Indomitable entrepreneurial spirit, an unshakeable belief in the power of collaboration and the value of family, are the qualities that come to mind when discovering the successful career of Peruvian businessman Oswaldo Hidalgo.
Leaving his childhood home to work in the Peruvian capital of Lima at 13, Oswaldo took an early interest in business. He eventually went on to start a venture with his brothers manufacturing industrial clothing. Despite their best efforts however, their first family enterprise was not meant to be, and they were forced to close up shop.
Nevertheless, Oswaldo had gained considerable experience in a niche industry and understood the value of specialisation. He saw the possibility of a lucrative business in the world of automotive and machine lubricants.
After testing the waters as a reseller, Oswaldo founded Vistony, now a global leader in the manufacture of lubrication products for automobiles and heavy industry. Vistony is essentially the realisation of everything that matters most to its founder: the company in spite of having grown to a considerable size is still driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. But most importantly Vistony has remained a family business and currently boasts eight members of the Hidalgo family including the founder actively involved in the business.
Recently, Tharawat Magazine spoke with Oswaldo about the origins of Vistony, the business landscape of Peru and the benefits of working with family.
Tell us, how did you come to found Vistony?
I’ve always defined myself as an entrepreneur and after my ill-fated venture in the clothing industry, I started selling battery fluid, brake fluid, grease and coolants to roadside mechanics. I felt there was an opportunity for growth in the business, but it took me some time to formulate a model that might have a reasonable chance at success. The solution I came up with was manufacturing my own branded products for automobiles and machinery, and so I officially launched Vistony in 1992. Initially, we sold our products to the very same workshops I used to frequent when I was a middleman as we had developed close relationships. Slowly though, we gained confidence and began moving up to the more significant players. Our products were very well-received, and Vistony started to take root. Initially, I was in charge of all direct sales but as we gained momentum I needed help. Naturally, I looked to my brothers and sisters.
Today you have many family members involved in running Vistony. How did this happen?
Interestingly enough, my relatives all joined at different times. The first one to come into the business was my brother Edwin, followed shortly after by Magnolio, Wilfredo, Enrique, and my sisters Nelly, Margarita and Lila. I’m eternally grateful to them for their effort and support – they’ve been integral to the success of Vistony. Because we are so close as a family, we can share the responsibility of continuing to meet our customer’s expectations. We know we can wholly depend on each other in the face of challenges. To maintain our competitive advantage, we need to be continually innovating while simultaneously holding on to the values that brought us here in the first place. I am confident that with our strong familial bond as a basis, this is possible. If we can maintain such a balance, Vistony will achieve success across generations.
Tell us more about the business operations and realities. What are the most significant challenges in the lubricants industry?
Vistony produces oil, greases and complementary products for every type of machine, from motorcycles and small cars to industrial apparatuses. We currently enjoy a robust presence nationally and have successfully internationalised as well.
Competition is our biggest challenge – our industry is incredibly competitive, and as such we’re continually working towards finding an edge. By prioritising customer service and ensuring our products are of the highest quality we’ve been able to enjoy a competitive advantage over the last two and a half decades. Quality is crucial; our society is entirely dependent on machines and our products ensure their reliability and longevity. When you introduce a new brand intending for it to be competitive with global brands it has to be of the highest quality or your venture is dead before it gets off the ground. So there is continuous pressure on us to keep those standards high.
What potential opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in Peru?
Definitely technology – it is the most influential factor shaping our current business landscape. The advent of this technological age has made it so much easier for Peruvian businesses to do business with the rest of the world. The digital revolution has fundamentally changed the way we communicate, and this opens the door for a truly global economy. We need Peruvian entrepreneurs to find new and exciting ways of harnessing technology to become internationally competitive. The time for this is now. Opportunities exist in every industry, be it fishing, agriculture, or manufacturing and the involvement of every sector is vital. Economies all over the world will benefit from reciprocal collaboration, and incidentally, I believe in free trade agreements between nations to ensure this integration is easy and successful. We hope that Vistony can be a role model to inspire young entrepreneurs that it is possible for a Peruvian family business to become a global player.