Frenchman David Ducognon is clear about one thing — TOTAL Jamaica, the petroleum giant, is a Jamaican company that simply enjoys the international best practices of its French parent.
“We are totally committed to Jamaica,” Ducognon insisted in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer. “In the next few months, the public will see how we are improving our service delivery. We employ 50 people at our head office, and across our service station network we have close to 1,000 employees.”
Since investing in Jamaica in 2004, TOTAL has rolled out improved convenience stores and plans to offer free Internet access to entice its customers to do more than just fill up with gas and go. Further, in the coming months TOTAL will unveil its version of a quick repair auto shop, appealing to its customers who want the convenience of speedy motor vehicle repairs.
While declining to give the dollar value of the investments in Jamaica or the profits that TOTAL enjoys from its Jamaican operations, Ducognon said, “Like any company who makes an investment, it is because it expects to make a satisfactory return. And while we cannot divulge our financials, we can say that we are committed to growing our customer base in Jamaica.”
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, TOTAL is found in the French-speaking territories of Martinque, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana. Although the company decided against offering gas stations in Haiti recently, Ducognon did confirm that it has a presence in that country through its lubricants arm.
TOTAL also has a presence in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Ducognon has been managing director of TOTAL Jamaica since August 2016. Hailing from France, he was previously deputy director of eastern, northern and central Europe, as well as Russia.
Compared to his continental experience, Ducognon explained that “Jamaica is a very interesting market. It is growing and we have a positive outlook about the economy. From what we see, what is being developed with the growth initiative across the various sectors gives us a positive outlook. We are all living in interesting times in Jamaica and we want to be part of the growth story.”
Currently the company is promoting its new fuel formulation that it also markets in Europe. Ducognon noted that across the company’s 57 service stations in the island, TOTAL is striving to meet the demands of consumers that know they have choices in terms of where they buy petrol.
“What is special about the TOTAL gas stations? We are not just selling fuel, we are selling convenience. We have the best network and the widest with 57 service stations, so easy location is very important to the consumer and we are eager to provide high-quality products to our consumers,” he told the Business Observer.
“In the service station model, we have our own stations and we franchise as well. Our view is that competition makes you better and forces you to innovate to be the leader. We are investing a lot in our convenient stores, plus we opened two new restaurants [and] we will open car service stations to start at Deanery Road and Waltham Park Road,” he said.
“These locations for our auto care services will offer lubricants, oil service change, small mechanical service (tyres, alignment, basic mechanical service). What is important is the rapid service and this should be up and running by August, and we plan to give free Wi-Fi at all convenience stores across the island. So 2018 will be the year that a lot of the work we prepared for will be showcased,” he explained.
Another touch point for Ducognon is credit card safety. “In May we won the golden award from the National Commercial Bank for safety. This involved training of service station staff. We were recognised as the service station with the safest credit card transactions. Essentially, we have made it so inconvenient for thieves to swipe card information that they don’t bother with TOTAL gas stations,” he said.
Corporate social responsibility is also an important element of TOTAL’s involvement in Jamaica. “As a group, we have a TOTAL Foundation which has four areas of concentration in the 130 countries in which we operate. The foundation focuses on the environment, education, road safety, and cultural/heritage upliftment of the country we are operating in.”
Ducognon explained that in Jamaica the foundation has been working with three pillars — the environment, education, and road safety.
“In terms of the environment, we have long-term partnership with Jamaica Environmental Trust where we help them create school environmental plans, tree planting, and inter-coastal clean-up each year,” he said.
“As it relates to education, in 2015 we signed a memorandum of understanding with The University of the West Indies (UWI) where we send political science students to France, and we also have a student internship in the TOTAL system and we are still looking to expand the UWI relationship.
“Next is road safety, which is very important. Jamaica has high road fatalities and we are concerned about that, and so we target children through a programme called Children Against Reckless Driving to educate them before they are driving and [encourage them] to respect the regulations. It’s about adjusting behaviour before bad attitudes to road safety set in,” he explained.
Giving an assessment of the company’s future here, Ducognon said: “The outlook for Jamaica and TOTAL is very bright. We will continue to innovate in the retail, aviation, lubricants and service station sector of the petroleum industry of the country.”
By: Dennise Williams