Oman’s Most Trusted Brands: Interview with R Raghupathi, senior manager - sales and marketing at Berger Paints
Berger Paints was named ‘Oman’s Most Trusted Brand’ of 2017 in the paints category. In an interview, R Raghupathi, senior manager - sales and marketing, discussed the brand strengths of Berger Paints and the outlook for paints business in the Omani market.
Berger Paints emerged as the winner of Oman’s Most Trusted Brands Award in the paints category. What are the key factors that you believe helped Berger Paints brand in achieving this success?
There is a combination of factors which led to Berger Paints carving a niche for itself in the Omani market. One, of course, is the product line that provides an extensive and interesting range for all ages in interior emulsion and finishes as well as exterior emulsion.
Last year, Berger Paints started a process of converting the retail outlets (Décor Lounge) into a world of colour and inspiration, providing a 360 degree access to all that the customers would need to know about paints. Over 35 outlets have already been rolled out in Oman and another 40 are expected to be revamped – a process that is to continue until end of 2019. This is supported by attractive and popular consumer schemes such as scratch and win coupons, token schemes on purchase of every barrel and gifts as well, to name a few.
How important is customer satisfaction in your line of business, and what measures has Berger Paints taken to ensure a high level of consumer satisfaction?
The paints industry is a repeat industry based on customer satisfaction. Hence, the feedback of customers as well as dealers is important and we take it very seriously. On an annual basis, Berger Paints hires an external agency to conduct surveys and collect customer feedback on the products used and their experience.
Please tell us about the features of your products that have contributed in strengthening the brand identity in the market?
Primarily, the diverse product range and quality of Berger Paints are the basis of a strong brand identity in the market. It is not just limited to providing a variety of paints and colours, but also takes into account the experience for customers – right from the time they walk into a retail outlet to the completion of the project. The marketing of the varied products, support of the shop consultants, dealers and contractors have all a major role to play to strengthen the brand identity.
Berger Paints regularly conducts meetings and training sessions with shop managers, sometimes even thrice a year, as they are key to business and act as consultants for customers. Contractors have a loyalty programme that is hugely popular. We also engage consultants in regular meetings that provide an update and training with regard to new launches, communicating any new parameters, focusing on fast moving products, clarifying doubts… in short, ensuring these people act as brand ambassadors for the Berger Paints line-up.
Has the production at your new facility in Sohar started? How will Berger Paints’ Sohar facility help the company in strengthening its position in the GCC markets?
Berger Paints launched its Sohar factory in 2015 covering a total area of 50,000sqm, which is one of the largest paint manufacturing facilities in the GCC, with the objective of turning it into a hub for exports across the region. Since the start of the operations, Oman has started exporting to the UAE, Qatar, Yemen and Afghanistan.
The launch of the factory also marked the completion of 15 significant years of operations in Oman. The state-of-the-art facility has been designed and equipped to produce an array of high performance, environment-friendly and durable coatings, finishes and other paint products.
It is believed that there has been a slowdown in the construction industry in the past few years. Has the slowdown impacted your business also, and what steps are you taking to minimise the impact?
While there has been a slump in the construction industry, it has already started looking up and we are expecting 2019 to be a good year. The obvious is that the competition within the paints industry has increased and everyone is trying to get a bigger share of the pie. The upside of a slump is that everyone starts to explore innovative means to reach to the end consumer and find ways to tilt consumers’ interest in favour of your products.
What is your outlook for the paints industry and what are the biggest challenges you foresee in near future?
The paints market in Oman is expected to grow at three-four per cent in 2018-2019 financial year. Needless to say, the market is going to get more competitive.
The main challenge in the paints industry comes when the construction projects slow down. While there will always be smaller projects and maintenance of existing businesses, margins get squeezed as competition increases, as with any industry. However, with Oman being promoted as an ideal tourist destination world over, we do not see another major slump happening anytime soon. Oman has huge potential that would, in most likelihood, benefit the entire economy.
Watch a video interview of Joseph L Pulikottil, general manager of Berger Paints