Newcomer Leads Jotun Thailand
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.