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Eland (Anthony Upton)
Many of us don’t consider wires concealed underground when another multi-billion infrastructure project is announced, but Britain’s new data centers, railways, electrification, and decarbonization projects won’t function without them. Jean-Sébastien Pelland contemplates cables extensively. His Camden-based enterprise, Elland Cables, installs 100 million meters of the material annually for tasks ranging from Network Rail’s electrification of the Great Western line from Paddington to Cardiff to Tesla’s battery schemes and the data centers of Google, Amazon, and Meta.
“I’m always pondering about cables,” chuckles French-Canadian Pelland. “If you shut your eyes, you can envision certain medium voltage cables going from the street to the substation, and then smaller cables with armor protection surrounding them entering your house. Then, in the house, the same cable goes to the charging point and all the gadgets, and – it keeps extending!” When Pelland witnesses a cable being laid – maybe concealed at a tube station or exposed at a construction site – “Naturally I read the print on the cable. I love to see my name on the print!”
However, the 44-year-old entrepreneur wasn’t contemplating cable installation when he arrived in London from Montreal as a young finance graduate in 2001. “I observed a documentary [fellow] French Canadians who relocated to London, worked in the city, and made loads of money. So, I thought – naively I realize now! – ‘Let’s give it a try!’ Five of us acquired one-way tickets to London and moved into a bunk-bed studio. Pelland spent four months delivering pizza for Papa Dell’s: “I consumed lots of complimentary pizza and spent all my additional money in local internet cafes, where I sent out my CVs all day.”
Eventually, he secured a junior position at the chartered accountancy firm HW Fisher, which supported his visa and aided him in transitioning into corporate finance. Pelland then participated in a transaction providing advice to an electrical wire supply company on a management buyout. “That was 2005, when I had interviews with them for effectively nine months, and I joined the board.”
During the MBO, revenues amounted to £25 million. Last year, Elland’s turnover reached £200 million. How did he guide the progression? “We established the most prominent laboratory in the industry, we focused on people – our retention rate is 90%, and we all share a passionate, customer-centric approach – and we were fortunate with timing. Electrification is the fourth industrial revolution – people desire air conditioning, intelligent refrigerators, WiFi, data centers, cloud computing – and we’re right in the midst of it all.
Notable contracts involve construction work on the Tube, All England Club lighting, Tottenham Hotspur’s floodlights, British Airways’ wiring to link ground power units to planes, pharmaceutical factories across Europe, and EV charging network infrastructure in the UK. Pelland is committed to establishing a sustainable business: the company’s HGVs operate on sustainable biofuels, its operational sites are powered by solar energy, and it inaugurated a wire recycling plant this year. Eland’s cable insulation material is presently used for playground matting, and the waste is converted into biofuel pellets to fuel industrial furnaces.
Is he constructing a business for sale? Pelland concedes that cabling is a “small industry, and everyone loves to gossip. But I’m 45, and it feels like I’m only beginning. Digital electrification has a long way to go, and we have a long way to go as well.” There’s a 15-year plan. We’re all overflowing with energy and passionate about what we do.” In his spare time, Pelland has successfully completed two exams to qualify as a sophomore. “But it’s too early in the day to fixate on wine,” he chuckles. “The wire industry has never been as thrilling as it is now.”