New­comer Leads Jo­tun Thai­land

Norway-Asia Business Review - - News - By Christo­pher Caillavet

Af­ter one month at the helm of Jo­tun’s Thai arm, Michael Shum is still feel­ing his way around. The newly chris­tened man­ag­ing direc­tor, a Hong Kong na­tive, is no stranger to the paints and coat­ings busi­ness, hav­ing served as sales direc­tor at Jo­tun Marine Coat­ings in Shang­hai for over a decade. Still, he ad­mits to a slight case of cul­ture shock in the Land of Smiles. “I’ve just sur­vived one month,” Mr Shum jokes dur­ing an in­ter­view in his of­fice on the out­skirts of Bangkok. “It’s brand-new stuff for me. I’m very ex­cited. Ob­vi­ously, quite a lot of things to learn, like the cul­ture, the busi­ness cul­ture here. It’s a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge. A lot of good food here.” The com­pany he leads is part of a world­wide net­work orig­i­nat­ing in Nor­way. Founded in San­de­fjord in 1926, Jo­tun Group has rep­re­sen­ta­tion in over 90 coun­tries and em­ploys more than 8,000 peo­ple. The Thai op­er­a­tion took root in 1968 with the open­ing of Jo­tun’s first paint fac­tory in the Far East. In 1978, Thai­land be­came home to the group’s first pow­der coat­ings com­pany out­side of Nor­way. Jo­tun spe­cialises in paints, pow­ders and coat­ings found on ev­ery­thing from phone booths and TV sets to oil rigs and ocean lin­ers. In Thai­land, it com­petes lo­cally with well-known names like TOA Group. Jo­tun divides its busi­ness into four prod­uct seg­ments as fol­lows: Marine coat­ings. Jo­tun of­fers so­phis­ti­cated prod­ucts that ef­fec­tively pre­vent cor­ro­sion and foul­ing on ocean­go­ing ves­sels. Over 15,000 ves­sels are pro­tected by Jo­tun, which holds the No. 2 po­si­tion in the seg­ment for the Thai mar­ket. Protective coat­ings. Jo­tun is a lead­ing man­u­fac­turer and sup­plier of high-per­for­mance coat­ings. Its spe­cial­i­ties are cor­ro­sion pro­tec­tion and pas­sive fire pro­tec­tion of steel, as well as pro­tec­tion and dec­o­ra­tion of con­crete. No.1 po­si­tion in Thai­land. Dec­o­ra­tive paints. Jo­tun sells and dis­trib­utes in­te­rior and ex­te­rior paints to con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als. No. 4 po­si­tion in Thai­land and grow­ing fast. Pow­der coat­ings. Pro­tec­tion and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion for masspro­duced metal ar­ti­cles. Ar­chi­tec­tural, industrial and func­tional ap­pli­ca­tions. No.1 po­si­tion in Thai­land. In a note for Jo­tun’s in-house mag­a­zine, group CEO Morten Fon praised 2014 global sales that reached an all-time high af­ter a slow start: “Like our com­peti­tors, Jo­tun strug­gled in the Marine seg­ment, mainly due to weak or­der­books at ship­yards. How­ever, we re­tained our lead­ing mar­ket share in the global marine coat­ings mar­ket, im­proved our po­si­tion within the main­te­nance mar­ket and recorded grow­ing suc­cess with Jo­tun Hull Per­for­mance So­lu­tions [a ser­vice that helps im­prove fuel econ­omy and emis­sions con­trol in ships].” Go­ing for­ward, Mr Fon pre­dicted a rise in global de­mand for coat­ings in all seg­ments, with es­pe­cially strong growth in the Mid­dle East and Southeast Asia. The com­pany’s rapid growth over the past decade “has helped fi­nance the ex­pan­sion of pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity in ex­ist­ing mar­kets, our en­try into promis­ing new mar­kets and in­vest­ments in R&D, busi­ness mod­erni­sa­tion and re­cruit­ing and train­ing”. “The re­sult,” he con­tin­ued, “is that Jo­tun is one of the fastest-grow­ing com­pa­nies in a high-growth in­dus­try with a strong bal­ance sheet. Of course, Jo­tun is sen­si­tive to po­lit­i­cal un­rest or changes in lo­cal economies in mar­kets where we are ac­tive. And as a global com­pany, we can be im­pacted by broader eco­nomic trends, such as changes in cur­rency val­ues, the price of oil or raw ma­te­ri­als. But by re­main­ing ac­tive in four seg­ments in mul­ti­ple mar­kets, we have shown that we can weather just about any cri­sis.” Jo­tun pur­sues what it calls a dif­fer­en­ti­ated ap­proach: a global view with a re­gional and lo­cal fo­cus. The group favours an or­ganic growth strat­egy over merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions, pre­fer­ring to de­velop new and ex­ist­ing mar­kets.

“For Asia, we divide the busi­ness into two re­gions, North­east Asia — China, Ja­pan, Korea — and Southeast Asia,” Mr Shum says. Jo­tun sees Myan­mar and Cam­bo­dia as coun­tries with strong growth po­ten­tial. Other ma­jor mar­kets in­clude the Philip­pines, Viet­nam, Australia and Sin­ga­pore, with Jo­tun’s strat­egy tai­lored to the ma­tu­rity of each econ­omy. How does Thai­land fit in the pic­ture? “It’s still de­vel­op­ing, not ma­ture yet,” Mr Shum says. “We see it as a still­grow­ing mar­ket, but in my own opin­ion it will de­pend on the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. Be­cause from time to time [Thai­land has] po­lit­i­cal is­sues. The pulling back on eco­nomic growth will af­fect our busi­ness. In gen­eral, we are one of the sec­tors be­ing af­fected.” Jo­tun’s logo con­sists of a globe and a prom­i­nent pen­guin. The aquatic bird, evok­ing Jo­tun’s back­ground of sell­ing paint to the whal­ing fleets of the Antarc­tic, does dou­ble duty as a mar­ket­ing mas­cot and a cher­ished sym­bol of the cor­po­rate cul­ture. “We call our­selves Pen­guins,” Mr Shun says. It’s a nod to the sense of col­lab­o­ra­tion and ca­ma­raderie that Jo­tun tries to foster — a spirit that Jo­tun Thai­land’s new boss hopes to chan­nel as he leads his team into the fu­ture.

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