I was born in Ghent, Belgium. Until age 8, I moved several times with my parents inside Belgium and Germany. My father’s career as an officer with the Belgian Army was the cause for these many transfers. I am my parents’ only child.
From age 8, we settled in my mother’s home town, Wetteren, where I stayed for the next 15 years. My parents still live there. I went to school at the local boys school, St.-Franciscus College, which in the meantime has turned into a co-ed school and been re-named St.-Gertrudiscollege. From there I went on to the State University of Ghent to obtain a degree in Economics and a degree in Business Administration from the Vlerick School (PUB).
Two months after graduating I moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as the resident manager for Saudi Arabia for a Belgian trader, ASE, based in Antwerp. Key activity was trading in steel. I worked for them for about 2 1/2 years. It was true adventure to say the least. I ended up in a totally foreign culture, with no professional experience and no on the ground support. It was rough at times but a hell of an experience. I jumped into the unknown and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The first time in my life I got onto an airplane was to take me from Brussels to Jeddah.
I then joined the marketing department of Procter & Gamble in Jeddah and spend the next six years in Saudi Arabia. In this time I met my wife, Jeannie, got married and had our first three children, Leanne, Louise and Lawrence.
Jeannie and I married in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka where Jeannie’s parents were living. It was the most exotic experience we could have dreamed of. We had a Buddhist ceremony in Colombo’s main Buddhist temple and a Catholic Church wedding.
The wedding reception was held in the residence of a local ANZ Grindlays bank manager. The sumptuous villa, “Morven”, dates back to Victorian age and served as a setting for some scenes of the famous film “A Passage To India” it seems.
We had Kandyan dancers perform, an elephant greeting us, which is considered a blessing, and music played by the Sri Lankan Navy band. Truly a day to remember.
We lived a short while, 4 months, in Belgium where I spent some time in training with Procter & Gamble. In this time Leanne was born and we were living in Knokke, at the Belgium sea side.
We lived through the entire Gulf War period in Jeddah, except for Jeannie and Leanne, who was the only child at that time. They spent some time in Colombo with Jeannie’s parents during the actual fighting, i.e. the air war and the subsequent on the ground “mopping-up”.
Louise and Lawrence were born in Jeddah and we stayed there until late 1994 when I moved with Procter & Gamble to Romania to help establish the new subsidiary responsible for the Balkan markets.
Until assuming the country manager’s responsibility in Pakistan, the experience in Romania is the closest I have had to running my own business. It was truly rewarding both on the business and the people side. In particular looking back at the fact that there was no marketing organization when I first arrived. I designed it, recruited the people and trained them. Turnover comes and goes, but people stay!
Early 1998 I moved to Geneva to take responsibility for Procter & Gamble’s Fine Fragrance and Cosmetics business in the Middle East and Africa. From a geographical standpoint a bit of “going back to the roots”. On the other hand quite a change in experience working directly with distributors and in luxury goods, particularly after 10 years of “fast moving” consumer goods experience.
In March 2001, I moved off the Fine Fragrance and Cosmetics business and back onto the “mainline” FMCG side of P&G. I was responsible for P&G’s business development in “Development Markets” (Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Iran) with a key emphasis on getting an operation started in Algeria. In that capacity I started working on the ground in Algeria as of May ’01 with the objective of establishing an office. In November ’01 we moved into our new home in Algiers. But it turned out to be a rather short stay. By June ’02 we were moving out again to start a new assignment.
In August ’02 I moved to Procter & Gamble Pakistan initially to take on the responsibility of Marketing Director for the organization and soon after I was appointed the Country Manager. Lucas, our most recent “addition” to the family was also born while residing in Pakistan. In total I spent just over 4 years in Karachi.
In Autumn ’06 I moved to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where I was the General Manager for the Caucasus, Central Asia and Mongolia business for Procter & Gamble. The area covers 9 countries and 5 time zones!In all I stayed over 6 years in Kazakhstan. My longest anywhere after the over 9 years in Saudi Aarbia.
As of January 2013 I moved to Bucharest, Romania, as Vice President for the P&G Balkans operation which covers 9 markets. It’s rather exciting to return to an organization and a business which I helped establish back in 1994. The first impressions of Bucharest after 15 years since I left are of awe in the face of the tremendous change that has taken place.
Copyright © 2013 Hans Dewaele – All rights reserved