A new partnership. . .

Excerpt: Libert Paints is a Belgian family-owned company with origins dating back to 1874. Since 1925 the Libert family owns the company.

Libert Paints and its Indian partner Pulse Exim have recently entered into a partnership to fight corrosion in India. Libert Paints is a Belgian company with its origins dating back to 1874, specialized in high quality paints for industrial and building purposes. Today, with a production of more than 2,5 million kilos per year, Libert Paints exports to 24 countries worldwide and disposes of a high performance research and development department. The company's product scale varies from very specific industrial coatings to professional building, floor and hygiene paints. Since 2013, Mr Sven Ghyselinck is the CEO of Libert Paints. A Master in Applied Economics from Universiteit Gent and MBA, Marketing from Vlerick Leuven-Gent Management School, Mr. Sven Ghyselinck has worked in various positions with reputed companies like Ernst & Young, Claerhout nv Communicatiehuis, Levanto besides starting his own firm Nadir BVBA. PAINTINDIA took the opportunity to have a chat with Mr Ghyselinck on his plans for India and here is how the interview went:

PAINTINDIA: Could we have an idea of how the company began and grew into a significant name in the paint and coatings industry?

Sven Ghyselinck: Libert Paints is a Belgian family-owned company with origins dating back to 1874. Since 1925 the Libert family owns the company. The current CEO is Sven Ghyselinck, not linked to the family Libert. The President is Jean-Jacques Libert. Today Libert Paints is active in 41 countries.

As a company we are active in 3 segments: industrial coatings, hygienic coatings and some technical decorative coatings.

More than 40 years ago Libert Paints was one of the first companies in the world to start producing and developing Moisture Curing (poly)Urethanes. Since then several developments have been implemented that each time re-invented and improved the MCU coating range. Today we supply the 4th generation of MCUs to our customers.

PAI: Libert Paints is a medium-sized player in the paint market. How do you differentiate yourself (based on products and market) from the others, especially the top players.

S.G.: Libert Paints is indeed a niche player and we are proud of being one since we believe specialization and focus can be an advantage to our customers.

We distinguish ourselves through our highly technical and practical expertise we are able to develop highly specialty paints and adapt them even more if necessary to specific customer issues, our closeness to our customers in searching together for the optimal corrosion protection solution and through our flexible production model. Finally, through the close link with our partner(s) we are able to focus on the local needs and adapt our model and offering where needed. Together with our partner we supply significant amount of after-sales-service, such as on-site training, advice on paint equipment and surface preparation.

Two examples to elaborate on the above. First, both myself as CEO and our R&D manager travel the world to meet customers, not only in meeting rooms, but also to see real applications and customer issues. By doing this we can not only develop, together with our local partner, a customer- specific solution, but we also get better input for future innovation adapted to specific regional (e.g. Asian) circumstances and problems. I can tell you that most often, we are called in for highly complex situations where the large players have failed. Recent examples of infrastructural issues were Essar Refinery and Tata Chemicals.

Secondly, we work regularly with clients in their operational environment. For example truck builders, train manufacturers or maintenance companies, to whom we not only counsel on the paint systems, but we also work together with their operational people to finetune their spraying process. If needed, we adapt the formulation of the paint to ensure they get maximum efficiency and results from our paint in their production process. Regularly this approach and our paint solutions allow these customers to generate 40% more output within the same infrastructure (no need to invest in extra spray equipment or to build an extra spray line) and with much less labor cost.

PAI: What are your views on the Indian business environment in general, and the Coatings Industry in particular?

S.G.: We don't intend to have all the insight yet in the Indian market. But together with our local partner Pulse Exim, we believe the Indian market offers on the one hand a tremendous challenge and opportunity. As by now more and more people start to be aware, India loses 40Billion USD every year on corrosion issues due to the climate, the large coastal area, the lack of structured maintenance and a structured corrosion protection mindset. This alone offers a tremendous opportunity to a player like us. We together with Pulse Exim want to fight this huge waste of capital with our concept of “corrosion-free India”.

Besides our commitment to a corrosion-free India, we believe India has a tremendous industrial potential which at this point has not been fully developed yet. We were very pleased to read PM Modi's vision of “Make in India”. When we compare the situation in India with China for example, we believe India has many strong points that it is no fully utilizing and where the paint industry can benefit from in the long term.

PAI: What reasons could we attribute to your relatively late entry into the Indian Coatings industry? What would be your strategy and focus to gain a foothold here?

