CERAMICS CAPITAL

Ras Al Khaimah | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdallah Massaad, Group CEO of RAK Ceramics, on local manufacturing, demand for ceramics, and the Emirate's competitiveness.

Abdallah Massaad
BIOGRAPHY
Abdallah Massaad has led RAK Ceramics PJSC as Group CEO since June 2012. He is also a representative on the board and management of several subsidiaries of RAK Ceramics, helping companies engage in the integration of the ceramics supply chain. His tenure with RAK Ceramics began in 2004, when Massaad was invited as a marketing consultant to upgrade the branding and positioning of the company in preparation for ambitious expansion plans. Massaad formally joined RAK Ceramics in 2006 as Deputy CEO. An award-winning CEO, Massaad most recently won a Visionary CEO Award at the Manufacturing Leadership Awards, a CEO Middle East Award from CEO Today Magazine, and a Game Changer Award from Finance Monthly.

What would you recommend to improve the perception of 'Made in UAE' products worldwide?

Having a strong brand is important, and people associate the 'Made in UAE' label with excellent products and companies. The 'Made in the UAE' label lends credibility to all of the country's manufacturers and strengthens the manufacturing sector as a whole, which can only be a good thing for us. For example, RAK Ceramics was established in 1989 and since has grown to become one of the largest ceramics brands in the world, despite a ceramics industry that was predominantly focused on Italian and Spanish products. In 2016, we launched a new brand identity, which was designed to better reflect who we are and where we are headed. Today, RAK Ceramics has a strong brand, and the 'Made in UAE' label helps boost our brand exposure worldwide.

How do you qualify Ras Al Khaimah's competitiveness for foreign investment?

Ras Al Khaimah is of course our headquarters and our most successful plant. Ras Al Khaimah's historical DNA is in manufacturing and industry, and RAK Ceramics has played a key part. By choosing to play to its strengths and focus on manufacturing and industry, Ras Al Khaimah complements the other emirates such as oil-led Abu Dhabi and tourism-led Dubai. As the UAE economy continues to diversify away from oil, manufacturing will play an even more important role, and we are proud to be at the forefront of that. The UAE has great infrastructure. We have some of the best airlines and ports, which enable us to access world markets, and in Ras Al Khaimah the raw materials we import are delivered directly to us from all around the world. Being based in Ras Al Khaimah, we are uniquely positioned to export our products globally with no barriers.

How should policy be shaped to further boost exports from the UAE?

At RAK Ceramics, we are always looking for ways to boost our exports through better accessibility, delivery time, and reduced transportation costs. As part of the UAE Government's Vision 2021, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has called for a unified industrial strategy. During this shift toward a post-oil era, the industrial sector is set to become one of the country's key contributors to GDP. Continued developments in the UAE's transportation infrastructure gives RAK Ceramics access to high-quality raw materials and new technologies that will enable us to be competitive in our global export markets.

How will the level of competition develop in the ceramics industry worldwide?

Over the last 10 years, the ceramics industry has come a long way. The introduction of digital printing changed the industry dramatically. Historically, carpet and wood were chosen as the main flooring solution, whereas today ceramics is increasingly gaining market share. With the new technologies we have available, RAK Ceramics is able to produce products that are greener, cleaner, and more durable than marble, granite, wood, or cement, thereby reducing the use of granite in residential, commercial, and outdoor developments. Overall, the usage of ceramics per capita has increased, which is great for business, but the industry does not come without its challenges. Increasing competition, rising costs of materials, and ongoing increases in gas prices are challenges we must try to find ways to mitigate.