When you Google the name Laurent Boidevezi, you will find information about a man whose business acumen is acute.
He has held influential positions throughout his career in the business development of the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton conglomerate (LVMH) — the home of some of world’s leading luxury brands.
Monsieur Boidevezi is the president and regional director of Moët Hennessy. But apart from his professional life, not much is known about this soft-spoken family man with a love for experiencing new cultures.
When he was on a recent visit to Nairobi, I spoke to him about his work and his life’s journey.
There is very little personal information about you online.
It is simple. My efforts go towards strengthening Hennessy and our other brands. This is what I do, so I do not promote myself as a person but rather the brands that I represent.
But people want to know about you.
Well, I am Swiss and French. Born and raised in France in a town bordering Switzerland. I am curious about the world; I love engaging and debating and experiencing new cultures around the world.
That is why I travel so much, thanks to my work. I lived for seven years in São Paulo in Brazil and then another seven years in New York. And now I’ve been back in France for the past five years.
I am married and a father of four children, including triplets. The triplets are 13, and the last born is seven.
When you talk about yourself, is it more often in reference to your work?
Well, I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world and an ambassador of the Moët Hennessy culture, and I am lucky that my work revolves around that.
My work and myself are really interlinked. When you get the opportunity to become one of the faces representing the LVMH brands, it is a great honour. So being an ambassador is also a nice way for me to describe myself.
You are Swiss and French, you have lived in Brazil, New York and France, and you travel a lot. What do you collect from all these places you visit?
When I go to a new place like, say, Nairobi, I want to see what the latest trends are in terms of fashion, art, music and things like those. When I am on a business trip, I want to see an art gallery or fashion designer or something made locally. I want to get a feel of the place.
So what did you find?
The Kenyan and the larger East African fashion industry is huge.
Today the world is changing rapidly. You know we have had great success in the African American market with Hennessy, and for a long time the African American culture influenced the African culture. That script is now flipped — African Americans are being influenced by African music and art.
What is the meeting point for Moët Hennessy drinks and a fashion brand like Louis Vuitton?
Hennessy was founded 250 years ago and merged with Moët Chandon in 1972 to create Moët Hennessy. Then LVMH — the merger of Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy — happened in 1986.
Why did they merge, you ask? Because they have common values. There are two main ones.
First, it was the idea of family. These were two family-owned businesses, and today, LVMH is still a family-owned business.
Then there is the aspect of heritage. The brands were created a long time ago and have very rich histories individually.
There is also the element of creativity and innovation. Louis Vuitton (a fashion house) has a passion for creativity that we share at Moët Hennessy — a passion that is moulded into building high-quality high-end products.
Have you always been a consumer of luxury brands?
My story begins in a small town called Azaz — a part of France that is near the German and Swiss borders in the east. And yes, I was lucky to be born and raised in a privileged environment and given a good education. But it was my open mindedness and curiosity that got me here today. Otherwise I would have stayed in Azaz like many others.
What does your typical day look like?
Let me tell you what my typical day is not. It does not start with me in an office somewhere — whether in Paris, Shanghai, Nairobi or New York — managing people and plants. That is what I hate. Sitting in an office gives you no chance to know your consumer.
If you want to understand what is going on, how consumers are revolving and what they are looking for, you must meet and engage with them. You do that in the field. I spent this morning meeting people at points of sale in Nairobi. Tomorrow I am going to restaurants, night clubs, bars, supermarkets.
There is no typical day. I was in Dubai before I came to Nairobi, and the week before that I was in Beijing, Seoul, and Taiwan. My typical day is being in the field.
Will you be visiting any other African city?
No, just Nairobi this time.
You cannot target the whole of Africa. We do not even target countries as a whole. We target cities.
How do you decide what city to visit?
We look at economic development, the size of the market. East Africa is picking up faster than the rest of Africa.
I am amazed by the consumers I have met here so far, because of how discerning they are, their finesse and elegance. Nairobi is one of our primary cities and markets and I am here to explore the region and see how we at Moët Hennessy can do better here.
What is most valuable to you?
My family. If there is one thing that I am most proud of (no thanks to me, but my wife), it is my family. My children will have a much better life than I did. I plan to bring them to Kenya — you have the most amazing national parks in this country.
This isn’t your first time in Kenya, is it?
No. I first came here 30 years ago with my family on vacation. It was amazing. I remember Maasai Mara and Lake Naivasha. The beauty of this country is unbelievable. I will be back here — perhaps for work — but I will definitely come back with my children.