S.G.: Good question. There are many countries in the world and we succeeded so far with the countries we served. Currently we are building a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant and that got us thinking of going for additional markets. Out of that search, India popped up as a natural choice.

Almost simultaneously, we found last year the right partner to structurally attack the Indian market: Pulse Exim from the SPDR Group. We believe strongly in a close partnership with a local company with whom we share the same vision, values and ways of doing business. We go for high quality solutions, mostly in very complex corrosion situations. Therefore we expect from our local partner not only that he knows the market, but that he shares our same technical and customer service commitment. That combination is rare to find.

With Pulse Exim we have found this company. Mr. Som Chaturvedi, former secretary for India, and Mr Rustom Daboo, Technical Director at Pulse Exim, have proven during our cooperation that they are a very solid partner. They are currently building and strengthening their team in India. We communicate in a very transparent way and share the same vision: Fight corrosion in India!

Our key strategy lies in Industrial and Hygienic coatings at this point on the one hand and a focused regional approach on the other hand. India is so large and has so much potential that one needs to go step-by-step. Today our focus is mainly Northern and Western India which can be expanded to the other regions in a planned manner.

PAI: MCUs are a popular technology in the area of corrosion prevention. Could you share with us your perspective on the advantage it offers vis-a-vis other competing technologies.

S.G.: MCUs are an almost ideal coating technology for a country like India. One pack MCU systems have the advantage to be very user-friendly: no possible mixing mistakes, no potlife, time winning and a significant reduction in paint consumption (hence less waste!!) compared to for example epoxy systems.

Our systems are based on high quality polyurethane resins and thanks to our specific formulation, our MCUs can be used in extreme climatic conditions from Himalayan to Equatorial climates. Being surface tolerant makes them the best choice when painting substrates being difficult to reach or impossible to derust and prepare properly.

Libert Paints has a full range of MCU coating systems, from primers to topcoats, even for immersed substrates.

PAI:. You have an interesting concept of "Return on decrease in corrosion." Could you please elaborate on that?

S.G.: Like I said earlier, we are committed to reduce the loss of capital that Indian industry (business and government) is facing. We believe 40 Billion USD, equivalent to 4% of GDB of India, per year I s too high a loss for any society.

When you study the underlying reasons for this heavy loss, you encounter many root causes like we explained earlier. By addressing each of these root causes and proposing to help out in the parts where we can, we believe we will make a difference overtime.

Let's give you some examples.

In the Oil & Gas industry, we notice lack of structured maintenance and effective and regular corrosion protection and prevention. People tend to use cheap enamel paints and repaint every year, although we all know this does not give you the required protection. By advising the proper systems we can eliminate that annual repainting of many plants. To reach this goal, we are offering specific customer advise on how to tackle their corrosion issues, we are organizing in-house trainings to the corrosion protection engineers on Corrosion protection and MCU technology etc to give a long time protection and avoid frequent maintenance and protect the valuable assets better.

Once systems are defined and projects start, we noticed a noticeable lack of knowledge and expertise at the applicator level. It starts for example with the proper and required surface preparation. Mostly it is done incorrect and insufficient. Partly because the applicators sometimes lack the right tools to perform the job well at the first instance. By offering on-site training and supervision, we instill the applicators the importance of surface preparation and proper application. We also demonstrate if need be how to use proper tools, what the differences are between the various cleaning methods etc.

PAI: What are your thoughts on setting up a manufacturing base in India and investing in the country?

S.G.: Every time I visit India, I discover more potential in this market. Not only because of the highly corrosion issues that are currently present in the market, but also because I discover a true ambition of our partner-employees to fight the corrosion problems. Lastly, we highly appreciate the openness of our clients in showing us their problem areas and their willingness to discuss and implement for India new solutions.

Given this situation, we currently focus on building a stronger customer base in India. As a first step of our commitment to India we will establish a local Libert Paints Training Center where we will focus on training our clients and their applicator teams.

Later on, I foresee a shift to more logistical and color-mixing activities in the country. If everything continues to evolve as it does now, we foresee that we will build some form of production in India. At this point we do not have yet a laid-out plan of what exactly this production facility will do as many open issues are still there: will we be able to get access to the high quality raw materials that we purchase in Europe, will we be able to establish ourselves in the right region to serve our customers in India, will the administrative processes be simplified to allow a European company to operate nearly as smoothly as in Europe? We believe PM Modi is trying to achieve this environment, but at this point we are still observing the progress.

Conclusion: we have a strong belief in India as a market and as a local entity. We still need to define how we will implement our vision in practice.

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