Apao Erone has been with FIJI Water from waaaay back.
Erone, 41 (at right in the photo), helped run the first pump tests on the source of FIJI Water, the aquifer under the Yaqara Valley on the Fijian island of Viti Levu.
Today, Erone is one of about 400 people employed by FIJI Water in Fiji. Recently, Erone answered some questions for our blog about his career at FIJI Water and the history of the company as he has witnessed it.
FIJI Water: Tell us a little about you.
APAO ERONE: My name is Apao Erone, I am 41 years old. I am from the Fiji Islands, and of Rotuman/Tongan ethnicity. (By the way, Rotuma is a Polynesian island that is part of Fiji and the South Pacific, located 450 kilometers off Fiji’s main island.) I am married with four kids and an adopted little girl, so five lovely children in total. My beautiful wife is Tongan, from the village of Lakeba, in Nukualofa, Tonga. We also have my dad staying with us; he turns 80 this year. My mum passed away 20 years ago, and I have two sisters and a brother here in Fiji, and two more sisters living on the island.
FW: Describe your job at FIJI Water.
AE: Currently, I am the Vanua Support Manager, based at the FIJI Water Bottling Plant in Yaqara. ["Vanua" literally translated means "land," but the meaning encompasses the word "community" as well.] Basically, my role is to manage the NWVL [Natural Waters of Viti Levu] Trust, which was set up to provide much-needed funds and assistance to help improve the livelihood of the six local villages surrounding the FIJI Water bottling plant.
FW: How long have you worked at FIJI Water? How did you get a job there?
AE: I have been working for FIJI Water since 1995. My first task on the job was to get the land lease signed for where the factory is currently located. I did the first pump test on the boreholes, before the first building was built, and continued assisting in the ground work for operations from then on. In 1996, when the groundwork was complete and operations started to kick off, I moved to Suva, where our admin office was based, and started work in sales. I helped to sell the first bottles of FIJI Water, driving deliveries to customers, and stacking shelves. In 1999, I moved to Yaqara to act as a General Manager for a month, and then looked after operations and sales from then until 2005, when the company was sold to Mr. & Mrs. Resnick. I then left operations, and focused on sales until late 2008, when I took up my current position, looking after the NWVL Trust.
FW: How has it been working for FIJI Water?
AE: When I first joined FIJI Water fifteen ago, I was not sure how far it would go or what the outcome would be. But now I can honestly say that it was the best decision for me. This company that I have worked with from scratch has provided for me and my family very well, and I am truly grateful. I have been able to buy my own home and improve the life of my family and extended family. I am very proud to be part of FIJI Water and to see it operating at a very high level of professionalism, producing the world’s number one premium bottled water brand known worldwide. When I sold the first bottle of FIJI Water here in Fiji in 1996, people thought then that something was wrong with me, because here in Fiji you can actually drink water directly from the streams and taps. Now they know better — everybody in Fiji knows about FIJI Water, and our country as a whole is very proud of the brand and what it has done for our people.
FW: What do people think of FIJI Water when it started? What do they think of it now?
AE: When FIJI Water first started back in 1996, it was the first in a brand new industry for Fiji. People in Fiji were not at all familiar with the bottled water industry and had no idea of how it would impact their lives and our economy. Now FIJI Water is one of the top exporters in Fiji. The company as a whole is like the father of the six villages and communities surrounding it in Yaqara, and mother to the rest of Fiji through its economic benefits and the Foundation work. Now they always say that they cannot thank FIJI Water enough for everything that we have done for them, and they are extremely proud of the name “FIJI Water.”