Horst Paulmann Kemna 

  • President, Cencosud S.A. (Retail)
Born Kassel, Germany, 1935.
“I firmly believe that businessmen should not worry about crises and keep on investing. We have always invested during tough times. Two months after the Argentinean financial disaster…we bought the American Home Depot stores in Argentina…”


Horst Paulmann Kemna discusses the growth of the Chilean-based Cencosud group, which is now the largest retail company in Chile and the third largest listed retail company in Latin America. Paulmann provides a rare case of a self-made man in this sample of Chilean business leaders. He focuses on the history of the firm in in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil, discussing the varying business climates in each country, and how his businesses were affected by political turbulence and economic crises, notably in Chile and Argentina. Paulmann expounds his belief in the importance of flexibility in creating a sustainable business model in Latin America, and the problems arising from foreign multinational corporations trying to expand into the supermarket sector. The interview is a rich source for understanding the motives of internationalization strategies pursued by retail firms in the region.

Request Transcript


  • Alvaro Calderón Hoffmann, “The Expansion Model of the Major Chilean Retail Chains,” CEPAL Review 90 (2006)
  • J. E. Amorós, “Learning to Grow,” Business Strategy Review 17 (2006): 22–25
  • Constanza C. Bianchi and Enrique Ostale, “Lessons Learned from Unsuccessful Internationalization Attempts: Examples of Multinational Retailers in Chile,” Journal of Business Research 59, no. 1 (2006): 140–147
  • Constanza Bianchi and Joaquin Mena, “Defending the Local Market against Foreign Competitors: The Example of Chilean Retailers,” International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management 32, no. 10 (2004): 495-504

  • Interview citation: "Interview with Horst Paulmann Kemna, interviewed by Andrea Lluch, May 29, 2008, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School,"