A PIONEER FOR THE LAST 100 YEARS
A conquering spirit
The Optorg adventure began in 1919 as trade relations re-opened across the globe following the end of World War I. From the outset, the company demonstrated a pioneering spirit transporting it to the other side of the globe. From Russia to the Far East, the first chapters of a fascinating history are written, an adventure which continues today.
OF THE ADVENTURE
Optorg is set up by a group of French textile industrialists, keen to develop trade with Russia.
A GROUP OF THREE
Three founder members create Optorg. Three French entrepreneurs, three weavers from the North of France, three pioneers characterized by the same adventurous spirit.
THE RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE
From 1919 to 1922, Optorg develops trading links between France and Russia. However, the formation of the USSR soon makes things very complicated. Without mutual recognition between the two countries, business is impossible.
A NAME THAT CAME IN FROM THE COLD
The expression for wholesale trade in Russian is "Optovaya torgovlya" or Optorg for those in the know. Undeniably, a catchier name than the official group name, "Company for the development of trade and industry in Russia and her bordering countries".
"In truth the company’s beginnings were anything but encouraging. Although the first cargo arrived safe and sound in Odessa, all trace was lost of the second, the vessel completely disappearing in dead calm seas, in a shroud of mystery, shortly after crossing the Bosphorus."
The world of business from 1830 to current times,
by Jean Bouvier, 1952.
How did a whole cargo go missing in calm seas? The disaster which befell one of the first Optorg ships en route for Russia is a great example of the resilient spirit which characterizes the group. The mystery remains intact but could not sink company spirits.
Monogram in 1923.
OF THE FAR EAST
Turning towards Asia, Optorg initially specializes in imports of textiles, alcoholic beverages and perfumes, representing the most prestigious brands.
Advertisement for the Optorg company, 1930.
In the following years, business diversifies towards the food industry, metal goods, capital goods, chemical products, paper etc. On the eve of World War II, Optorg is one of the top five trading companies in Indochina.
Mumm Champagne, Cointreau liqueur and Ricqles menthol alcohol were all delicious ways to lure clients to the Optorg company at the Hanoi Trade Fair.
A trading post opens in Saigon, followed by several others in Hanoi, Tourane, Phnom-Penh, and subsequently in China, Shanghai and Yunnan Tuan, Singapore and Hong Kong, where an English subsidiary is created. Revenues are over one billion. Just before war breaks out in 1939, a Dutch branch is opened in Batavia (Jakarta)."