The following is an interview conducted by fDi Intelligence with InvestTT’s Vice-President for Investments Sekou Alleyne, who shared that the government agency planned ahead of the coronavirus and prioritised the sectors it believes will drive an FDI recovery. As a result, the Caribbean country has managed to weather the COVID-19 storm with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago leading a robust response to the emergency.
Q. How have you adjusted to the crisis?
A: In terms of business strategy and our investor-facing strategy, the first thing we needed to understand was the short-term and long-term impact on FDI attraction.
So we and our business intelligence team developed a voracious appetite to gather information coming out of the World Association for Investment Promotion Agency, the Caribbean Association for Investment Promotion Agencies and fDi’s platform itself, to create a focused strategy in terms of which platforms we continue to invest our time in to engage investors.
Q: How has the experience of working from home been?
A: Well, I was concerned about what the transition would be like, as I was used to having human input on how things progress, but we tested all the telecom infrastructure to ensure that we could have staff work remotely so that when the government mandates came in, we were able to move to remote working seamlessly.
I might even say that the level of engagement and productivity has increased with remote working.
Q: How have you refined your investment proposition in the wake of the pandemic?
A: We went through an internal process where we identified the sectors that were best poised to put us in the most competitive position to attract investment. From that, our four prioritised investment opportunities were: business process outsourcing (BPO), maritime industrial services, electricity-intensive manufacturing, and logistics.
We refined our strategy to focus on these areas in collaboration with the local industry participants through a new initiative called the FDI Stimulator Network, and adapted it to a digital investor attraction platform using LinkedIn, Facebook and digital marketing campaigns, so that we can maintain a presence in the international market within those specific industries.
Q. Is this digital platform something you plan to keep in the long term?
A: Yes, I think that is the way the world is going. We accelerated our digital strategies during the COVID-19 period, and it will continue as a plan for how we look to engage investors moving forward.
Q. Trinidad and Tobago has traditionally been a dream destination for tourists. How will InvesTT support inbound investment in the sector?
A: Prior to COVID-19, we had set up an initiative to bring together local landowners and businessmen with international brands like Hyatt, Hilton and Wyndham to identify tourism spaces to build hotels. We have continued this forum digitally and online so that these discussions are not interrupted.
We have also bought in our local tourism stakeholders, both the Trinidad tourism company and the Tobago tourism company to ensure that there is an alignment with their investment strategies too.
Q. As a leader of an investment promotion agency, what have you personally learned during the crisis?
A: Personally, I have learned to lead by using digital channels to continue to engage people even when I am not face-to-face with them.
I have also learned that when strategising, one has to consider how flexible that strategy is to the external environment, so you can quickly pivot based on a challenge and get around it so that your end goal can still be accomplished.