On the Shoulders of Giants
"If I have seen further than others it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
Sunday October 30 will mark the 66th anniversary of the founding of Grupo Elektra. The group has grown from a small factory that assembled radios with a handful of employees to a true multinational conglomerate with over 60,000 employees and operations in industries as diverse as banking, retirement fund management, microcredit, securities brokerage and of course, retailing.
Grupo Elektra, a company with a market capitalization of more than US$3 billion and operations in seven countries with more than 7,000 points of sale, is today much greater than anything that we could have ever dreamed of.
But none of this would have been possible without the vision, hard work, and determination of an exceptional entrepreneur who has always shown great love for Mexico: my father Hugo Salinas Price. Since he joined the Elektra precursor Radiotécnica as a part-time worker, this tireless businessman was never exempt from difficulties. The company was born on October 30, 1950 under the name Elektra Mexicana, SA.
Recently, Editorial Porrúa publishers reprinted my father’s memoirs, My years with Elektra. The book narrates occasions when the company was unable to pay salaries because accounts receivable piled up "like a snowball and money was coming in dribs and drabs." For many entrepreneurs, this is a familiar story.
The memoirs, which are available in both Spanish and English, narrate first hand how the recurring peso devaluations in the 1980s led to corporate debt crises, putting our company and hundreds of jobs at risk. I hope this offers a lesson to young people who are now responsible for the country's public finances and who discreetly celebrate the peso’s loss in value.
My father writes about the devaluation during Holy Week 1954, when the peso lost nearly two-fifths of its value against the dollar. Perhaps this is the source of my father's obsession with finding solid mechanisms to protect the purchasing power of the peso, as well as his tireless efforts of promoting silver as an instrument for preserving economic value.
We faced another difficult moment when our largest client, Salinas y Rocha, stopped purchasing goods from us due to a family dispute, which represented a strong challenge. Today Salinas y Rocha is part of Grupo Elektra.
He also talks about the good times. Such as the building of our radio factory at 3352 Cuitlahuac Avenue, the opening of the first Elektra store at 32 Sinaloa Street, and the production of the first television set designed by Mexican engineers in 1953. By 1954, Elektra was the leading TV manufacturer in Mexico.
As the company grew, another unique challenge was to create a reliable information system to give daily updates of sales and profitability. I’m proud to say that in my youth I participated in this project in which Grupo Elektra created the first business information system designed and programmed entirely by Mexicans.
Without these and many other difficulties and challenges, which were overcome with extraordinary talent, our company would not have reached its current size and scope. In the words of my father, "Mexico has been and remains a country of obstacle courses, in which only the most tenacious, the most foolhardy, the most daring, the most indomitable, can move forward."
Fortunately, Hugo Salinas Price is a tireless individual who has devoted his life to fulfilling a dream, in the process building a team of talented people who revolutionized retailing and consumer credit in Latin America.
He shares countless personal and company histories that reflect the tenacity, courage and vision of our company. The book narrates an extraordinary adventure forged by exceptional Mexicans. Grupo Elektra undeniably stands on the shoulders of giants.