DR. JAMAL AMRHAR

Saudi Arabia 2021 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Jamal Amrhar, General Manager of Construction Material Chemical Industries (CMCI), on difficulties in 2019, exports to Africa, and strategies for the coming year.

What have been the main achievements over 2019?

To start, 2019 was difficult for us. A few projects saw delays, and there were some payment issues. There were bankruptcies, which left us with outstanding payments. We made the decision to stop supplying some of these companies to control our payments. Since October 2019, however, we have seen good figures and turnover, and we were able to recover to some extent during this time. 2020 has seen a good start; however, we can see that the coronavirus will have a huge impact on our business. That being said, things will be okay. The government is taking the necessary actions. The upturn at the end of 2019 was a result of the government's investment in megaprojects, in which we are registered. We are not in the retail business, so we mainly target direct sales, which are projects. We thought of diversifying into the retail business because it is sustainable. However, in the end, we did not make that push. I am still a firm believer that there will be more megaprojects coming to Saudi Arabia. Of all the products we supply, water proofing, concrete repair, sealants, adhesives and flooring are the common products CMCI is supplying.

How will Saudi Vision 2030 change the construction and hospitality sectors?

It will certainly boost the building materials business. It will also push for some innovative products. We, for example, are targeting a new technology for water treatment and storage of drinking water. We are doing this as an investment with international companies that are leaders in this technology. We are joining them as distributors in Saudi Arabia for one of these technologies we will start manufacturing. Diversity is the key when it comes to innovative products. This company has its own R&D department now titled the Innovative Department. We invest a lot in this area. We will be the first company to introduce green technology to Saudi Arabia. We want to implement processes within the organization that reduce waste and complexity in formulae. We want to reduce the chance of making errors in production. We also want to reduce waste in the packaging of the raw materials we buy, which means buying in bulk. We see automation as a step toward this goal. We have many facilities in Saudi Arabia that provide bulk storage as well. This will be compliant with Industry 4.0.

How would you evaluate new technologies with regard to knowledge transfer and the human talent in Saudization? What is your opinion of the education sector's efforts to support innovation?

For the past few years, we have been pushing for Saudization, as we invest a lot in Saudization. We recruit talented Saudis that have studied in the Kingdom or abroad. We are more than satisfied with the performance from those we have recruited. Our HR department has Saudization as its main focus, and this is a policy within the whole group. Khalifa Algosaibi Group is really pushing for this. This future is for Saudi Arabia, which is why we are finding Saudis to fill many positions in the head office and the whole country.

Can you tell us about your partnerships with Aramco and Saudi Electricity Company, and how do you continue to pursue collaborations and expand your clientele?

First, having innovative products opens many doors. It also attracts major players like Aramco. We also need to have product localization, as it is a driver to develop business in Saudi Arabia. We try to develop the majority of our products locally. We try to use a majority of local raw materials. In fact, this is all linked: we try to have a high score to be able to push our locally manufactured products. We have a team in technical service with consultants to meet with large groups to promote products and do local testing. This is how we develop the business. We have 10-12% of the market share with our innovative products. The aim is to start producing those products locally so that we are no longer importing, which is what everyone else does. This is how we will differentiate ourselves. The beauty of doing business as CMCI and being a part of Khalifa Algosaibi Group is that we act quickly without needing excessive approvals. The board is efficient, which makes the process effective.

What has been your success with exportation?

We are still pushing exports to Africa. We are currently at the level of 12-15% for export volume. Our vision is to target Africa. We have conducted many market surveys in Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. We have not yet made a decision, because we are still looking for the right partner for distribution. We do also target Australia and the Maldives. We are thinking bigger, so Australia is the largest place we are currently targeting to develop some of our innovative products. We will start with a small set up that would grow slowly and organically. We are open to acquisitions as well, depending on the opportunities that arise.

What are your goals and strategic priorities for the coming months and years?

The strategy of the company is to grow, be that locally or geographically. We will expand elsewhere either through acquisition or investing ourselves. Our biggest market share is in Saudi, so we are putting into place a strategic plan for growth. We know our strengths in area and products, as well as places that require investment. I project a growth of 5-7% percent for 2021. We are targeting 5% for CMCI in 2020. In spite of the current situation with the virus, we are still optimistic about reaching these figures.