BOX OF TRICKS

Lebanon 2012 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Fady J. Gemayel, Chairman & General Manager of Gemayel Freres, on maintaining market dominance, growth segments, and the industrial sector.

Dr. Fady J. Gemayel
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Fady J. Gemayel is presently Chairman and General Manager at Gemayel Freres, a family-owned corrugated cardboard and packaging company established in 1929. He is also Chairman and General Manager of Société Libanaise de Carton, and BluePack. In addition, he is a lecturer at Saint Joseph University in Strategic Management and in the MBAIP joint program with Paris IX Dauphine and Paris 1 Sorbonne.

Gemayel Freres has been in the production and sale of corrugated boxes for over 80 years. How have you been able to maintain your status as a significant domestic and global player?

We have a drive to do business and we want to be in this market. Our past experience shows we have a very strong commitment to this country. Being a family-based company we hold a long-term view of our investments, and are undertaking several investments in machinery and in our professional team. We are a one-stop shop for packaging. We maintain the best relations with our customers, and we have several processes under one roof to cater to the varied needs of our customers. We are sensible, so we listen to what our customers want and we provide the best service, quality-wise and on time.

Gemayel Freres is ISO certified and has a sizable staff dedicated to R&D. What is the company's emphasis in reaching high-quality standards and pushing for innovation?

We were the first in our field to be ISO certified in 1998, and we have an internal quality system. We bring in international experts to train our employees and they advise us on technical and specific issues. Our strong in-house design team also utilizes very advanced software that allows us to deliver solutions. We are keen on innovation and have matured to move into other areas, particularly the promotional and fast-food markets. These fields always require new innovations and designs, and through collaboration with international groups we sell to across the MENA region. Also, because of our experience and the challenges that we have faced we know a lot about the machines and we perform innovations on the processes themselves.

What proportion of your sales came from exports. What are your goals for the company's export/import ratio?

Currently we are exporting between 15% and 20% directly. At our sister company BluePack we export maybe 90%, while Solicar exports around 40%. For our Gemayal Freres affiliate we want to reach a point where exports make up around 50% of our sales.

“Being a family-based company we hold a long-term view of our investments, and are undertaking several investments in machinery and in our professional team."

There are a lot of value-added and high-skilled practices in Lebanese industry. How do you see the industrial sector developing as a whole for the export market?

I am totally convinced that we are capable of producing value-added products in Lebanon and exporting them. This is what we are specializing in more and more. As a country in general we are blessed with an important young community of professionals who are capable and relatively competitive with respect to Europe in terms of costs. The cost of taking on an engineer in Lebanon is much less than in Europe, so we can build on Lebanon being a hub for high value-added production. I think there are opportunities for Lebanese companies to be strong partners for European and international groups in their international expansion with Lebanon as a base for exporting to other markets.

What should be the role of the private sector in supporting development in Lebanon?

We know that as industrialists committed to Lebanon we have a role and as a syndicate with the help of the Swiss Development Agency in association with the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (AIL) and under the management of UNIDO we have established Liban Pack—a Lebanese center for packaging development. The mission of this center is to provide assistance, services, information, best practices, and training to further industrialists who aim to boost their exports to demanding markets.