Painting A Vibrant Future
Rupali Chowdhury, Managing Director of Berger Paint Bangladesh Limited’s reiterates the company’s commitment to working with all their stakeholders to build a prosperous Bangladesh.
You have an impressive career spanning a decade with Berger Paints Bangladesh. Can you tell us how has the company ethos of unrelenting expedition for conception and revolution in the world of color and paints progressing into the new decade?
Berger Paints Bangladesh Limited believes in Innovation, Satisfaction and Quality with a vision to be the most preferred brand in the industry ensuring consumer delight. With the priority being constant innovation and diversification into different sectors, Berger has invested more than any other manufacturers in this industry for research and development and advanced technologies like establishment of powder coating plant, emulsion plant and introduction of environmentally friendly products. Being the market leader, Berger is constantly introducing new products into the market not only for the growth of the painting and coating industry but also for the benefit of other related industries as well. Over the years, we have introduced many customized products and technological innovations that shaped the paint industry of Bangladesh.
The growth of various industrial sectors will propel the demand for protective coatings and advanced specialized products in the new decade. And consumers will be more aware of the importance of application of these coatings. To cater to this growing demand, we will bring required innovation which will help us meet our consumers’ expectation in terms of product quality and application. So, our relentless quest for innovation will be continued in this decade as well which will eventually contribute to the overall development of our country.
Consumer preferences are shifting towards brands representing environmental consciousness. How is Berger Paints Bangladesh incorporating environmental sustainability in its business model, products and supply chain?
Berger has pioneered in bringing eco-friendly painting products for homeowners. Back in 2012, we made all our products lead free. Berger Breathe Easy Emulsion has Green Label Certification from Singapore Environment Council (SEC) for eco-friendly attributes. Berger Breathe Easy products were used in the 7 RMG factories of Bangladesh which in turn facilitated these factories to be globally awarded as the green factories by the rule of Accord and Alliance.
To complement its products, Berger implemented environmentally friendly manufacturing facilities. Berger has played a pioneering role in the industry in installing Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) and Incinerator of the global standard at its manufacturing plants in conformity with environment-related regulations. Furthermore, in order to ensure the quality of our products, we procure all of our required raw materials from globally acclaimed and technologically advanced companies. We believe that social and environmental sustainability are fundamental to the achievement of development and shall be systematically mainstreamed into production processes. In recognition of its standard process management in all departments, Berger has achieved the ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management System), ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management System), OHSAS 18001: 2007 (Occupational Health and Safety Management System).
How does the paint industry in Bangladesh differ from those in neighboring countries where Berger operates?
In our neighboring countries, demand for premium grade paint and special protective coating is comparatively higher. As we are still at a nascent stage of our industrial growth, demand for protective coating has not risen that much. However, there is a huge potential that demand for protective coating will rise in coming years. And due to lower purchasing power of our consumers in semi-urban and rural areas, most consumers of our country are still reluctant to use premium products. But our neighboring countries have made better progress in terms of using premium grade products.
Per capita paint consumption of our consumers is approximately 1 kg which is lower than most other neighboring countries. Yet the Bangladesh painting industry has experienced a decent industry growth because of the progress in the real estate sector and shipbuilding industry. It is extremely important for us to create awareness among our consumers that the major role of paint is to provide protection against corrosion and erosion, not merely adding aesthetic value. A study by the World Corrosion Organization (WCO) mentioned that the annual cost of corrosion amounts up to 1 to 2 percent of GDP of industrial countries. Usage of paint can significantly reduce the level of corrosion and save valuable resources.
Furthermore, in order to ensure the quality of our products, we procure all of our required raw materials from globally acclaimed and technologically advanced companies.
Can you elaborate on the aspects of how Berger has consistently managed to differentiate itself from its competitors?
Berger’s constant innovation and adopting global technologies has helped the company stand out among its competitors. Bangladesh, being a subtropical country, is prone to various climatic changes. Considering this important aspect, we manufacture our products that give our consumers the best experience. Besides, Berger has always been the forerunner in introducing different customized products and technological innovations in Bangladesh market. We launched Weather Coat series in order to weather the threat of climatic changes, launched Breathe Easy series to cater to the requirements of eco-friendly products, introduced color bank route to provide consumers with the opportunity to choose from thousands of shades, launched complete painting solution – Express Painting Service and introduced a variety of automatic machines to facilitate painting works. Moreover, nationwide extensive dealer network gives Berger competitive edge to cater to paint related needs anywhere in Bangladesh. Considering the growth of real estate business and ship building industry, we went for strategic alliances with Fosroc Chemical Ltd and Chugoku Marine Paints respectively. We also formed strategic alliance with globally acclaimed companies like PPG for vehicle refinish products and Becker group for coil coating products. Local manufacturing of wood coating and powder coating products have lessened our dependence on import based products. Considering business potentiality, we even diversified into non-paint segments like adhesive, printing ink and textile chemicals. Such timely decisions have always enabled Berger to stay on top of the minds of the customers in the painting and coating industry.
