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Canned solutions

With more regulations being introduced in the region to address energy-efficiency needs, as well as health concerns related to Indoor Air Quality, the paints industry is reporting a growing demand from the market for products that offer more than mere aesthetic appeal.

| | Feb 14, 2016 | 5:30 pm
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“I’m a little concerned for certain regions,” Martin Rosocha, General Manager at Caparol Paints, says as he sits down for an interview with Climate Control Middle East. He offers this piece of information as the conversation inevitably moves towards the continued drop in oil prices and its impact on the paints industry:

Martin Rosocha, General Manager at Caparol Paints

Martin Rosocha, General Manager at Caparol Paints

“I think Oman might have a problem this year, because it is highly dependent on oil. Saudi Arabia, too, will be affected. Qatar, on the other hand, should see some growth, because it has the 2022 World Cup coming up. Investments will continue because of that. The same is true in the case of Dubai because of Expo 2020. Abu Dhabi has slowed down, but there are still projects there.”

Sharing this assessment of what’s in store for the industry in the region if the value of oil does not improve, AK Paranthaman, Marketing Manager at Berger Paints, explains that the concern stems primarily from the source of development projects. “Development is majorly based on governmental spending, so there is general caution in the market,” he says.

The general mood of caution he refers to does not necessarily mean a completely bleak outlook, however. Paranthaman, who estimates the market size for paints in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar to be around AED two billion, expresses optimism that there is still chance for growth. Like Rosocha, he identifies the UAE and Qatar, whose market potential for paints he estimates at AED one billion and QR 400 million, respectively, as the countries in the GCC region that are most likely to weather the slowdown. “The UAE and Qatar lead the pack,” he says. “The UAE is very progressive as a tourist destination, and in terms of policies and ease of doing business. Investments in those areas will stimulate growth. Qatar’s growth, meanwhile, is mainly a result of the infrastructure development being undertaken for FIFA 2022.”

Rosocha, too, conveys an optimistic view, specifically on the direction his company is taking. “While we experienced a dip during and a little after Ramadan [in 2015], we had very good months in the latter part of the year,” he reveals. “The problem that I see now is payment collection – that is getting quite difficult. But in general, I see a positive trend in the Middle East, and I think this will be a good year for us. We have just finalised the details of a partnership in Iran. We also have several ambitious plans, one being to grow by almost 35%, if not more.”

Paint for IAQ

Supporting his statement about Caparol’s plans for 2016, Rosocha reveals that his company has expanded its CapaCare range with the recent launch of Airpurify. The new product, he says, should prove beneficial for the region, as it is “fortified with Formaldehyde Conversion Technology (FCT)”. The technology, he explains, removes formaldehyde from the air and transforms it to harmless water vapour.

“You can find formaldehyde in carpets, in furniture – it’s everywhere and you won’t always know,” says Rosocha. “In this region, it’s a big issue, because we spend most of our time indoors, and unlike in Europe, where you can keep your windows open, here you can’t. So, a good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is very important, as are products that can help us achieve it.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

Image credit: Shutterstock

Such is the need for a healthy IAQ, Paranthaman observes, that it is influencing product development initiatives among manufacturers and policymaking decisions among government bodies. “Indoor Air Quality is a major area where innovation in paints is happening,” he highlights. “Products that are free of heavy metals and formaldehyde are becoming the norm. And most projects now demand low-VOC and antimicrobial paints.”

Paranthaman explains that paint solutions which can produce better IAQ are enjoying an increase in demand owing to three factors, with the first two being regulations and consumer awareness. “Because of government regulations, most projects are requesting for low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compunds) and antimicrobial paints,” Paranthaman explains. “There is also now widespread awareness among consumers of the effects of VOCs on their health, so even small consultants are specifying low-VOC products.”

The paint companies themselves moving in this direction is the third factor, he says, and cites an example: “We, at Berger, and a certain number of other paint manufacturers are talking about the impact of VOCs. We’ve been very vocal about IAQ, and we go and get our products tested and certified.”

Coloured by energy efficiency

IAQ is not the only factor influencing the market, however. As per both Rosocha and Paranthaman, energy-efficiency requirements, to some extent, are also dictating demand and regulations. “Reduction in energy consumption is another area where innovations in paints are happening, with solar reflectance becoming a factor for exterior paints,” Paranthaman, elaborates, while pointing out that awareness among consultants and other industry players of solar reflectance index (SRI) and its implications is still not as widespread as awareness of IAQ-related issues.

Rosocha, meanwhile, has a different take on the matter. “Energy efficiency has long been an issue in Europe, and now I see it becoming more important here,” he says. “In the last few months, especially in Dubai, a lot of conferences and seminars on energy efficiency have been held. You have Dubai Municipality involved, as well as the [Emirates] Green Building Council and a host of other organisations. For our part, as a company, we look at the issue of energy saving from two perspectives: solar reflectance and insulation. With solar reflectance, you have solar energy reflected by the facade, which means the amount of heat that gets into the building is reduced.”

While acknowledging that paint can be developed with “certain pigments that reflect more sunlight”, Rosocha is quick to stress that he believes savings in energy would be minimal. “Between solar reflectance and insulation, I think insulation is more important,” he stresses, and explains: “Yes, solar reflectance can give you energy savings, which you can measure, but it won’t be much. We’ve worked on roof coatings, for instance, where you can have solar-reflecting properties – and I know that it [SRI] gets used in marketing a lot – and while it can help, it won’t really keep the heat out. What you need is thermal insulation. Of course, the best and ideal solution is to have both.”

Value for money

Here’s the usual scenario: The more features a product has, the pricier it becomes. Is the same true with paint products which offer benefits other than aesthetics and features other than varied shades and tones? “Not necessarily,” says Paranthaman, adding: “We now prefer to recommend water-based paints to customers, because they are environment-friendly. And in terms of performance, they now match or even exceed solvent-based paints. Cost-wise, there are a lot of economical solutions available, and they come with very good properties.” As an example, he cites Berger Paints’ TUFF product line for exteriors, which he also describes as a durable solution with “four years’ performance warranty”.

Durable, cost-effective, environment-friendly, healthy and high-performing – while all these are desirable features one looks for in paints, Rosocha makes sure to get one point across, and that is, one of the primary functions of the product should not be forgotten in all the discussions concerning energy efficiency and IAQ, which is aesthetic appeal. “For instance, we’re trying to engage in talks on retrofitting, but the parties involved are looking at a very short payback,” he says. “My point is, if you’re looking at retrofitting and you want to do the facade, you can’t expect a payback period of only two to three years. It will take more time than that. See, it’s not only about saving energy but also aesthetics. Yes, we want an energy-efficient building, a healthy building, but we also want a beautiful building.”

Conversations on paint, Rosocha emphasises, should not be limited to one area – not when so much innovation and development is going on in the industry.

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