“I want to be strategically challenged and make decisions while having fun,” says Gabriel Gruner, CEO of TP Vision, a new joint venture between Philips and TPV—and for Gruner, a recipe for fun.
“I always foresaw myself working in the finance department,” Gruner says, speaking of his first job in 1994, when he joined S.C. Johnson & Son in the company’s marketing support department. “The company couldn’t trust the marketing people with the numbers, so they needed a finance person to back them up—but I soon realized that the decisions they were making in the marketing department formed the core of the business. And, on top of that, marketing had more fun.”
After falling into his professional step with S.C. Johnson, and earning an MBA from the Institute for Management Development in Argentina in 1996, Gruner went on to product management for Danone. He later took his food marketing experience to Kraft Foods, where he worked for 10 years, picking up a certificate from the University of Virginia along the way. Fluent in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and German, Gruner was already nurturing his international versatility in this 10-year window.
The capstone of his time with Kraft brought him to Brazil, where he worked from 2004 to 2006 as the division’s marketing director, and prior to becoming CEO of TP Vision in October 2011, Gruner was overseas in Amsterdam for nearly two years, working as the senior director for Philips’ European TV marketing. “I come from a family that escaped from Europe to Argentina in World War II,” says Gruner, commenting on his taste for the international. “You get more from what you do when you deeply understand people’s behavior by living abroad, so it has always been my goal to move around and experience difference cultures.”
Gruner left Kraft in 2006 to join Philips as the marketing director for the Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay regions, and it was through his stead with Philips that Gruner came to be nominated as CEO of TP Vision for those same regions. TP Vision was officially launched in April 2012 as a joint venture between the Taiwan-based TPV Technology, which owns a 70 percent stake in the venture, and Royal Philips Electronics, which covers the remaining 30 percent. TP Vision acts as the brand licensee of Philips TV for Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and select Asian-Pacific countries. The company focuses on developing, manufacturing, and marketing Philips brand TVs to those countries, specifically in the hospitality market.
“The level of innovation—and the kind of innovation—that you have in the technological world is amazing. There’s a revolution every year.”
Gabriel Gruner, CEO, TP Vision
Aside from fun, Gruner is attracted to innovation, and claims it as one of his main reasons for making the transition from Kraft to Philips. “The level of innovation—and the kind of innovation—that you have in the technological world is amazing,” Gruner says. “There’s a revolution every year. At Kraft, I added value to brands and products that hardly changed during the last 50 years, while at Philips I helped consumers change their way of watching TV.”
Despite the drastic differences between industries, Gruner found similarities, as well. “The shelf life of chocolate is one year. The shelf life of a TV is one year,” he says. “It’s also fast-moving consumer goods, but you need to deploy much more meaningful innovation.” And for Gruner, innovation is fun.
Despite his multilingual abilities, the idea of innovation being a “key driver” for Gruner is what formed the bridge for him between Argentina and the Netherlands; in business, innovation is the universal language. While in the Netherlands, Gruner oversaw Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the Nordic regions, and though the dynamic of working in this cluster was literally a world of difference from Gruner’s regions in South America, he says, “I was invited to Europe because of what I was doing in Argentina. The company wanted to transfer the novelty activities we were doing in South America into the European markets.”
By moving and working in different cultures, Gruner has been able to further inform his ideas of retail and consumer culture. Much like the ability to speak multiple languages can enhance your view of the world, the ability to better understand international consumer behavior can enhance your versatility in the business world. This versatility, and Gruner’s own penchant for innovation, is what made him the prime candidate to lead TP Vision’s growth into the South American market.
“It was important that the company was already working with someone they could trust,” Gruner says, speaking of the transition from Philips in the Netherlands to leading the new joint venture back in Argentina. “The challenge was huge, but I knew it would give me the opportunity to make strategic decisions, execute aggressive growth plans, and create a new team. Plus, being back in Argentina was fun.”
Though TP Vision is still young, it presently employs nearly 3,300 people worldwide. As such, Gruner is focused on seeking out growth opportunities, saying that one of the greatest accomplishments of his career, thus far, has been the work he has done with TP Vision. “It is a challenge making a new business grow, but also creating a team from scratch,” Gruner says. “Doing this has been one of my biggest accomplishments.”
Drawing on aspects of his international interest, Gruner looks forward to continued growth for TP Vision in the coming years. “I expect to see profitable growth for TP Vision, and not just in Argentina, but all over the world,” Gruner says. “I would like to see myself as part of this plan, and not only in Argentina.” For Gruner, innovation is the driver, and Argentina is a point along the journey.