Can you talk us through the consumer perception of the one-stop solution – Berger Experience Zones? Would you say consumer engagement has increased since their inception? Were there any challenges?
We launched Berger Experience Zone in 2018 in order to provide consumers solutions to all kinds of painting requirements. From last year, we have started providing franchises of Berger Experience Zones to interested dealers in order to reach every corner of the country with our Express Painting Service and Illusions. To facilitate our consumers further, we introduced virtual reality technology that helps consumers choose the right shades for their homes or office space. So far, we have got a very good response from our consumers regarding these Experience Zone outlets.
Since Express Painting Service requires painters to use automatic painting tools, the major challenge was to make our painters habituated with the use of this new technology. We had to conduct numerous workshops in order to acquaint the painters with these tools. And we are still conducting different skill development programs for our painters. Recently, we have formed Painter Training Institute in collaboration with National Skill Development Authority (NSDA) to acquaint our painters with the most modern method of painting. We are expecting that within a couple of years, Berger Experience Zone will reach the doorsteps of every consumer with the offering – One-Stop Painting Solution.
What are some of the mega-projects in the country that Berger has partnered with?
Being a household name, we are proud to supply more than fifty percent of total paint requirements of the country and naturally we are closely associated with many mega and important projects. This list is quite exhaustive starting from the country’s tallest building to many industrial units to roads and bridges. We are very closely working with the large and reputed builders and contractors of the country.
Rooppur Power Plant, Rooppur Green City, Rohingya rehabilitation plan at Bhasanchar – Hatiya, Padma (Jashaldia) water treatment plant (phase -1), Padma Bridge approach road, Uttara RAJUK apartment project, Ramu Cantonment, Padma Cantonment, Patiya deep sea port, Matarbari power plant, and many more to mention which Berger has partnered with. We are the first to manufacture fluorescent paint in the country, which has been used in many roads and bridges across the country. We are expecting that the use of fluorescent paint in roads and highways will create more awareness which in turn, will help in reduction of road accidents in our country.
Lastly, as the Managing Director of Berger Paints Bangladesh, and also serving as the President of FICCI, how do you envision your career in the coming five years?
Bangladesh has experienced steady growth over the last decade. However, there is plenty more to do in the coming decade. In order to achieve our desired economic growth, business friendly policies and environment are indispensable. For a developing country like ours, Foreign Direct Investment will contribute significantly for creating more employment, developing our existing industries, enhancing the skills of our workforce. More FDIs will also tie-up our economy with global economic trend benefitting both alike. As the president of FICCI, I believe that we will be able to ensure better and smooth coordination among different public and private bodies which will make the business environment more congenial to Foreign Direct Investments. And in future, I would be happy to render my fullest cooperation if the country needs my expertise and assistance.
Even though the painting industry is still growing at a rate of 7%-8%, the rise of raw materials in the international market, depreciation of local currency and excessive supplementary duty have cast a big shadow on the growth prospect of this industry in the coming years. On top of that, excessive land prices in urban regions have slowed the growth of real estate business impacting the painting industry. So, the painting and coating industry might face challenges in maintaining cost-effective operations amidst fluctuating raw material price and competitive pressure to satisfy this demanding market in the upcoming years. It’s high time we focus on efficient working capital management by maintaining optimum raw materials and finished goods stocks to timely satisfy the customers. Business process innovation is also necessary for the players to service such a wide variety of customer expectations at minimum cost of operations with a wide range of products, shades and pack-sizes. Striking a balance among distribution networks, market share and profitability will also be a strategic consideration. As the Managing Director of Berger Paints Bangladesh Limited, I envision to plan and execute the right decisions at the right time which will help this company cope with upcoming challenges and to grow faster than our competitors. And we will remain committed to working with all our stakeholders to build a prosperous Bangladesh.