Raúl Benito is the founder and president of Eboca, a company that has been around for 40 years. A strong player in the vending sector, his commitment is to offer a product that stands out for its quality, as evidenced by the fact that, for example, he has his own coffee roastery.
This businessman from Alto Aragón maintains the company’s facilities in Huesca, a city about which he offers his analysis in this interview, in which he stresses the importance of improving the connection between Huesca and Zaragoza by means of a commuter train network.
What does the coming year look like for Eboca?
I will tell you when it is over. There is always uncertainty, but at the moment there is special uncertainty. I think it will go well, we will work to make it go well, but we will see how it goes. There is a lot of instability, prices are not stabilized, it seems that we are going to have a season with little economic growth… but we will get through it. We are infinitesimalists, so we look at the little bumps in the road with a lot of perspective.
And do you have any novelties in mind for this period?
We are constantly innovating, we have a vocation for service and for our customers to be satisfied and happy with what we do, we aspire to be mutually proud, this means a continuous adaptation to what they ask for, want or need. In addition, we like to propose and surprise, so everything is changing and involves always giving a new answer. It is a continuum.
By the way, and now looking back, how was Eboca born?
This company has been around for many years. When we started, there was no talk of entrepreneurs or anything like that. I was 17 years old, and some people say: “17 years old, what a barbarity! Well, those were different times, more than 40 years ago. My family has always been dedicated to commerce, my father, my grandmother, my great-grandfather… I had always lived at home what it is to manage a small business, what customers are, how important they are, and it was a quite natural process. My father’s teachings and example were and continue to be decisive.
I helped in my father’s company, because it was a normal thing to do at that time, and I studied high school at night, which freed up my days to be able to work. When I finished my high school studies, I decided to end my commitments; at that time I had to spend some time in the army, which I did, and once I finished everything, I said to myself: “I am starting my business activity”. I didn’t go to university and started my own project.
Was it directly Eboca or were there other projects before?
At the beginning, I developed the activity individually. After a short time, I started to have some partners and workers. The company was set up in the mid-eighties of the last century. The time came when it was logical to provide the project with a suitable commercial instrument and the company was set up, and so far.
Do we Aragonese have good coffee?
There is a bit of everything. Some people think that we Aragonese are bad tempered, but the truth is that we are good. Sometimes we tend to be a bit impulsive, transparent and healthy, and sometimes it can be perceived as abrupt. This, in relation to milk, which is very important, of course. And, in relation to coffee, in Spain we are learning to drink good coffee, but things are going slowly. Coffee, in general, continues to be quite regular. There are still few companies involved in the world of coffee that make a firm commitment to quality, but little by little they are increasing. The customers, the Aragonese, which is what you are asking me about, are increasingly sensitive to quality. They are looking for and demanding more and more, but there is still a long way to go.
You know the business fabric of Huesca well, how do you see it?
Aragon is a thriving, active region, which tackles projects, defends them and works hard. The province of Huesca, with the peculiarities of each area, follows this pattern. We have thriving regions in agriculture, livestock, agri-food, tourism, services and industry. Technology is also advancing. In the case of the city of Huesca, which is a small city, being the capital and having a certain economic inertia has conditioned and paralyzed us a lot. Perhaps it is one of the cities in Aragon where we could do with a good firecracker up the ass.
And do you see positive traits?
Of course it has positive features. It is a delightful city to live in, it is a very comfortable size, there is everything, you can live very well with your family, you can eat well, and if you want a bit more hassle, you have Zaragoza very close. We have the mountains nearby, the sierra… it is a very good city to live in, but as far as business activity is concerned, I think that it is a little bit too comfortable.
Huesca also has very interesting companies with very prominent positions in their sectors. Many of them are part of the Huesca Excelente Business Forum. We have a lot to learn, but we know how to do things well. With a little push we can start an exciting period of development.
Do you think that increasing connections would improve this feature?
