Top-manager of a worldwide famous producer of paintwork materials speaks on the prospects of work on the Russian market and prognoses the colour fashion for 2017
Michael van Harmelen, Executive Channel Marketing of the Plascon Company (SAR), an affiliate of Kansai Paint (Japan), answers questions from our journal.
— Mr Harmelen, the Kansai Paint Company has opened an office and showroom in Russia, at a time when the crisis is in full swing. What is the company aiming for in Russia? Are you not afraid of the rouble's volatility?
Kansai has invested in many countries around the world and some of these countries have had to deal with currency volatility. This is not uncommon in many emerging markets. Kansai Paint evaluates the current and future growth potential of the country and not just the particular situation the country is in at that moment. It is important to look into long-term investments.
As a global company, Kansai Paint utilizes knowledge, skills and wisdom from Japan, India, Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East to ensure that every product we make benefits from this global platform. Now we are entering the Russian market with decorative coatings to complement our existing Automotive Coatings business.
— What instruments are you going to use to promote your products in Russia?
— First of all, the opening of the showroom is critical for our entry into the Russian market. Here we have colour consultants who will help in choosing the colours, which is very important. You know, colour has a powerful effect on the human spirit. It can uplift us, energize us, inspire or calm us. Colour plays a crucial role when it comes to our paint choices, so we have special colour tools in the show-room. Besides this, we have a visualizer application, which is available for Android and Apple. We have a magazine based on global colour trends, which we publish three or four times a year, and the Kansai Global Colour forecast.
— What is your intended audience here, in Russia?
— We intend to sell premium class paint here, so I think it is aimed at people with high incomes, both contractors and consumers, homeowners and commercial asset owners.
— Are you not afraid of Russian and other foreign rivalry? There are many companies producing and trading paints on the Russian market.
— You know, Kansai Paint is the market leader in Japan and a top 10 global player. We compete round the world, so we are aware of our competitors, and we respect them. But we do believe that we have unique products to offer which will find success in the Russian market. Research and Development is very important at Kansai. We have over 500 chemists employed at our factories, and annual investment totals more than $50 m for Research and Development. This includes a state-of-the-art decorative coatings development centre in Johannesburg and the Research Centre at Stellenbosch University, where you’ll find teams of highly qualified scientists with over 120 years of combined paint development experience. This investment allows us to bring world class coating solutions to markets all over the world.
— What are the competitive advantages of your products? Why are you sure that your products will be in-demand in the current low-value rouble conditions?
— As I have already mentioned, global insight is doubtless a competitive advantage — we do not look at one market or trend, but we do so globally. And we can bring the best possible solutions to the Russian market.
Our strength is in colour solutions delivered to the market through premium products. We have tested our products against those available in Russia, and ours performed exceptionally well. Besides this, our specialists predict the colour trends of the year, and they know both what colour is in fashion and how to set fashions in colour. And we even launch colour forecasts – for facades, interior finishing, fabrics, etc.
As for the low rouble, we are looking long-term. I am sure the Russian economy will pass through this difficult period. We had the same thing in South Africa, with very low growth, but our brand is still strong. And we are not here for one or two years, we are here for the long term.
— Does that mean that your company is sure that it is the time to come onto the Russian market? And as far as I know, Russia is the first European country your company is entering.
— Yes, I think so. Of course, it is easier to enter a market when it’s doing well. But it is a good opportunity for us to get started here, for our brand to become known in Russia. And as soon as the economy starts growing, we will already be here — we have the infrastructure and the teams of employees to support the Russian market. We are starting in Moscow, and we’ll continue step by step. I am sure as soon as we start growing here we will invest more into the business in Russia.
— What attention does your company pay to the environmental friendliness of your production? Paint is an a priori aggressive product regarding its impact upon the environment…
— Sustainability is critically important for our company. We are very committed to water recycling at our factories. Environmental responsibility is our credo, and we have many experienced scientists doing research on paint composition. We produce paint that can make a positive impact on the environment: paints that can protect people from mosquitoes, reduce the interior temperature during summer, ensure protection for the sick from viruses and bacteria in hospitals, and even cleanse the air that we breathe.
— And the last question. I think our readers will be interested to know what colour will be trendy in 2017 - how would you advise us to decorate our houses?
— Have a look at our New Colour Forecast for 2017. Personally, I think greys will remain popular, and they are featured in the “Anonymous” theme in the Forecast.