KIERAN ANDREW KHAN
Trinidad Import and Export Company (TIECOL) is one of the oldest operating companies in the country, founded in 1868. Initially formed as a partnership, the business moved to that of limited liability and eventually rebranded into TIECOL – one of the premier food, liquor and heavy equipment distributors today. Earlier this year, TIECOL received the Platinum Award, the highest recognition of quality from international forklift manufacturer, TCM/UniCarriers. TIECOL is the only company of the 16 dealers operating in the South American North Cone and Caribbean region to receive this award.
The TCM/UniCarriers Platinum Award is given to companies that maintain the highest standards in sales and spare parts and provide the highest levels of service and general after-market work. TIECOL was also recognised with a long service award for 40 years of service as a TCM/UniCarriers dealer. The latter company was formed in 2013 when TCM Corporation and Nissan Forklift Company joined together to form UniCarriers Corporation. The UniCarriers Forklift brand was used for products out of the Nissan USA factory, and the TCM brand was retained for units manufactured out of Japan.
"We are primarily in the food distribution business today," director, Peter Arrindell pointed out to Business Day, "but we have been a wide-ranging and multi-faceted business over the 151 years of operations. We started in agriculture with cocoa and copra until the cocoa crash occurred in the 1920s. Before the crash, we were the first company to sell a motor car in TT, but we sold that division in 1924 after the cocoa crash to a familiar name – Mr Charles Massy, who was a manager in our cocoa business at the time. It was seen as a strategic decision owing to the severe condition by the crash. At that time too, with the 300 cars sold in the country, the market was ironically deemed to be saturated as well," the director said.
TIECOL remains a family business where the owners are all direct descendants from one of the original partners. Over the years, TIECOL has achieved several firsts; one was establishing the first rice mill in TT. "Given our involvement with cocoa and coconuts, we took a turn at rice production. My grandfather also got together with several other coconut growers to form what is today the CGA – the Coconut Growers' Association and my father who was the agent/distributor of USA flour giant, Pillsbury Company, was instrumental in forming Trinidad Flour Mills, which was so successful that it was nationalised by the government and became National Flour Mills."
TIECOL today represents an extensive portfolio including many popular brands in the food and beverage sector, including Mac Arthurs and Hankey Bannister blended Scotch Whiskies, Margaritaville Tequilas, XM Aged Rums, Banko Wines, Banks Shandy, Sorcha Irish Cream Liqueur, James Plagniol Olive Oil, Nickerson Boneless Pollock and Crest Food products. Its heavy equipment division oversees the distribution and after-sales service for brands including TCM/UniCarriers and Nissan forklifts, LiuGong wheel loaders, backhoes, excavators, Cascade forklift attachments, and Hytrol conveyor systems. On its international recognition for the heavy equipment division, Arrindell noted, "Achieving the platinum level requires that you follow a lot of procedures very particularly and that a number of our employees are fully certified to UniCarriers high standards. Essentially, it's a quality award for quality service." Peter Arrindell, son of James and a fellow director, holds a B.Eng. in Electrical (Engineering) and was trained at the University of Trinidad and Tobago and then did specialised forklift training at the UniCarriers’ College of Technical Service in the USA. He is also a qualified in the ‘Train the Trainer' programme and is authorised to certify local service people under the UniCarriers’ Service training courses.
"We pride ourselves in being a family-run business," Arrindell pointed out. "And also in being a company that seeks out products that offer fantastic value relative to their price points and the quality that they provide. For Arrindell, the important thing is that TIECOL continues to grow, adapt and evolve as it continues as one of the oldest family-run businesses in the country.