Mr. Sieunarine Coosal, Chairman of Coosal’s Group of Companies, is an industry leader whose charismatic vibe draws you in, until you are awed by his knowledge and understanding of the construction industry, and all he has accomplished over the decades. Trinidad and Tobago’s construction sector contributes to our GDP, and Coosal’s is a significant player within this industry.
Coosal’s operations can best be described as a “city of related services,” with day-to-day operations that include asphalt and paving plants and ready-mixed concrete plants with nine locations throughout Trinidad. Their products and services include limestone quarry operations—rock garden material, terrazzo chips etc.—mining and production of limestone products; build-and-design services for bridges; design and build—commercial and residential; commercial lease and rental of equipment; concrete masonry units; jersey barriers; concrete wheel stoppers; general civil engineering and contracting services and much more….
The truth is, Coosal’s isn’t just a construction giant, and that competitive difference comes from its chairman. He works with his son Rajiv Coosal, who sits as operations director, along with his daughter Tricia Coosal, administrative director, and the young, upcoming Shivaa Coosal, his youngest daughter. Sieunarine Coosal explains, “We run a self-sustainable business, from quarrying to producing and pumping concrete; we can survive economic downturns, as in this industry there are many peaks and troughs. Everything we do contributes to our operations and their success. “All the successes over the years at Coosal’s could not have been accomplished without the support of my wife, Sintra Coosal, the tireless efforts of both my sister, Patty Randol and my brother Manickram Persad. Each person played an integral part in building the business to where it stands today, for which I am eternally grateful.”
His drive for excellence comes from business exposure as a child, with a dynamic family business that has been challenged by bankruptcy. “When I was 14, I worked during my school vacation at what was then Coosal’s Quarrying and Transport, under the stewardship of my brother, Ajodha (Joe) Coosal, who was like a father to me. During the period 1981 to 1983, Coosal’s worked as a sub-contractor for Taylor Woodrow International (Teamwork Trinidad Limited), a British contractor hired to build the Princess Margaret Highway, now known as the Uriah Butler Highway. We worked diligently day and night building that highway, sometimes without being paid for months. I remember stopping all work because Taylor Woodrow refused to pay us, since the then Chambers government refused to meet their obligations. We eventually had no choice but to stop all work, but the government pleaded with us to continue; that’s how important the highway was to the country.’’
Unfortunately, in 1987 the business was forced into receivership and the company lost millions. “Our company had substantial sums owed to us which were certified, yet we were not paid. A small percentage of amounts due to us on the Princess Margaret Highway project was sufficient to settle all our secured creditors, trade creditors and employees. Our company was put into receivership, as our bankers at the time and the receiver felt more comfortable pursuing the former rather than assisting in the recovery of the legitimate claims to our Company.’’
“The magnitude of the stress was too great for his body to bear, and losing my mentor so early still hurts and remains with me to this day.” As time passed, the Coosal’s brand grew, and now the Company is a cost-efficient business unit, a self-reliant model. “We have been in the aggregate business for over 70 years, but in the early 1980s we commissioned our first asphalt plant in Madras Settlement, which has a capacity of more than 2,500 tonnes of asphalt per day. In 2014 we also opened a low-emissions asphalt plant in Gasparillo.” In 2003, Coosal’s commenced production with a concrete block plant, another proud moment for the Group.
Mr Coosal’s resume contains an impressive list of achievements. He served as the president of Trinidad and Tobago Contractors’ Association for many years, but at the same time he was working arduously with many other chambers of commerce. His role in the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association and the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce is noteworthy, but he also holds membership in international associations such as the American Concrete Institute, American Concrete Pumping Institute, National Asphalt Paving Association, National Ready-Mixed Concrete Association and the Caribbean Asphalt Association.
He is also a founding member of the Quarry Association of Trinidad and Tobago, serving on the executive committee and later holding the post of president. His services to the quarry industry were reflected in his election as a fellow of the Quarry Association and as a life member in 2003. For five consecutive years, Coosal’s was awarded the best-operated limestone quarry and best-operated sand and gravel quarry by the Quarry Association of Trinidad and Tobago. In 1998 he was nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year.
At present, he serves on the Cabinet Advisory Board of Habitat for Humanity, a United Nations charitable organization. You might call him Mr. “Spirit of Humanity,” a title aptly borrowed from the name of the commendation bestowed upon him last year by the Habitat for Humanity foundation. It is one of many notable awards and certificates received from many organisations. He explained the source of his philanthropy: “We had a parlour located in cane land (Caroni sugar belt) in Todd’s Road, Chaguanas, and my mother always taught us to share what we could. I believe in lending support as best as possible, particularly your fence-line community; it is part of being a responsible leader. You must lend support that will add value to the lives you touch.’’
A picture of his mother, Basso Persad, is displayed in the Corporate Office, and the emotion in his voice when he spoke of her was evident. The lessons in love and generosity that she taught him have endured. Coosal’s has supported such institutions and programmes as Madras Government Primary School, Maracas Presbyterian School, Hillview College, St. Augustine Girls’s High School, Acono Village Council, Bridge of Hope, Olive House, Down Syndrome Family Network, Las Lomas Football Team, Maracas SDA Primary School, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, and Datta Treya Yoga Centre, to name a few.
Recogniseed by his bankers, Sieunarine Coosal was also one of Scotiabank’s global headquarters’ specially invited guests at an exclusive two-day symposium to celebrate Canada’s Sesquicentennial and Scotiabank’s 185th birthday. Despite his hectic schedule, Coosal was generous with his time, and a convivial host, introducing the MACO team to his assistant Cheryl Coward and his portfolio executive Cherise Mohan-Brathwaite, and gave a tour of the complex. Photographs helped tell the story of the development of the construction giant—the opening of so many plants, the images of so many politicians, the passing parade of dignitaries over the decades, all of which builds to a crescendo of excitement.
“I’ve always believed in creating employment, and that’s what an honest business is about,’’ he declared. “At Coosal’s, we will continue with that philosophy, and hopefully help change things for the better, even now in tough times.” If a single lesson could be distilled from the Coosal’s story, it might be this: greatness is not found in success, but comes from perseverance and hard work.