"One of the big lessons we learned in 2020 was the importance of the gas industry in the health business."
Grupo INFRA has a long history. How has the company evolved from its founding to today?
Grupo INFRA was founded over 100 years ago and we are leaders in the gas and welding businesses. Our areas of expertise are in providing gases for healthcare - a very important segment in 2020, industrial gases, gases for petrochemicals and special gases used in the aerospace industry. We are present throughout Latin America. We are part of Infra Group, which is divided into several companies including CRYOINFRA. Grupo INFRA’s role is to oversee the medical market, plus the industrial market in small volumes. We are the leader in distribution in Mexico and one of the big lessons we learned in 2020 was the importance of the gas industry in the health business. Oxygen is now the principal medicine around the world being used to combat COVID. As a result, our hospital and homecare businesses have grown rapidly in 2020.
Looking beyond COVID, do you see potential for growth in Mexico’s healthcare sector?
The health infrastructure has been greatly improved in 2020 from where it was in 2019 due to COVID. Because this better infrastructure is now in place, it means that there will be more doctors, more beds and more demand for medical supplies like oxygen and gas.
Is the Mexican economy well positioned to rebound after two years of slowdown?
There are big differences in the regional economies between the southern and northern parts of Mexico. The north is the most industrial part of the country, whereas the south is reliant on the petrochemical industry and tourism. There are some promising developments, however. The USMCA went into effect in July of 2020 and it is expected that this will create many new opportunities for Mexican businesses. Additionally, many US companies are turning away from China and looking to create maquiladora factories in Mexico that export to the US. These companies will be mostly located in the north of the country near the border, so it will have an outsized influence on the border area economies. The south will likely be much slower to recover because it is unlikely petrochemicals will bounce back in 2021.
What have been the keys to Grupo INFRA’s longevity as a company?
One key factor is that many years ago we decided to be an integrated company. A second is that we defined that we should go directly to the end users and not use distributors much. We want to ensure that we represent the best option for our customers. This means that we may not be the cheapest, but it means that we have close customer relationships and that we are able to listen and solve problems. The difference between Grupo INFRA and its competitors is that we prioritize safety over everything. In our business there is no room for safety errors, so we are always diligent in training customers and providing a best in class product.
Looking into the future where do you see opportunities coming from in Mexico?
I see Mexico being a big producer of medicines, chemical soap products and most of all in food production. Mexico exports food to many different places and you need gases to extend the life of the product. We send chickens to Africa and strawberries to Japan. There is also a lot of promise in the automotive industry with the manufacturing of electric cars. These cars use batteries that require a lot of chemicals so it could be a real positive for our industry. Lastly, the new technologies in LCD screens require chemical gases in their production, so this is another promising area.