Tobacco Asia

Volume 19, Number 2

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56 tobaccoasia / Issue 2, 2015 (May/June) By Thomas Schmid and Chris Bickers Few Westerners in the leaf trade are more keenly aware of the challenges of buying and selling leaf in Asia than Pieter Sikkel. Starting in 1983, Sikkel has worked in Asia, first for Standard Commercial, then for its suc- cessor Alliance One International (AOI), where he served in multiple roles in South Korea, Philip- pines, and Thailand, among others. He went on to the post he now holds, presi- dent and chief executive officer of AOI, a position that calls almost daily on the lessons he learned in the time he spent in the Far East. In a recent inter- view with Tobacco Asia at the AOI corporate head- quarters near Raleigh, NC, Sikkel, who was born in Holland and educated in England, said that one thing you have to keep in mind when working in Asia is that good business relationships are an absolute necessity. "In Asia, you can't build trust quickly," he said. "Time and commitment are very important." Most of the AOI staff members in Asia are natives of the nation where they work. "Our ap- proach is to build up a local team that understands local customs," Sikkel said. "They understand both the language and the values of the people they work with. We have done this for a long time. We have to." AOI is currently one of only two globally rep- resented, publicly listed leaf tobacco merchants and processes tobacco in more than 35 owned and third-party facilities around the world, in- cluding Asia, where the company is active in China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and – since recently and only to a certain extent – Myanmar. Besides cultivating tobacco, the com- pany also manages or supervises processing and Myanmar is one of the countries in Asia where AOI does business. Alliance One International: What it Takes to Buy and Sell Leaf in the 21st Century The Tobacco Asia Profile

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