“You need 10 kilograms of olives to make one litre of olive oil”

Jean-Louis Moraud

Reaping the rewards

Text by Andrew Howitt  /  Photo by Kageaki Smith

Although half of Jean-Louis Moraud’s 40-year career at the electrical systems company Thales has been spent away from home — he has lived in Germany, Canada, South Africa, Taiwan and, now, Japan — “my heart is still in the south of France,” he confesses.

Originally from Marseille, Moraud has already planned for his retirement to the same region where he grew up, even though this is still some years off.

“Ten years ago, I decided to sell my house in the Paris area where I was living before moving to Taiwan, and to buy a house in the south of France,” he explains. “One day, I discovered a place which had been planted with more than 300 olive trees.”

The most important condition had been for the house to be big enough for his three children and their partners, plus his seven grandchildren to come and stay, but it was the olive trees, covering two hectares of land, that was the deciding factor for Moraud.

“The previous owner told me he liked to make olive oil … and I have continued to produce it,” he says with evident pride. “Not myself, because I am far away, but some people are taking care of it. We produce between three to four hundred litres of olive oil every year.”

In spite of not having had much hands-on experience yet, Moraud has learned a lot about producing olive oil.

“You need 10 kilograms of olives to make one litre of olive oil,” he explains. “So, in fact, the quantity of olives we take in is three to four tons.”

He has also become familiar with the process: from picking the olives when it’s time to harvest them in November to pressing them in the mill.

“When you press steadily, and at cold temperatures, you get a very good perfume,” he says. “When I am ready to retire, I will try to do it by myself.”

He has designed a label for his bottles of olive oil, featuring the house and gardens, and sells to his friends and people living in the village.

What he likes best, though, is just to sit on the terrace of his house, have a cup of coffee, and look out over the property. “The view of the trees in the sunshine is just wonderful,” he says. “And I can spend half an hour doing nothing … just enjoying the weather, the sun, the olive trees.”

This kind of tranquility is worlds away from the demanding work he does at Thales, a large multinational with a diverse portfolio of products and services and a strong presence around the world.

“We do radar, sonar, camera and communications for the defence domain on all platforms — aircraft, helicopters, ships and boats,” states Moraud. “And regarding the civil domain, we are mainly involved in aerospace. For example, the majority of the electronics on board an Airbus aircraft is made by Thales. We also do air-traffic management systems to secure landings and take-offs.”

A major area of their business in Japan is manufacturing in-flight entertainment systems for commercial aircraft, and they work closely with Japan Airlines.

As president of Thales Japan, Moraud is responsible for acting as a link between customers in Japan and the Thales Group, headquartered in France, as well as finding ways to grow the business here. The Japan office is reaping the rewards of his hard work.

“I have been very happy to have helped increase the activities of Thales in this country, which is identified as a closed market and difficult to penetrate,” he relates. “My way of working is to face new challenges. And I am happy anytime I can surmount a challenge.”

Without a doubt, Moraud will continue to find new challenges and stay busy throughout his retirement, but he will certainly make time just to relax and enjoy the view.

“I am happy any time I can surmount a challenge”