AKM SADEQUE NAWAJ, General Manager of Marketing, Berger Paints Bangladesh Ltd.

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A Palette full of Promises

AKM Sadeque Nawaj opines that every crisis is an opportunity to explore better and sustainable alternatives and the paint sector needs to be resilient, adaptive and prepared for the new world.

With a long and stellar record of almost 2 decades at Berger Paints Bangladesh Ltd, can you share some of your biggest accomplishments so far?
During my tenure in Berger, I have witnessed how a company takes its yearly turnover from BDT 100 crore (app) to BDT more than 2,000 crores through continuous innovation. I am proud to be a part of the team that has brought a number of innovations to modernize the paint industry of Bangladesh. With a view to diversifying our business, we started manufacturing industrial paints, high-protective marine coatings, powder coating, automotive coating, wood coating, adhesives, textile chemicals, coil coating, printing ink, construction chemicals, express painting tools and services. Berger team has forged strategic alliances with global leaders in specialized painting solutions. Our global partners include Clariant for tinting system, PPG for vehicle refinish products, BASF-Chemetall for Pre-treatment chemicals, Becker Group for coil coating solution, and FOSROC for construction chemicals. Very recently, we have formed a strategic alliance with Chugoku Marine Paints (CMP) for manufacturing class paint for ocean-going vessels.

As the General Manager-Marketing of BPBL, it has been a wonderful experience to lead a young and vibrant group of brand managers who are constantly coming up with brilliant ideas and implementing these ideas to expand the horizon of our paint industry. My team has successfully launched several products and services in recent years. Berger was first to successfully introduce a tinting system under the brand name of ColorBank, which gives customers the freedom to select their favourite shades from a wide array of shade offerings in 5-minute for their homes. We have also been the pioneer to offer a wide range of designer paints for walls through Berger illusions. Recently launched products in the decorative segment include Breathe Easy Eco Series, Luxury Silk Metallic finish, WeatherCoat AntiDirt LongLife and WeatherCoat Supreme. Berger Protection Protective Coatings, Jensolin Fluorescent Paint and Fireguard Fire Intumescent Paint are some new introductions in the industrial segment. Recently Berger has introduced a tinting system under its Innova Wood Coating solutions, which offers a wide range of shades for wood surfaces.

To ensure customer delight through painting services, Berger Paints has introduced Berger Experience Zones. The objective of this initiative is to create one-stop centers where customers can get all painting solutions and experience the wide range of offerings of Berger. Being responsible for the different stakeholders and environment, Berger took the initiative to make all products lead free in 2012. Like many of our pioneer products, we introduced an anti-bacterial paint ‘Breath Easy’ series, the first of its kind that has Green Label Certification from Singapore Environment Council (SEC). This brand has facilitated 7 RMG factories to be globally awarded as green factories by Accord and Alliance. In response to the COVID -19 outbreak, Berger has launched Mr. Expert Hand Sanitizer to play an important role in fighting against the deadly virus and protect our valued stakeholders.

Can you share your expertise on how has the process of Marketing Planning and Execution adapted to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis?
The impact of this current pandemic has been abysmal on the overall economy. The paint industry has been hit even harder than some other industries as it is not a staple like food or FMCG products. Sales of paint products have sharply fallen due to the prolonged shutdown, as paint stores had to remain closed under the government directives and consumers also had to reserve their financial resources for essential commodities like food and medicine.

Berger considers its stakeholders as part of the family and empathy towards them is our first priority in a challenging situation like COVID-19 outbreak. Our major objective was to ensure the wellbeing of our valued stakeholders during these difficult times. Within our own ecosystem of stakeholders, we have thousands of painters who have lost the means to earn their daily wages and dealers who are facing business closure. We have considered it obligatory to provide aid to our stakeholders to mitigate their financial woes and ensure their health and safety. Berger Paints has already taken measures to aid its stakeholders who have been harshly affected by the lockdown. Berger Paints has already taken the following measures:
– Donation of BDT 2 crore to painters across the country through mobile banking
– Distribution of boxes containing personal protective materials (masks, hand sanitizers, hand-wash) for 4,000 dealers across the country worth BDT 20 lacs
– Personal Protective Equipment for our field force and painters
– Circulation of information leaflets to create awareness and preventive measures of COVID-19 and create awareness through online media
– Distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), 65,000 masks, 6,000 Mr. Expert Hand Sanitizers (new product of Berger), and 30,000 gloves to 6,000 painters across the nation
– Collaboration with Digital Health Services – Tonic, to bring digital health services for the valued members (painters) of ‘Berger Shomporko Club’. The services include cashback in case of death or partial disability, hospitalization benefit, 24-hours doctor consultation, and discounts from over 1,000 partner outlets
– Berger has also increased the payment against the entitlement of ‘in-can token’ benefits for painters
– The company has also been relentlessly working with painters in rural areas across the country to bring them under the new health benefits coverage

The enforcement of social distancing has affected the paint sector hard. In addition to a decline in demand, there is also a scarcity of painters as many of them have left for their home towns due to the pandemic. Consequently, we had to come up with ideas that fit market requirements and provide our applicators with the much-needed confidence during this dire situation.

