Seprod Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Richard Rohan Pandohie, describes the bestowal of a national award on him this year as “a truly proud and unexpected moment for me”.
Mr. Pandohie was conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD) for contribution to the Manufacturing Sector.
Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, made the presentation to him during the National Honours and Awards Ceremony, held at King’s House on Monday, October 17.
The CEO was among 221 Jamaicans recognised by the Government during the National Heroes’ Day marquee event.
Mr. Pandohie, who notes that this is his first national award, says, “To be honest, I am still processing being conferred with a national honour.
“Everywhere I go, persons [many of whom I don’t know] are offering congratulations and it is really a most gratifying feeling. In a way, it has made me even more passionate to represent my country; I feel like an unofficial Ambassador,” he shares.
Mr. Pandohie says he was in Montego Bay on August 5, the eve of Jamaica’s 60th Independence Day Anniversary commemoration, when he received a call shortly before 6:00 p.m. from a representative of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), advising that he had been chosen for the award.
“At first, I thought it was a prank call, as I have some very mischievous friends. But a very serious [Administrator at the OPM], Julie Forbes-Clarke, made it clear that it was ‘serious business’. I was bursting with happiness but decided to only share the news with one my of sons – Sebastian – as I wanted to surprise the rest of the family by having them see it in the newspapers,” he adds.
Mr. Pandohie’s career in the productive sector spans approximately 30 glittering years, during which he has experienced many notable and memorable moments, among these, serving in senior roles in local and international companies.
His early years were grounded in engineering and factory management at companies such as Alcan, Esso, and the Jamaica Biscuit Company.
Mr. Pandohie eventually moved into leadership roles such as NABISCO Caribbean Operations Manager, Kraft Operations Manager for the Caribbean and Central America, Coca-Cola (Jamaica) Country Manager, IGL (Jamaica) Limited Managing Director, Carreras Limited Managing Director, British American Tobacco Business Development Manager for the Caribbean and Central America, and Seprod Group CEO since 2015.
He is a transformational and visionary leader who prides himself in making the company he serves and the people of Jamaica better.
“However, from a national perspective, I believe that my tenure in the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), especially as President, represented my most outstanding contributions. That tenure overlapped during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we had to step up to work alongside all other stakeholders and be a strong advocate for the entire productive sector, while being a voice of assurance and credible information for our citizens,” he recounts.
Mr. Pandohie was elected JMEA President in 2019, subsequent to serving as Deputy President the previous four years; he is also a former Director of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC).
He shares that it proved challenging to “get a foot in the door” during the initial stages of his professional career, noting “it seems… you had to know somebody to get an opportunity”.
“What this meant was that when I got an opportunity, I worked very hard to prove that I deserved it,” he emphasises.
The academic credentials of the Independence City All-Age and Calabar High School past student and Commonwealth Scholar served to put him in good stead, in this regard.
He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) in Operations and Finance from McGill University in Canada and is currently pursuing further academic accreditation at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.
The former JMEA President says as his career progressed, the main challenge, as a Caribbean national in a multinational world, was always proving that one was an equal on every level.
“It is just part of the reality of life that persons will always judge you first by where you are from before they take the time to understand your competence, and I [along with other Caribbean nationals] had to work that much harder to earn the respect that was due to us,” he adds.
Mr. Pandohie says his family has been and remains his greatest motivation and support.
He pays tribute to his mother, Evadney Rose Pandohie, whom he says he ceaselessly strives to make proud, adding that “I carry the same name as my father [Richard Pandohie], and so I see my accomplishments as his legacy”.
“The remainder of my inner circle is very tight. It comprises my wife, Nicole, who is a marketing and business development consultant by profession, sons – Sebastian, Nathaniel, Nicholas, and Noah – all of whom are at varying stages of their educational journey, and an extremely small group of confidants. They are my biggest cheerleaders, sounding board and, when required, my fiercest critics,” Mr. Pandohie tells JIS News.
The CEO says that within the organisations he has worked, he has been fortunate to meet some amazing persons, many of whom transitioned from a professional relationship to friendship.
“The calls, messages, hail-ups from former colleagues from all over the world, several of whom I have not seen in decades, congratulating me on my national award, have been overwhelming,” he says.
Outside of the professional environment, Mr. Pandohie has been integrally involved in several social/community engagements, aptly reflecting the mantra of the Rotary Club – ‘Service Above Self’ – of which he is a member.
As a passionate Jamaican, he is involved in and supports charity work and prides himself on giving back and building Brand Jamaica.
One of the ways he has done so is by partnering with multiple organisations to target the most vulnerable in the society and creating opportunities for young high-potential Jamaicans through internship programmes.
Mr. Pandohie tells JIS News that he has been a member of the Rotary Club of New Kingston, holding various positions over several years, which culminated in his election as President in 2011.
For his work with the organisation, Mr. Pandohie received the Paul Harris Fellow Award for Community Service from the Rotary Foundation.
He was also the proud recipient of the RJR Gleaner Special Award for Business in 2019. This award was created to honour individuals who have contributed significantly to the improvement of quality of life in Jamaica.
The CEO has been a Justice of the Peace for St. Andrew since 2013, is a former part-time lecturer at the University of Technology (UTech) and served as Chairman of the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) and Board Director at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ).
In 2022, Mr. Pandohie took on a different role as Patron of the CARIFTA Games, which were held in Kingston, with athletes from across the region participating.
He shares that he is “very active behind the scenes” in supporting his alma mater, Calabar, and was honoured by the David “Wagga” Hunt Foundation for outstanding service to the institution.
“The reality is that we live in a society where so many persons have needs, and those of us who have been blessed and can help have a duty to do so,” he maintains.
The CEO emphasises, however, that “we should strive to help persons to elevate themselves and beat the poverty trap, as opposed to just offering a handout”.
In analysing the local manufacturing sector, Mr. Pandohie says it remains an important pillar in the society, noting that this was highlighted during the pandemic.
“However, for the most part, it operates well below what is required for transformational national development. If you were to examine the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the engine of growth for many countries, only a very small percentage of Jamaican SMEs are in the productive sector,” he points out.
The CEO describes this as a “major limitation” to the growth of the middle class, increasing productivity, and creating value-added growth.
He adds that the deglobalisation and nearshoring trend wrought by the pandemic, coupled with Jamaica’s logistics advantage, “give us a big opportunity to take a different approach to bringing manufacturing, even if it is low complexity, to our shores”.
Going forward, Mr. Pandohie says he wants to see the productive industry, especially agro-processing, being treated as a major priority for the medium to long term.
“It is the pillar that will drive innovation, give opportunity to [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths] STEM-educated persons and is the most likely route to grow the middle class. While the service sector has been huge for Jamaica, it is important that we diversify the economic base and become a supply source for CARICOM and countries in Latin America,” he adds.