Carlos Añaños Jeri is one of the 100 Young Global Leaders, chosen by the World Economic Forum in Davos

How to go from the terrorism of the shining path to the creation of a potato empire

Carlos Añaños Jeri, escogido uno de los 100 Young Global Leaders, escogido por el World Economic Forum de Davos
Carlos Añaños Jeri, chosen as one of the 100 Young Global Leaders, selected by the World Economic Forum in Davos

One of the most significant official stands at FITUR 2024, which closed its three days with more than 153,000 attendees, was that of Peru and the promotion of the Ayacucho Region by Carlos Añaños. In a private meeting with the foreign press in recent days, the Ayacucho businessman told this correspondent that his professional career began 35 years ago with the family business, AJE GROUP, in the midst of a convulsive situation in Peru. The campaign of terror unleashed by the armed group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) hindered any initiative in the business world. The Añaños family fled in terror to Huamanga. Today, Carlos Añaños Jeri is one of the 100 Young Global Leaders, chosen by the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

1.- What strategy did you have to employ to achieve success in your business during the hardest times in Peru, in the midst of a prolonged war between the State and the Shining Path? 

We lived through turbulent times in the 80s, when my family detected a business opportunity with soft drinks, which were inaccessible in Peru due to the action of the terrorist group that attacked trucks. I was caught in the middle of a confrontation between the Shining Path and the army. It was complex to have come out of the terrorist period in Ayacucho unscathed, and I acquired the fundamental principle of entrepreneurial action thanks to my mother, who instilled in me the concept of modelling (example). When you want to do something, just bossing around is no good. Working and sacrificing with your people, in a team, with a whole staff that radiates good spirit, allows you to gain a certain degree of authority and respect. The self-esteem of my employees is the success of my companies. Without dreams and hope, you can't build a solid team. 

2.- What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you get the desire to conquer Peru in the midst of the Shining Path's operations? 

I think that living in the Andes, at a time marked by terrorism, allowed me to know that when you have lost everything, fear disappears. And working tirelessly, hand in hand, and setting an example, has made integrity my great value. 

In Latin America, we could observe countries with the sensation of an absence of moral reserve, but this is not the case. There are very valuable but invisible people. We see the negative side and I do not lose hope of giving visibility to the other side of Latin America. 

Carlos Añaños Jeri, escogido uno de los 100 Young Global Leaders, escogido por el World Economic Forum de Davos
Carlos Añaños Jeri, chosen as one of the 100 Young Global Leaders, selected by the World Economic Forum in Davos

3.- What is your vision for the future of the restaurant and food industry in Peru? 

I would like it to be known that potatoes, Peru's contribution to humanity, are of Peruvian origin. The "Tiyapuy" native Andean potatoes project, organic, without hormones or insecticides, was born in 2017, with my dream of entrepreneurship in Peru. I am the founder of AJE GROUP, which operates in 27 countries, with 40 factories in the world. In 2017 I left the company when I wanted to help Ayacucho. I realised that our economic, safety and health indicators placed us at the bottom of the region. I created a foundation to generate decent employment and I set up, as I say, the potato project. With plantations at 3,600 metres above sea level and a potential of 300,000 hectares, I claim that potatoes are Peruvian, just as champagne is French. 

4.- How can the public and private sector work together to improve the tourist experience in Peru? 

In 2020, AJE GROUP is changing its corporate identity to highlight its commitment to the environment. One of the efforts is oriented in this direction, so a Spanish group has made a donation of 700 pieces of equipment for forest firefighters. In Peru, we are developing training programmes in the jungle area that we want to protect. Certainly, there is a lot to do and other priorities in the High Andes. My dream is to help the communities in the Peruvian jungle to develop economically. 

5.- How does your company integrate social responsibility and sustainability practices? 

I want to improve the quality of life in the High Andes. I want Peruvians to have the opportunity to continue dreaming. Jobs in agriculture amount to 2.5 million people. If we managed to distribute potatoes throughout the world, tens of thousands of hectares would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs. If we put a value on 300,000 hectares, we would create more than a million jobs. The plantations, which are planted once a year, at 3,600 metres above sea level, are irrigated with rainwater. We use the fallow concept, and with the greening of the meadows, we improve the rain cycle. 

6.- How can Peru's tourism offer be diversified to attract different types of tourists? 

In 2016, Ayacucho received a total of 56,000 tourists on three flights per week. We have reached 300,000 tourists per year and seven daily flights. Ayacucho absorbs more than 32 tourist destinations. We are ready for much more. Tourism stimulates the economy and, at the same time, allows us to consume the jewels of the High Andes, gastronomy, customs, and a specific way of living together. The two axes of transformation are agriculture and tourism. I am talking about national tourism, although we are implementing strategies to attract foreign tourists who can get to know the 20,000 years of Ayacucho's history, yet to be told.  

7.- What advice would you give to the young entrepreneur who wants to enter the restaurant and tourism sector and has to face serious obstacles like you? 

Human beings, despite having lived through traumatic experiences in life, manage to overcome them. We have a great capacity for resilience and we don't know what we are capable of achieving, in hard times like the ones I lived through with the Shining Path. In the 1980s, I felt a great fear. Fear that paralysed me but that also served as a great boost to my business success, which is why I want to give value to Ayacucho, the region where Peru was born, with 20,000 years of history, in the form of a book, whose pages about Peru have yet to be narrated. I want to give back to my country what my country gave to me. My advice: work hand in hand with your employees to earn their respect. 

Carmen Chamorro, CIP and ACPE Director. Graduate in International Relations and Global Terrorism from the SEI