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At the recent Saudi Arabia Coatings Show, PPCJ spoke to Manuel Baumann, Managing Director – IMCD Middle East, Global Director Construction, to find out his views on this rapidly expanding market, as well as the challenges and opportunities faced in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region
How important a region is Saudi Arabia to IMCD?
Very important. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the growth engine and represents 60-70% of the total coatings and construction demand, depending on the product. It is imperative for us to be here.
IMCD is well established in the UAE already. Is the Middle East a rapidly developing market for you or is it more of a long-term strategy to be here?
It is both: The Middle East Market is rapidly developing, and we are here to stay. We started in the region in 2020 and the last three years we experienced rapid growth, supported by the trust of our customers and principals. As a result, we are increasing our sales, customer service and technical teams significantly. We are fortunate to attract local talent, which makes our growth journey successful and fun.
"In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the growth engine and represents 60-70% of the total coatings and construction demand, depending on the product. It is imperative for us to be here."Manuel Baumann, Managing Director – IMCD Middle East, Global Director Construction
How important do you find exhibitions such as Saudi Arabia Coatings Show?
It’s a good opportunity for the industry to come together. I think it helps to create a sense of direction in the industry. You see what the customers and suppliers are working on and what they’re interested in. That way it helps us to have our finger on the pulse and remain a strong partner.
How have you found the show as a visitor, has it been helpful?
Absolutely. I am impressed with the number of visitors that you were able to generate. I have seen many people from various countries, not only Saudi, so there is also an attraction from beyond. It’s great to see an event like this, that brings the people and the industry together.
What are the main products your customers are asking for in this region?
At IMCD, we focus on speciality raw materials and formulation support. With Saudi Arabia’s economy growing from one record to the next, we see strong demand for the speciality raw materials from our market leading principal suppliers in rheology, high performance resins, construction chemicals such as defoamers and, of course, pigments. There is also a high interest in formulation support from our customers to increase the performance of their solutions.
What are the key challenges faced by chemical companies in this region?
One challenge is to keep up with the regulatory landscape. As Saudi Arabia is going through a big improvement programme, there’s constant change. With our dedicated regulatory team, we keep track of these changes and stay ahead of them to execute business in a sound, compliant and legal fashion. This is what IMCD does around the world and we are proud to say that here in the Middle East, we can also provide the same standard.
Another challenge we see is in the labour market. I came here for the first time about 15 years ago, and quite different to then, there is a lot of local talent pushing into the private sector. Not just into the administrative side, but also into sales and technical sales. It’s an exciting challenge for us. We are investing into local talent by training and developing graduates in IMCD Saudi Arabia. Our first graduate intake has just passed one year and it’s lovely to see how we were able to bring people with a chemical engineering background into chemical distribution. A key enabler is our Coatings & Construction Academy training programme. It provides new starters with the training and the technical knowledge they need to be successful.
"I am impressed with the number of visitors that you were able to generate. I have seen many people from various countries, not only Saudi, so there is also an attraction from beyond. It’s great to see an event like this, that brings the people and the industry together."
The next Middle East Coatings Show will be held in Cairo, Egypt in June. For more information, visit: www.middleeastcoatingsshow.com