Kansai Plascon

Putting People First in Africa

Executives from Kansai Plascon discuss their divisions and how they manage talent within the organisation 

Writer: Sean Galea-Pace  | Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
 
 
Kansai Plascon has a vision to become the leading coatings company in Africa and a drive to inspire confidence and enabling possibility. 
 
The paint and coatings firm has a proud history which stretches back to 1889 when a carriage varnish seller expanded into ready-mixed paint – the first to do so in the country. 
 
Since then Kansai Plascon has been “improving the lives of customers through constant innovation.” And today, that vision hasn’t changed. 
 
Over the last 130 years, Kansai Plascon has worked hard to design the most sought-after paints on the market and became the first company to offer paint guarantees to customers. Based on the proven performance of its brands and breakthrough technology, the firm has extended its guarantee from seven to 12 years on its exterior brands, and up to 15 years on its interior brands. Through a strong R&D team, Kansai Plascon is always looking into the wants and needs of consumers to win over their hearts and minds. 
 
Kansai Plascon integrates sustainability into the heart of its business strategy and has adopted strict measures on all key environmental, social and governance issues, setting bold targets in order to reduce carbon emissions, electricity, water consumption and waste production.
 
Today, Kansai Plascon is active across Africa and runs a comprehensive network of facilities across Southern, East and West Africa. The firm has multiple manufacturing plants and over 3,000 dedicated employees producing paints and coatings across decorative, automotive and industrial. To delve deeper, we speak with the Alan Cotton, Group Head of Sales and Marketing from Kansai Plascon, South Africa, Cassiem Narker, Director: CSA & Exports of all markets with the exception of South Africa and East Africa and the Country Heads from Kansai Plascon’s divisions across the continent.

Alan Cotton, Group Head of Sales and Marketing, South Africa

 
Africa Outlook: Can you give us an overview of operations within your country division of Kansai Plascon?
Plascon was officially formed in 1949 and renamed Kansai Plascon in 2012 after Kansai Paints bought the business from Freeworld Coatings the previous year.

Today, the company operates through an extensive network of facilities across Southern, East and West Africa, with multiple manufacturing plants and more than 3,000 dedicated employees producing paints and coatings, which are distributed to over 20 countries on the African continent and Indian Ocean islands.

From project work and home decoration to preservation of infrastructure and painting of vehicles, Plascon’s superior ranges of paint have become a mainstay in homes, showrooms, roads and cityscapes all over the region.
 
Africa Outlook: In terms of talent management, can you talk to me about the importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees?
The company increases access to education by providing financial support to employees’ children and dependents up to a tertiary level, while in South Africa it has run a scheme where schools can apply for paint donations to transform their learning environments.

 This responsible, sustainable approach to business has laid down a marker for the future, one which will see Kansai Plascon contribute even more economically, socially and environmentally across all the markets in which it operates.
 
Africa Outlook: What does the future look like over the next few years for your division of Kansai Plascon?
It is true that we find ourselves in an incredibly turbulent and volatile time, not only in South Africa but around the world. We want to continue to be a steady but driving force in the coatings segment and will continue to contribute to the growth in Southern Africa and the rest of the African continent in a sustainable way that improves people’s lives.

Yotam Katumbi, Country Manager, Malawi

Africa Outlook: Can you give us an overview of operations within your country division of Kansai Plascon? 
Kansai Plascon Malawi manufactures 80 percent of its paints locally, which equates to around 70 percent and 30 percent for water based and oil-based products respectively. All the raw materials are imported into the country from South Africa and Zambia. 

Our lone factory in the Makata Industrial Area of the commercial city of Blantyre, Malawi, operates with three high speed mixers with a daily production capacity of 6,000 litres at maximum output. All production processes are done manually and therefore labour intensive. Finished products are distributed to different selling outlets in Lilongwe, Dwangwa, Mzuzu and within Blantyre (own paint centres) using the company’s delivery trucks.    
Africa Outlook: In terms of talent management, can you talk to me about the importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees? 
Talent management has been one of the key success factors for Kansai Plascon Malawi’s business and remains a key growth strategy. Paint being a technical product requires special training and skills development in order to deliver unique customer proposition. The company therefore carefully identifies, recruits, retains and develops talent in order to achieve its objectives. 

Kansai Plascon Malawi also strongly believes in employee growth from within and thus it has in place a clear succession plan for all its critical positions. The importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees is key to business success and future growth.
 
Africa Outlook: What does the future look like over the next few years for your division of Kansai Plascon? 
With Plascon’s brand, we have built a very strong footprint in the paint industry in Malawi. The outlook is optimistic with high growth potential in all market segments as we continue offering the best innovative products to our customers. We are geared to move into the future with hope as we take the business to greater heights.

