KUWAIT: Hempel is celebrating its 50th anniversary as it ushers in a new chapter in its history by opening a multi-million dollar paint factory in Kuwait next year, said Karsten Pedersen, Group Vice President, Hempel CEO-Dahna Paint Middle East. He was talking to the Kuwait Times in an interview recently. Excerpts:
Kuwait Times: Are you planning to open a new factory in Kuwait? Is it part of your expansion plan?
Pedersen: The new factory is an extension of the present one. Just about 200 meters away from where we are seating right now, we have the oldest Hempel factory in Kuwait which we opened 40 years ago. We have factories in Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the UAE. What we see now in Kuwait is a need to have bigger facilities to meet the rising demand for our products. The existing factory is reaching its capacity limit so we need a bigger place; what is very obvious now is that we are expanding rapidly and we are very optimistic that growth rate will continue.
KT: What is the difference between Hempel brand and the other brands of paint in the market?
Pedersen: In Kuwait, we are number one in terms of value and quality. We are the market leader in marine and steel paint, we developed the concept in the Middle East; our paint is always top quality as compared to other brands. We never compromise on quality, the paint that we sell in the Middle East is exactly the same formula which we use in the USA, Germany, Denmark and the rest of Europe. Hempel is known for the long-lasting paint and protection from harsh weather conditions in Kuwait.
KT: Can you tell how the paints evolve from the time you started as Hempel brand?
Pedersen: Until a few years ago, you could have strongly smelt the paint when you use them. That is not the case of Hempel anymore. With Hempel we now have odorless paints; we have now the anti-bacterial and anti-fungus paints. We use now a paint to isolate heat; we have paints that can stand with various kinds of weather problems; 50 years ago, we do not have such kinds. Now, technology really has evolved and in fact we have the environmentally-friendly paints nowadays. Kuwait now is very concerned about environment and pollution. We know we could really help a lot in protecting the environment. Now, we can wash colors easily too.
KT: What is the so-called regenerative thermal oxidizer?
Pedersen: That is part of the new paint factory we are building in Kuwait. Normally when you produce paint there are small particles left in the paint, not now.
KT: Since this factory will be the biggest factory of your brand in the Middle East, should this be the Hempel headquarters?
Pedersen: Maybe, although we have a presence in many countries in the region as well. The place is big, so some of our products can be delivered to our neighboring countries. However only some specialized paints will be distributed so since we do have factories in their own locations as well. So, we are going to mass produce for Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon; Kuwaiti market is going to deliver the best for their customers though.
KT: What is the importance of today’s event?
Pedersen: Many people here do not know we have a factory here from a long while. The new factory which we are going to open in 2017 has bigger and better facilities. We are part of the international companies that set up factories in Kuwait. We believe strongly in this market. We invested $15 million in the new factory because we expect that the market here will continue to grow. We are a witness to the turn of events in Kuwait and we are very committed to the Kuwaiti market.
KT: There is so much trouble in this part of the world; political crises in many areas in the region, the ups and down of oil prices etc. What are the possible impacts of these factors on your business?
Pedersen: Absolutely nothing. This is Middle East and Kuwait in particular has been growing for many years. It is true that whatever happens on the ground we are directly affected, be it political or economic. But even with all these troubles, the market is still growing. The Kuwaiti market is very strong and growing rapidly; we will see more constructions in the coming months/years. We expect a lot of things to happen in Kuwait. There are lots of infrastructure projects coming up and huge investments are being made.
KT: Globally, how do you see your brand?
Pedersen: We are the leading brand of paints globally and right now number ten in the world. We are number one in Kuwait, and number one and market leader in other countries in the Middle East.
KT: What is your expansion strategy?
Pedersen: We built a new factory in Jeddah three years ago. We are planning to build a new factory in Oman as well. The expansion will continue. I thank personally the Al-Rashed family for helping us build the presence in this part of the world. We have a very strong commitment to this region and will continue to do so.
By Ben Garcia