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In its first decade, Kaizen Paint Middle East pursued a strategy of building a regional footprint rather than immediate profitability while carving a niche for itself in the paint industry through consistently delivering the highest quality paint products. CEO Syed Ameer Hamza Hasan on the brand’s focus areas

By Muhammad Ali Bandial

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Published: Mon 31 Oct 2022, 11:52 AM

With a career that began in 1984, Syed Ameer Hamza Hasan, Group Chief Executive Officer, Kaizen Paint Middle East, has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge, working with some of the biggest brands in the world.

Armed with an educational background in philosophy and journalism, Hamza started his professional career with American Express before moving on to Imperial Chemical Industries – ICI. In an interview with Khaleej Times, Hamza recounted the journey that led to Kaizen Paint Middle East becoming a known name in the region and the lessons learned along the way.

Excerpts of the interview are below.

Please tell us about your journey and what made you foray into the paint industry.

I started my professional journey with American Express in 1978, and from there a family business. I joined ICI Pakistan in 2000 as the Marketing Manager for their PTA Business at that time. PTA is a chemical and stands for purified terephthalic acid, it is the raw material for polyester, which is used in a variety of material such as bottles and fibres. So, I worked in this position and then transferred to lead the trading business in the company, which was involved with all kinds of commodities such as oil, petrochemicals, coal etc. And from that position, I moved into the ICI paint business. So, I got into paint, not knowing anything about it, but thoroughly enjoyed this assignment. After ICI's acquisition by AzkoNobel, we got an opportunity to set up a joint venture with Kansai Paint Japan, one of the technology partners of ICI, who had decided to exit the relationship post the acquisition. And that was how we started Kansai Paint Middle East (KPME) in 2008. The name of the company was changed in August 2021 from Kansai to Kaizen as we sought to expand our portfolio. The company has businesses in quite a few countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco and so on. We make a wide range of paints, including those used for architectural, industrial, infrastructure applications and specialise in manufacturing automotive OEM paint, which is used by most of the Suzuki, Toyota and Honda cars being manufactured in Pakistan and Renault in Morocco. We are currently focussed on building the architectural, industrial and infrastructure related businesses across the region, since OEM paint can only be used in markets where vehicles are being assembled.

What have been the lessons learned along the way?

I think one of the lessons learned was as a result of our strategy to strive for growth rather than immediate profitability. Our rationale was that we can always make back money lost, but time, once lost, is irretrievable. Hence, we had to go about making strong bonds and linkages in the market which could stand the test of time. One of the first lessons that we learned was to adapt ourselves to customs and processes of the region and to plan our operations accordingly. Thus, it is better to go very slowly into the market, instead of going in with a push. Another lesson that we have learned is to evolve the mindset of the workforce so that we are better able to serve our customers. For us, we don’t manage the customer, rather, we would like to see the issue from their point of view and then address it to their satisfaction. And this mindset comes with time and you have to build that environment and that culture within the organisation.

Tell us about the philosophy behind Kaizen Paint Middle East that has struck a chord with the consumers.

When you talk about the growth focussed strategy, one is growth within the individual market or segment. The other is growth of our footprint. So, our growth focus was to expand our footprint and sort of plant small trees everywhere. So that within a short time, we were not just growing one business, we were growing a large number of businesses.

Over time, we were thus able to expand our footprint in Qatar, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan and the UAE. So, that was the overarching philosophy; to be present in all the markets that we are interested in where we are not there yet and which have not matured to a point where competition is totally entrenched. We have been lucky to have expanded our footprint significantly. To give you an idea, when we started, Kansai Paint sales in MENA region were $280,000 per year, on the back of just one customer. Today, we are close to $100 million.

Tell us about your odour-free flagship paints and how are they unique and environmentally friendly?

One of our guiding principles is that we will not contribute to the pollution of the planet. And we still follow that principle even if it means that we lose business on occasion. But we will just not do business where we are making a mess of the environment. The protocols we follow are derived primarily from our fundamental base of automotive paint manufacturing, which is extremely stringent. So, every raw material that comes in is tested, and not on a partial basis. Every vendor that is on boarded is first researched, and so on, which is where the first control happens. So, once the input ingredients are of the right quality, and they've been tested and verified, then that's a good start to achieving that objective.

Anything else you would like to add?

Our goal is to be the most trusted and sought-after company and product, and we work consistently towards that goal through our commitment and transparency with customers.

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