Philippe Espitalier-Noël lapped up the dynamism and business opportunities of London, completing a London Business School MBA before working in management consulting and rubbing shoulders with some of the brightest minds in commerce.
However, describing himself as “a Mauritian at heart”, Philippe followed his heart back to the island nation, where his family had run a prominent multinational conglomerate (including subsidiary Rogers & Co) for five generations. “My place was here, in this country, where I could ultimately contribute something meaningful,” he explains.
After returning from the UK, Philippe moved into Rogers & Co’s planning and development department. “I was a complete novice in most of the business lines of the group, but my experience of business transformation, turnaround exposure and strategic development provided me with valuable capabilities.”
A later stint in the group’s aviation division allowed him to work closely with the then CEO and soak up knowledge. “That gave me a head start,” Philippe recalls. “I had time to become familiar with the organisation and come to grips with the major dynamics of the company.”
The transition to the top job presented a steep learning curve
Despite this broad experience within the group, Philippe, now the CEO, says the transition to the top job still presented a steep learning curve. “It’s only when you take the wheel that you fully realise how much you do not do as number two in a large organisation. I was well prepared to take on the CEO role, but time management was (and still is) my biggest challenge.”
The company he now leads has been an innovator since it was founded in Mauritius in the late nineteenth century. Its initial remit was to offer maritime services to merchants and traders. It has since diversified to include a range of services and Philippe says the company’s objective now is to provide scale to its served markets in fintech, hospitality, logistics and property.
With a stable and well-regulated economy, Mauritius has been named by the World Bank as the easiest place in Africa to do business. It is an analysis that Philippe emphatically endorses. “Mauritius is the ideal gateway for investment into mainland Africa. Our jurisdiction is a recognised, well-structured and sophisticated international finance centre of substance.”
Philippe says the group’s fintech arm, Rogers Capital, is ideally placed to facilitate investment opportunities in Africa. “It’s an all-under-one-roof professional services firm that assists investors in their investment roadmap into Africa. Our team of seasoned professionals possess the right capabilities and track record to advise, structure and roll out across the continent.”
The group has also been a major player in hospitality and leisure, and its luxury resort arm recently hosted the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Golf Club. Philippe points out it is the first such event to be endorsed by the European, Asian, and Sunshine professional golf tours.
“It provides important visibility for our country’s fantastic attributes,” he says. “It allows us to showcase the know-how of Mauritius Inc. For Rogers and Heritage, this demonstrates that we operate at the top of worldwide benchmarks in our service lines.”
There is no end to innovation
Agility and dynamism are watchwords for Rogers & Co and it is constantly looking for new ways to do things, not least in its fintech business. “There is no end to the innovations that are disrupting the business environment and changing business models. Take cloud computing, online payment services, online advertising; they all need to be addressed differently.”
The company is one of the founders of the Mauritius Blockchain Center of Excellence, which will explore new applications for this ledger of cryptocurrency.
A reverence for innovation and commitment to constant improvement ties in with how Philippe leads the group and the values he champions among his staff.
“I treasure entrepreneurial flair and speed in decision making. I look for open-minded people who believe that they always have something to learn.” While the group’s headquarters is Mauritius, it is very much international
in terms of its staff and business outlook.
“Diversity drives innovative thinking and provides the business with multiple points of view,” Philippe reflects. As it embarks on further expansion across Africa, no doubt its multiform nature will continue to be a real strength.