It is key. For the city of Huesca to develop, it needs a good commuter train. And it would also provide a good backbone for the Huesca-Zaragoza axis, which is a very important axis, in which we have Zuera and Villanueva de Gállego. This axis would have a very good development with a commuter train connecting with the Zaragoza tramway network. Besides, nowadays, technically speaking, there are fantastic solutions with which the suburban train can even enter Zaragoza using the tramway network itself, what they call the train-tram.
Between Huesca and Zaragoza there is a traffic of 15,000 vehicles every day of people who live in Zaragoza and work in Huesca, who live in Huesca and work in Zaragoza, civil servants, students, activities of all kinds, with the environmental footprint that this leaves and the lack of comfort, safety, cost… the great bet for the future of this axis and of the city of Huesca is the commuter train; a quality commuter train, with good frequencies. It would change a lot. Huesca has had the same population for 30 years. Three decades with 50,000 inhabitants, it has not gone backwards, but it has not gone forwards either. And in the world we live in, not going forward is going backwards. The key for the city to have a reasonable development and to position itself as a slightly larger city, which would be good for it, would be to be able to work in Zaragoza and live in Huesca, to be able to study in Zaragoza and live in Huesca, and vice versa. This is what would really protect a good development of the city.
Huesca must approach without complexes the proximity of Zaragoza as a great opportunity. The Zaragoza-Huesca commuter train would form a large metropolitan area and that would be very beneficial for the whole axis and, of course, for Aragon.
The logistics sector is one of the most thriving in the Community and Huesca has the PLHUS platform, can it be a good engine for the city to grow?
We have PLHUS, which has been growing for many years, slowly but surely. Now it has had a great growth in the area used with Amazon Web Services (AWS). But for the moment it has little impact on employment. We have the Walqa industrial park, which was the first technology park in Aragon, with a good impact on the city of Huesca and which still has a lot of development to do. In the end, what I was saying about our 30 years with 50,000 inhabitants is the ‘photo finish’ of what is happening with our platforms, since their growth does not compensate for the decrease in other industrial parks in the city.
Let’s hope that things will get better then…
Well, well, they say that everything can get worse. But we don’t deserve it and we are not going to allow it. In recent years there has been a certain awakening of civil society that is driving awareness and action. A good example is the citizen platform Huesca Suena. I am optimistic about the future.
There have always been recognized entrepreneurs from Huesca, haven’t there?
Huesca has very good entrepreneurs who are inspiring examples. And companies from Huesca that were born in Huesca and have insisted on staying in Huesca. We, for example, have activities in Aragón, Valencia and Lérida and, for the moment, our decision has been to keep our headquarters in Huesca. Perhaps, from an economic point of view, it would be more logical to have it in Zaragoza. In the end, the decision has an emotional component.
You mentioned earlier the importance of the Zaragoza-Huesca axis, what about the axis linking Huesca and Lérida?
It is an axis with an impressive economic strength. Barbastro, Monzón, Binéfar, Lérida, including Fraga, is the most economically thriving area of the province. It is the great development area of Aragon together with Zaragoza and its metropolitan area. In the last few years we have had a highway almost finished, but it deserved it many years ago. The whole area is spectacularly booming, with magnificent business examples.
Does Eboca plan to develop outside Aragon?
There are some projects in which we have some activity outside Huesca, and in what is our main activity, which is the provision of services to companies, we do have a project, which is very incipient, which is the development with the franchise formula. It means doing what we do here, but partnering with franchisees. We have a first franchisee, which has been a pilot in the Valencia area, which has worked very well, and the idea is to replicate to some extent what we do here with these local partners.
There are some projects in which we are active outside Aragon and, in what is our main activity, which is the provision of services to companies, we have a very incipient project in development with the franchise formula. It means doing what we do, but partnering with franchisees. We have a first franchisee, which has been a pilot in the Valencia area, which is working very well, and the idea is to replicate what we do with local partners in other areas of Spain.
A restaurant to eat in Huesca…
El Martín Viejo. Average price. Good seasonal cuisine within everyone’s reach.
Your favorite place in the province…
La Almunia del Romeral.