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UAE, Sharjah 2017 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Samer Sayegh, Director of National Paints, on meeting the highest international safety and quality standards, out-pricing its multinational competitors, and why developing countries represent the future.

Samer Sayegh
BIOGRAPHY
Samer Sayegh obtained a bachelor's of business administration from the American University of Dubai, after which he became the company's successor to lead the family business in paint manufacturing, real estate, commercial ventures, media communication, and aviation. He has been the managing director of National Paints Holdings since 2014.

What is the background of National Paints?

National Paints got its start in Jordan in 1969 and established its presence in Sharjah in 1977 as a small company. In 2001, it established one of the biggest industrial complexes in the Middle East for paint manufacturing, with a built-up area of 130,000sqm and a production capacity of 500,000 tons per annum. Separate plants have been established to produce alkyd resins, powder coatings, and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). The paints complex contains six production lines to produce a full range of paints, fillers, adhesives, and thinners. National Paints has different product ranges—including decorative, industrial and protective, marine and yacht, powder, wood, and floor coatings, not to mention automotive paints. We have the largest collection of paints manufactured under one roof and export to 80 countries around the world. Among local manufacturers, we are the second-largest non-oil and gas exporter from Jebel Ali Port, and our products meet ASTM and British standards.

How important is quality to National Paints?

We consider quality our number-one priority and offer our products and services at competitive and cost-effective prices compared to multinational competitors. For the same reason, we are the first choice in the UAE market and have maintained over 50% market share, despite the fact there are 30 other paint factories in the UAE.

Does National Paints do more than just paint production?

We are a backward and forward integrated company. In terms of forward integration we provide painting services through our trained painters and, in large projects, supervise the people and manage the timely and successful completion of projects by organizing subcontractors. We deal with about 150 subcontractors that each have at least 40 painters, managing their people and supervising their projects. We currently manage 398 projects valued at about AED400 million. In terms of backward integration, we do our own polymers, emulsion, resins, precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC), and metal containers. Over time, we seek to expand our backward integration to cover more raw materials for our production.

Which regions or countries are the most dynamic in terms of growth in the near future?

We only look at developing countries. In modern and western countries, there is too much competition and too little profit, and the market is shrinking. Markets in developing countries have double-digit growth with growing populations, so that is where the future lies. It is much easier for us to grow in the GCC, Africa, CIS, or Southeast Asia compared to Europe, which is too expensive and burdened with red tape. The best stepping stone is to be based in the UAE because of its strength as a logistical center.

Do you see Sharjah as being more competitive than the other Emirates?

Sharjah is centrally located; everything is easily accessible, including ports, airports, and a road network. We are strategically located and can be in any major city in the UAE within two hours. The infrastructure in Sharjah is also incredible, and today 40% of the UAE's manufacturing is in neither oil nor gas.

What is needed to succeed in business in the UAE?

The UAE, and especially Sharjah, is a land of opportunities. Anyone can be successful in any business they start here if they have a good product and put their heart and soul into it. If one conducts a business within the laws of the Emirate, it is easy to own and maintain your business here, especially when we compare Sharjah to other Emirates or neighboring countries.

What are your expectations for National Paints for the coming 12 months?

There is talk in the market about a recession, though in my opinion this is unlikely. Our market is growing and sales have grown YoY. We currently have 6% growth. We work with 3,000 companies including contractors, retailers, manufacturers, wood works, steel works, car re-finishers, and flooring companies, all of which are growing with healthy profit margins.