Erik Aaberg explains how vital the finishing touches on a project are
Paint is big business. The coatings that cover almost every aspect of the built environment provide an essential layer of protection. And they are in more places than you might think.
From the heights of the Burj Khalifa, to the length of the Dubai Metro, or the houses all over Oman, coatings with qualities developed specifically for this market are keeping out heat, UV and moisture.
The company that stakes its claim as the regional leader is Jotun. With business segments covering decorative paints, marine coatings, protective coatings and powder coatings, the company has made its mark on some high-profile projects.
“We are still doing the final touches for the Burj Khalifa,” said Erik Aaberg, Jotun Paints’ group executive vice president.
“The painting work started from level 100 up to the top and is still going on. There’s interior paint, aluminium powder coatings, plus the spire on top is coated by our products, and we gave them a 20 year guarantee for that.”
Although the company hails from Norway, its business is world wide, as is its production. It has regional manufacturing facilities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Yemen. It is also expanding its North African interests having recently broken ground on a new 20 million litre manufacturing facility outside Tripoli, in Libya.
It’s not just a matter of selling paint though. In jobs as complex as that of the Dubai Metro, there are plenty of performance issues to consider. For this reason the company supplies to applicators that have been trained by its own team.
“We also have inspectors on site to ensure the consultant is getting what they expect,” explained Aaberg. “Because, at the end, they may request a guarantee from us, so we must make sure the work is going the way we want. Site supervisors will make sure the right system is actually put on the wall.
“There are Jotun approved applicators. We issue that approval based on criteria such as reputation, projects and manpower.”
Approved applicator status comes in different categories, depending on the company’s size and skill base: there are more approved for decorative paints than for the more complex fire protection systems.
Jotun’s business in the Middle East is around 60-65% decorative paints, powder coatings is 10%, marine accounts for between 5-10%, and protective coatings is the balance of 20-25%. That business comes from an array of sources, whether maintaining oil rigs in shipyards, or painting houses in the sleeping giant of Oman.
“Oman we are surprised about. It is a very good market,” said Aaberg. Spreading its interest has helped to insulate Jotun from the ups and downs of recent years, and the company has even recorded some volume growth this year.
“In the region, we’ve had 10% volume growth this year,” said Aaberg. “We are trying to diversify into different areas, having built a very strong distribution network.”
The distribution network includes 1750 shops, which service small to medium contractors. The company is predicting more growth in decorative products.
Areas such as Oman, where the company claims in excess of 50% market share, are a big contributor to this kind of growth.
“We’ve been in Oman 25 years,” said Aaberg. “Things might not appear big in Oman because there are no skyscrapers, but still there is a lot of volume and it’s a big country with a lot of housing and all the houses, one by one, add volume to the business.”
For larger scale business the pitch is one of quality. The company is keen to sell on the specification of its products, said Aaberg.
“It’s the system that matters first, then after the system you can have all the colours in the world,” he said. “We sell the specification of our products to the consultant, then the design team can choose the colour.”
“People believe we are the ones producing quality paint, since we are big they come to us and ask how we can help.”