Sanele Khumalo, Country Manager, Eswatini 

Africa Outlook: Can you give us an overview of operations within your country division of Kansai Plascon? 
Kansai Plascon Eswatini is a depot located in Manzini, the hub of the country. The depot is run by the Depot Manager, working hand-in-hand with the Administration Controller together with the Warehouse Supervisor. The Depot Manager is fully responsible for the day-to-day management of the business ensuring revenue, volume, and GP targets achieved. He is responsible for the overall operating profit of the business, hence the aspect of expense management is also key to the Depot Manager’s responsibility. 
 
Africa Outlook: In terms of talent management, can you talk to me about the importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees? 
Recruiting and retaining the right employees is key to us and we have been successful in keeping our dedicated staff over the years. Keeping our employees with the business has proved an important aspect of the success of business, as such this initiative plays a key role in the eventual improvement of the customer service aspect of our business. 
 
Africa Outlook: What does the future look like over the next few years for your division of Kansai Plascon? 
Kansai Plascon Eswatini looks to have unlocked a much brighter future under the current management, from Head Office level, down to in-country management. We have in the past two years strengthened our position in Eswatini and our brand equity has undoubtedly improved.

Rockie Mmutle, Country Manager, Botswana 

Africa Outlook: Can you give us an overview of operations within your country division of Kansai Plascon?
Kansai Plascon Botswana began operation as Astra Paints - a joint venture between Barlow Rand and PG Industries. The first factory was set up in Francistown in January 1987. A year later when Barlow Rand sold off its interests in Astra Paints Zimbabwe and bought out the PG Industries share; the company’s name was changed to Crown Paints. A depot was opened in Gaborone in 1989, which later became the main factory and head office.

In 1991, the company entered into an agreement with Plascon South Africa, another Barlow Rand business, and the Plascon brand was introduced to Botswana. Kansai Plascon Botswana is the leading supplier of a wide variety of high-quality paint and surface coatings to the stockists, contractors, general industrial, furniture, government and government structures, automotive and export markets. The stockists and contractor markets make up the largest portion of our business. 
 
Africa Outlook: In terms of talent management, can you talk to me about the importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees?
It is imperative to have clear policies that address the issues around talent management and HR function.  It is key to recruit people that are technically talented in their respective trained programs and those that have the willingness to develop themselves and the company. We do understand that in today’s environment, the workforce is very mobile, and therefore introduction of challenging programmes, engagement by management and shift in culture do contribute significantly to talent management.
 
Africa Outlook: What does the future look like over the next few years for your division of Kansai Plascon?
Kansai Plascon Botswana is consistent with Kansai Plascon’s vision to become the fastest growing coatings company in Africa, and to become the number one globally. We are focusing on establishing a strong presence in Botswana across the decorative, automotive, industrial and protective coatings segments and becoming a leader in both volume and value terms in the next five years.

Dilip Munasinghe, Country Manager, Zambia

Africa Outlook: Can you give us an overview of operations within your country division of Kansai Plascon? 
Zambia is part of the CSA region with production facilities in Lusaka while Kitwe has a regional office that look after the Copperbelt and DRC. The larger portion of our market is consumer with more than 50 percent of the total sales. We also have a strong footprint in industrial categories due to mining activities. Automotive and wood coating are emerging markets, with good potential to grow. We supply key auto body shops with premium auto paints.

Our strength lies in strong, long relationships and partnerships with our customers in various industries e.g. in distribution, mining, telecoms, OMCs, energy, refineries, manufacturing etc. 

In terms of total market share KPZ commands 35-37 percent share, holding the number one position in most sectors. In total, our team consists of 90 employees.
 
Africa Outlook: In terms of talent management, can you talk to me about the importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees?
The importance of this cannot be overlooked. Kansai Plascon Zambia is able to attract and retain good talented employees, as these are readily available on the labour market.

Kansai Plascon Zambia has a young workforce who are ambitious for personal development. The company has policies that support Career development and encourages all the employees to advance their knowledge and skills. This helps the company become more efficient and improve its performance.
 
Africa Outlook: What does the future look like over the next few years for your division of Kansai Plascon?
Kansai Plascon operates in an exceedingly difficult environment but also a growing environment and like any other organisation its future to an extent is dependent on economic factors. There are huge plans to take the business further. As it stands Kansai Plascon Zambia has shown significant growth on a yearly basis and there are several opportunities in various industries where growth can be obtained to take the organisation further than what it is now. This could be done by planning to grow market share to 40 percent in the next few years by offering more innovative products that gives value for money and tapping into new territories.

