans consisting not only of manufacturing sustainable products but doing so in a sustainable way.
Toward the end of our interview, Mittal spoke passionately about Sumilon Eco PET’s top two short-term ambitions: Powering the company’s Tanger factory using solar panels from the factory’s rooftop, and transitioning to a 100% fleet of electric cars.
For him, the future of business is bound to be green. Transiting towards a green economy is not a luxury; it’s a necessity, he said.