“Customer satisfaction, satisfying our customer requirements both explicit and implicit, is very important” --An interview with the managing director of a Kenyan manufacturer of high quality decorative paints, industrial coatings and the like
Mr. Odera Chrispine Ouma (Managing Director)
Many business people from abroad including the emerging countries have participated in HIDA training programs. Positions of the targeted audience vary with the programs, and there are some programs aimed for top executives.
This time, we interviewed with a person who runs a company that manufactures niche products in high quality decorative paints industry, and the like, in Kenya.
--Please explain your company profile first.
Incorporated in 2006, Ciandci limited is a fast growing SME in Kenya employing about 20 employees. Located along North Airport Road, Nairobi, the company manufactures high quality decorative paints, industrial coatings and print inks for a variety of surfaces. We also manufacture soap and detergent colors. We are currently a niche provider of these products throughout East Africa.
--What aspects of corporate management do you put much value on? Please share with us your management philosophy or policy, or something considered important.
Since we are largely a niche provider, our number one job is customer satisfaction. Without satisfying our customer requirements, both explicit and implicit, we will not have a company for long. Our employees are thus inducted into this culture of customer satisfaction from the word go when they join the company. We endeavor all the time to meet these customer requirements. In all our management meetings every Monday morning, we start the week by reviewing customer issues and how to mitigate them.
--Do you think of any challenges that hinder your company business to grow and develop further? What kind of actions do you think need to be taken to address the above-mentioned “challenges”?
The challenges to the business are mainly two-fold: One is an access to capital growth and the other is a technology and skill gap.
At the stage where we are now, the company is in need of capital expansion to move our company to the next level. We need to expand to enjoy economies of scale that will also enable us to take advantage of export markets in both the East African Community (EAC; Kenya, Uganda, Ruanda, Burundi, and Tanzania) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) trade areas.
Since our strength lies in providing specialized coating solutions to the market, we are facing a technology and skill gap that needs to be filled to enable us to exploit the specialty market. For example, we would like to manufacture special effect paints for the decorative paint sector. We would also like to manufacture inks that will stick on rubber products such as balloons, wrist bands, etc., but we lack the technology.
As far as capital for growth is concerned, we are looking for a reliable partner who could help finance the growth. We are also in talks with our bank to craft an affordable loan package.
In terms of technology, we would like to partner with a company who is already making specialized coatings, be it for decorative paints or inks. We are also trying to develop these products in-house but this may take time.
--How do you view the current status of your business in the global market?
At the moment, we do not have any relationship with any overseas company and we are not yet global, although we import some raw materials from abroad such as India, China, the USA, and Europe. However, we are willing to discuss a technical co-operation or partnership with a willing company in the EAC now. A partner from Japan would easily make the shortlist, since Japanese quality is known to be beyond reproach.
--Are you planning to expand your business overseas? What does your company consider important and wish to focus on to lead your business overseas to a success?
We are definitely planning to expand our business in the future. Naturally, we would like to expand in our region, Eastern Africa first, then the whole of Africa, before we can think of expansion into other overseas markets including Japan. What we need from Japan however, at this juncture, is technical and financial co-operation to grow the business.
At the moment, we would like to focus on securing capital for growth and getting the right technology and skill set for manufacturing the right products.
--Please tell us about the current market environment of your business in your country.
The paint and coating industry in Kenya is largely concentrated at the top end with about three major players who command about 50% of the market. The bottom end is highly fragmented with about 100 players who command the other 50%. We can say it is a mature market as far as the traditional products are concerned. However, there are new trends setting in where the architects are now prescribing special effects coatings. The special effects market is still young and growing. The competition is cut throat for the traditional decorative products where the market is mature. On the other hand, there is still room for additional players in the specialty coating segment.
Our business is a niche provider where we sometimes tailor make the products for the customers, and, as such, we do not get much involved in the murky waters of competition. The market barriers to entry are quite high for the traditional products but at the same time low for the specialty products. The inks segment of the coating industry is equally following the same pattern.
--What are the points that you have kept in mind to develop human resources in your company? In other words, how do you wish to improve your engagement with the matter in the future?
As mentioned earlier, we are a niche provider and our main space is specialty products.
Our main challenge is getting the right talent and technology that will help grow our business. We are looking for people with special skills to help us play effectively in the specialty market.
--What is your impression about Japan and Japanese companies? Please share with us an episode or experience that surprised or touched you.
I’m quite impressed by Japan and Japanese companies. Japan is a country which is quite orderly and where things work. I was quite amazed by how efficient the train system is, especially in Tokyo. Every time I went to the station there was not a single day that I waited for more than one minute. I also appreciate how it is in Japanese culture to be punctual. Time is a very precious resource, and I think Japan has used it well to grow their economy.
Japanese companies’ way of looking at the future is quite different from my continent, Africa. I noted that they are not concerned with short term profits, but, when looking at the future, they consider the long term. There is one encounter that really touched me during our company visits to a particular company, where I saw something that I had never seen before in the many countries I have visited, and believe me I have visited many countries in Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa, including the Middle East. This company is built purposely for disabled people who under any other ordinary circumstance would not be able to have gainful employment. The motto is “No Charity But a Chance”. This really touched me.
Thank you very much for your cooperation.