Ebenezer Gumbo, Country Manager, Zimbabwe

Africa Outlook: Can you give us an overview of operations within your country division of Kansai Plascon?
Kansai Plascon acquired Astra Industries in 2013 as part of the Kansai Plascon Group’s growth strategy into the African market. Prior to that, Astra Industries was listed on the Zimbabwe Stock exchange with operations in the Paints and Chemicals segments, before delisting in 2014 post the acquisition. 

Astra Industries Limited consists of two whole owned subsidiaries, Astra Holdings Limited and Astra Chemical (Private) Limited. 

Astra Holdings comprises Astra Paints Division as the trading Strategic Business Unit.  Astra Paints is the largest paint and protective coatings manufacturer in Zimbabwe with over 45 percent market share in Zimbabwe. Manufacturing occurs at two sites in Harare and Bulawayo. Astra Paints offers the following paint brands; Plascon, Astra, True Color, TradePro, Imperial and Paramount to cater for the premium, middle and economy market segments. It also offers the Mobihel, MasterMix and Acryline brands to service the automotive market segment. 
 
Astra Chemical is involved in chemical trading and blending activities. Products include industrial chemicals, potable alcohol, mining, water, food and agro chemicals. These are sold mainly to industrial manufacturers as well as to alcohol distilling industries. Most of the chemicals traded are imported and sold in bulk.
 
Africa Outlook: In terms of talent management, can you talk to me about the importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees?
In order to support business growth strategy, the organisation needs to ensure the right people, with the right skills are in the right positions at the right time to drive the desired results. 

To achieve this, our organisation has been focusing on the following: 
a. Resourcing building across all our business units by ensuring adequate funding is provided via the budgeting process.  This ensures that the right processes are followed from the initial recruiting process be it internal or external, so that we attract the best talents.
b. Once we have recruited the right talent, we focus on capability training through coaching, training initiatives, performance management across all functions and succession planning for key positions to ensure continuity. 
c. To gauge ourselves in this are we benchmark ourselves with peers in the group and through organizational analysis, we address position grading and remuneration philosophy to allow remuneration alignment at key levels.
d. Lastly, we have Leaders Development Programme at executive level that ensures the Corporate culture that focuses on talent management is constantly reviewed in line with other key business processes. 
 
Africa Outlook: What does the future look like over the next few years for your division of Kansai Plascon?
In spite of the current global challenges, which have reshaped how we do business, Kansai Plascon Zimbabwe and Astra Industries is very optimistic about the growth prospects in the next few years. Before the pandemic we had launched our new organisational culture as well as our new corporate identity which we are proud of and will be the foundation on which we will build upon. 

Mr Arvind Shekhawat, CEO, East Africa

Africa Outlook: Can you give us an overview of operations within your country division of Kansai Plascon?
The Plascon brand is widely accepted as the most trusted quality paint in East Africa and is also seen as the region’s biggest paint company. In the East African region, Kansai Plascon’s footprint extends to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Our objective, across markets, is to expand our presence while maintaining our ability to serve our customers the best quality paint. In the key markets of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania there are manufacturing facilities, QC labs and distribution that service the segments of deco, automotive, industrial and protective coatings. These facilities service five depots in Kenya, four depots in Tanzania and the export markets. 
 
Africa Outlook: In terms of talent management, can you talk to me about the importance of recruiting and retaining the right employees?
Kansai Plascon has, and will continue to, upskill its employees and with its global footprint, transfer skills to enhance capacity and efficiency.  An example of this has been the experience of the company’s technical team engaging with partners in India, Japan and South Africa to bring the revolutionary Plascon Anti-Mosquito Paint to the market. Through shared skills and resources, innovations like Anti-Mosquito Paint, Dampseal and Brickseal have been introduced and produced locally. People are vital and valued in our business, this includes the years of experience that the current staff has, as well as recruiting the best staff to meet the objectives of Kansai Plascon in East Africa in the future. The six values of integrity; respect; customer focus; entrepreneurial mindset; accountability and innovation are being taken through the region and will be key to each person’s way of working within the Group.  
 
Africa Outlook: What does the future look like over the next few years for your division of Kansai Plascon?
Historically East African has performed admirably during periods of or following global economic crises. This could be due to the more robust nature or size of the markets compared to our global counterparts. Tourism and education are both sectors which will hopefully start recovering and create demand for paint in hotels, camps, schools, universities etc. Industries such as these two and the ongoing demand for housing and level of construction in East Africa is very encouraging. Kansai Plascon is well positioned in East Africa to meet the needs of the market and leverage growth opportunities throughout the region.

While 2021 might be slightly subdued we are confident that the next three to five years should see the construction industry grow by 10 percent and paint achieve a similar level of growth year on year.