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I’m very easy to please, as long as it’s
Compiled by RACHNA LAL and RANOBA BAOA
Welcome to Hard Talk, where we pose questions to both top executives and budding entrepreneurs on some of the major issues involving business.
David Gilmour is amongst one of the world’s most prolific businessman, commonly known here as the founder of the world-renowned FIJI Water.
In Fiji, he also owns the Wakaya Island Club and Spa, a resort visited by many famous celebrities from around the world, Hollywood in particular.
And his most recent venture is the Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger – a 100 per cent organic pink Fijian ginger grown on his 2200-acre Wakaya Island.
Mr Gilmour’s success in Fijian ventures has been big but what is more interesting is that his visit to Fiji more than 40 years back was in fact by coincidence and what he described as ‘embarrassing’.
He said he landed on Fiji for refueling en route a flight to another destination when he decided to rent a car and drive around Viti Levu.
Little did anyone know back then that this would become the starting point for Mr Gilmour’s investments in Fiji.
Mr Gilmour says he found Fiji and the Fijians “uniquely welcoming and interesting”.
“I’ve travelled seven million miles in my career, pretty well been everywhere, and I’ve found Fiji to be the most pleasant atmosphere of people and sense of hospitality.”
Mr Gilmour usually spends three out of 12 months in Fiji (July, August and December).
Questions for David Gilmour, Canadian businessman & the Wakaya Club owner, FIJI Water founder:
1. Why the commitment to investment in Fiji?
Madness (jokingly). 40 years of passion about this place, it’s hard to explain.
2. Why did you start FIJI Water LLC when there were already so many bottled water companies?
I felt that I had to come with new ideas and came out with FIJI Water. I was told I was quite mad because in America alone, there were 620 bottled water companies and they said: Is there a need for 621? (chuckles).
But I felt that FIJI Water had a different taste. I created revolutionary bottled water for its time. I enjoy the challenges and then shortly thereafter, FIJI Water became a national brand in the United States and became the fastest-growing premium beverage.
3. Why sell FIJI Water?
As an entrepreneur, I started maybe over 10 different companies.
(Mr Gilmour says he never goes back into a type of business which he has sold).
So in other words, I’d never start another water company. And I like the challenge, the marketing and putting a team together that can achieve and that’s why I sold FIJI Water.
But I had an idea in mind which I’m now doing which is Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger, which will become part of a suite of products that are organically grown in a virgin volcanic soil.
Not soil that’s been polluted with pesticides, chemicals, fertilisers and the world is gravitating towards realising that we are what we eat. Many of the problems that we have health-wise are strictly because of the kind of meat, vegetables and fruits we eat.
4. Tell us about Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger?
We started with this product about five months ago. And like FIJI Water, I like to do things very carefully and yet very energetically.
To create a brand, we have to create its feasibility, the trials and then you have the people who will continue to try the product or whether they are going to try something else. It has to have a difference which FIJI Water did.
And a suite of organic products will have that effect. So it’s already in Europe, the United States, Asia and it’s just the beginning.
(Mr Gilmour said the demand for this product has been quite high).
5. What’s unique about the Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger?
The fact that it’s grown on virgin volcanic soil, it’s more powerful. We have a formula on how we produce it which I’m not going to share (chuckles)…which makes it much more powerful.
It has a distinct, sweet, marvellous flavour which makes it suitable for improving your wellness, for cuisines, drinks with lemon, vodka or gin, rum and that’s just a tip of the iceberg. The top chefs are now using it and spas. Ginger has a unique property if handled correctly.
So this is one of the products of the suite that we are going to develop – totally different than anything on the market. It’s not the fact that we will grow the ginger and we’ll sell it all over the place.
6. Is this sold in Fiji?
No, not yet but we will be. Just like FIJI Water, we build international markets first. I think for Fiji, it’s important to build the brand. We’re going to start with something limited and then bring it back here.
7. Why name it Wakaya Perfection?
Because it is perfect and it is Wakaya! Also because it comes from an island that is beautiful as Wakaya. The fact is that it comes from a class where Steve Jobs (the late) or Bill Gates, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, amongst other well-known people have come over the years.
A lot of them go there because Wakaya has more charming activities, natural beauty and things to do and there’s history about it at the resort.
8. So Wakaya is basically a brand?
Yes it is. I think FIJI Water did a lot of good for Air Pacific. People used to ask where is Fiji? I think it helped the focus on Fiji. And Wakaya is such a particular niche that people who can go on the website will know.
Every month, www.wakayaperfection.com is just going to be more exciting, more unusual, more innovating than anything in the industry. And if you look at the island, you’ll say: “Woo I’d love to be there”, you look at the product: “I’d love to try” and you put the two together and that’s where I hope that one and one makes three.
9. What other areas of investments are you looking at?
I can’t tell you. I never talk about things before they happen. You’re a person who does what he says he’s going to do. And if I talk about it before and people will say, what happened – where is it?
10. Are you looking at more investments in Fiji and what potential do you think exists in Fiji?
Yes. There’s huge, undiscovered potential. It’s an extraordinary country that it has difficulties in perception that people want in particular stability.
They want the feeling where you don’t have set backs.
For example, Fiji is ideal for tourism, but it’s got to be high quality, very focused, very specialised.
Investments and interests details
l 1969 – David Gilmour & partner, Peter Munk, founded the South Pacific Hotel Corporation which quickly became the largest hotel chain in the South Pacific.
l 1971 – Discovered the 2200 acre Wakaya Island
l 1972 – Purchased Wakaya Island
l 1980 – The South Pacific Hotel Corporation chain was sold and the partners formed Barrick Gold Corporation, now claimed to be one of the most profitable and largest gold-mining firm in the world.
l 1990 – Opened The Wakaya Club, an exclusive resort on Wakaya which is today famous amongst celebrities around the world.
l 1996 – Founded FIJI Water which soon became the fastest-growing premium beverage in the United States.
l 2004 – Sold FIJI Water LLC to billionaires, Stewart and Lynda Resnick for a reported sum of $50 million.
l 2007 – Founded a media company, VIV Publishing LLC, whose first product is an entirely new concept in women’s magazines. This is a health and lifestyle publication called VIVmag distributed exclusively in digital form.
l 2007 – Acquired Zinio, the leading digital publishing, retail and distribution platform for magazines and books.
l 2013 – Founded Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger, a 100 per cent organic pink Fijian ginger which has gained popularity in international markets.