Our service centres – Berger Experience Zone outlets have taken all necessary safety measures to ensure a safe painting solution for our esteemed customers. In addition to providing our painters with all safety gears, we have also set up defined guidelines for our painters in order to ensure safety painting at the painting sites.

We have also prioritized the requirements of our consumers. Being a socially responsible company Berger has started manufacturing Mr. Expert Hand Sanitizer. We have recently launched a new service, called ‘Berger Expert Sanitization Service’ to meet the growing need for disinfection head-on. The new service from Berger Paints Bangladesh Limited is a convenient and effective way to give businesses and homeowners the confidence that their premises will be devoid of any virus and germs. The service is provided by trained professionals with global standard sprayers and certified disinfectant chemicals.

This is an extremely difficult situation for businesses to thrive. Yet we are optimistic that with right planning and execution, we can weather the impacts of this pandemic to a great extent.

 

In a company which innovates and diversifies products rapidly, how challenging is coming up with befitting marketing campaigns?
First of all, innovation and diversification should be planned to effectively address the unique requirements of consumers. The major challenges in planning effective marketing campaigns are selecting the right media and promotional mix in a cost-effective manner that will reach channel partners and target consumers and grab their interest. Also, it is important to devise the right communication message that accurately educates the stakeholders regarding the product features, persuades consumers in the usage of the product and helps to build trust in the product.

When frequent innovation and diversifications are taking place, it is sometimes challenging to specify the differentiation of the multiple variants in a product range. Brand management becomes challenging if there are too many variants under the same umbrella brand. Extra caution has been given to keep internal departments like sales, production and supply chain and external channel partners like dealers and painters aligned in order to support and promote all the variants with due importance.

Highlighting the unique differentiation to create a valid image in customer mind and positioning the new variant to the right target consumers is essential to make the launching a success. Also, whenever new variants are introduced the previous variants are sometimes considered obsolete or inferior, therefore special focus needs to be given to keep the earlier variants relevant and harvest the return of those products throughout their full product life-cycle.

 

In the age of information and campaign avalanche on social media, how to keep pace with the race effectively for a building material brand like Berger paints?
Efficiently using all social media platforms plays a pivotal role in building a brand. And the current situation has made us more inclined towards availing products and services using digital platforms. However, devising proper social media strategy is extremely crucial. We ensure that communication through different social media platforms are cogent and uniform so that consumers do not get confused with our value proposition. And while developing contents for different social media, we take into consideration the type of audience of that particular social media. Right social media strategy will focus not only on creating awareness about a brand but also on converting that awareness into sales. Targeting the right audience for social media promotion is indispensable if you want to utilize your digital spending efficiently and effectively.

 

Can you elaborate on the permanent shifts in the landscape of marketing due to the COVID-19 crisis? What are some of the new trends that we will be seeing?
This current crisis has a significant impact on the marketing landscape as optimization of spending is a crying need during such situations. Companies need to defer the expenses that can be deferred without impacting overall business objectives. So, companies had to resort to different planning to address this epidemic so that the top line and bottom line of the businesses do not get severely affected. Hence, we can expect that many companies will launch new lines of products and services considering the current demand trend. Business diversification will be the key to avert the threat posed by this pandemic.

In the current situation, Berger has switched to digital/ online campaigns at a greater magnitude. Conventional promotional methods, like activation, face to face meeting with clients and channel partners have been replaced with online webinars, online press conferences etc.

Even though demand for a lot of products and services has subsided over the last couple of months, a suitable strategy on product and service delivery considering consumers’ convenience will be essential. Usage of digital channels like website, social media is rising. Hence, it is prudent for companies to provide consumers with the best experience through these digital platforms. As more and more consumers are becoming prone to online purchase and are being acquainted with the online purchase, companies need to provide a user-friendly ambience in their digital channels as well.

Every crisis brings opportunities and should be seen as a trigger to explore better and sustainable alternatives. Hence, industries like the paint sector need to be resilient, adaptive and prepared for the new world. Companies need to be empathetic, be as transparent as possible, ensure the safety of the employees, stakeholders, and customers, and adopt innovative technologies to survive the pandemic and rise from it. We believe it is a test of endurance, and we will surely be victorious.

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