Abroad for K+S
Kassel, Dubai, Sao Paulo: These are the previous stations of Fabio Miller, who has been employed by K+S for about eight years. As Managing Director for Brazil, he now wants to significantly advance K+S in the "powerhouse of agriculture".
Fabio Miller was born with an international outlook. He was born in 1985 in Zimbabwe, Africa. His father was a geologist working there at the time in the exploration of uranium for German nuclear power plant operators. His mother is Brazilian and insisted he speak Portuguese with her at home. "It was quite a mess with the languages at our home earlier: German with his father, Portuguese with his mother, and English with his siblings," Miller says, describing his childhood language habits. He came to Germany at the age of five and grew up in Zweibrücken in the Palatinate. After school, he studied Business Administration at the University of Mainz.
Start of career at controlling
Fabio Miller joined K+S in Kassel at the beginning of 2014, where he initially started in Controlling. "I only had one job interview after graduating from university, the one with K+S. Actually, I only wanted to stay for a year, but by now, it's been eight years!"
Two years later, Miller joined what was then K+S KALI GmbH, changing from Controlling to Business Segment Development. During this time, he was involved in numerous projects. This often entailed trips abroad, including to Chile, Israel, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. "I really enjoyed my time in this department and very much developed professionally in the process," he sums up.
His first permanent assignment abroad for K+S followed in September 2018: he became CFO at K+S Middle East in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. "From there, we particularly advanced the distribution of our specialties in the important Indian market," Miller reports. When he came to Dubai, there were just five employees working for K+S there, selling about 25,000 tonnes of fertilizer. Three years later, there were already 14 colleagues and 140,000 tonnes sold in this region.
In Dubai, he also experienced the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. For a total of three weeks, he was not allowed to leave his apartment on the 53rd floor of a high-rise building in the city because of the local lockdown. With the last flight for a long time, he managed to get to Germany on April 18 and then worked from there for a few months. In October, he already left for South America.
No plan for the career
The 36-year-old Miller is not pursuing a career plan: "My previous stops abroad in Dubai and Sao Paulo were not necessarily planned. I was asked if I could imagine doing that. And I then spontaneously decided to go for it," says Miller. First of all, he has set himself goals for his work in Brazil:
I want to have achieved something here when I come back to Germany one day. In particular, that K+S in Brazil becomes more than just a pure supplier of potassium chloride."
Ambitious targets for Brazil
Brazil has been one of the most important growth markets for K+S for some time now and is the "powerhouse of global agriculture". Or also "the granary of the Chinese," as Fabio Miller describes it. The country currently exports a total of 70 million tonnes of soybeans per year to China alone. The agricultural sector has been booming for years; the farmers there are large-scale entrepreneurs who use the most modern methods to cultivate their huge fields. Corn, coffee, grain, and other agricultural raw materials are also cultivated on a large scale in this country. And that's where K+S comes in, because most of these crops need potash fertilizers to grow properly. "So far, we have had a strong presence in the Brazilian market with our standard product potassium chloride, or MOP as it is known abroad," Miller reports. For Brazil, the potassium chloride is granulated and colored pink.
"Soon, we also want to sell significantly higher volumes of our specialties here and enhance awareness of K+S as a brand." For example, several field trials are currently underway locally with a view to soon introducing Kornkali - a complex fertilizer containing potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and sodium that is very popular in Europe - to Brazil for the fertilization of oil palms. "In the future, we also want to sell our fertilizers directly to the farmer and not just exclusively to wholesalers, as has been the case to date," says Miller, describing the strategy in South America's most populous country.
Miller's main tasks on site include, in particular, maintaining close contacts with the most important customers. It's very helpful that he speaks Portuguese: "Of course, that makes it easier to deal with customers. But of course, they already recognize my slight German accent," he says with a twinkle in his eye. Miller has to distribute the roughly 150,000 tonnes of product arriving monthly by ship from the K+S sites in Bethune, Canada, via Vancouver, and from Zielitz and Unterbreizbach via Hamburg, to the various ports in Brazil according to customer orders. He often spends days traveling around the country to meet his customers on site or at agricultural trade fairs. Miller notes that "Brazil is unimaginably large for a European, more of a continent than a country."
Living and working in Sao Paulo
In Sao Paulo, he lives with his partner in an apartment about 15 minutes from the office. This is in the middle of the southern zone of the 12-million metropolis and, like many of the residential buildings here, is monitored by security staff. That's because you shouldn't be out alone in this part of Sao Paulo at night, he says. "During the day, however, it's all safe." He has a high regard for Brazil's largest city: "Sao Paulo is green and culturally very diverse. Especially the food here is just fantastic!"
As you would expect from a half-Brazilian, Fabio Miller has great sympathy for the sport of soccer. Even back in his Kassel days, he regularly played for the club, was a great motivator, and, in the meantime, even coached the Company's team. When he is in Kassel on business, he likes to drop by the training sessions to see his old teammates again.
A good network is crucial
When asked about his employer, Fabio Miller enthuses:
I'm very committed to K+S and I'm happy to be part of this Company!"
He advises younger colleagues to build up a good network within the Company. "You move things forward much faster at K+S if you know the right people in the Company." It's also important, Miller says, to have respect for each other, and not to constantly elbow your way out. The hierarchies are flat and "K+S provides you with the opportunities to advance professionally," if that's what you want.