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Standing up to paint

Onome Amawhe
Bola Olayinka is in the business of adding a “WOW” factor to a house.  And he is just as excited talking about the beauty of house painting:
“Painting can be extremely pleasurable because it’s like giving birth to a baby. And when a baby is born, everybody is happy. Such is the feeling when you paint a particular structure.

And when the painting is thoroughly finished people tend to look with admiration and joy and I’m sure quite a lot of people would like to be part of that”.  Olayinka is Chief Executive of DN Meyer, the paint manufacturing company, and with his experience in the painting industry, he has been able to determine the steps necessary to achieve the highest quality finishes possible and this is aptly implied in his company’s slogan:

“Nothing but a perfect finish”.  Worldwide, the paint industry is an important part of everyday living and statistics confirm that no domestic or commercial arena remains unaffected. Recent years have witnessed significant changes in the paint industry – the succession of company consolidations and acquisitions, for example, stricter market demands in environmental requirements and the increasingly sophisticated nature of consumer demands.

There is also the issue of structural imbalance which, according to Olayinka,  has impeded the growth of the  industry: “Given the privileged position I occupy”, he notes,  “ I can conveniently tell you that the paint industry in the last three years has not been growing”.

“During the first dispensation of this democracy in 1999, we spent about 8 years trying to create a transition from allowing the public sector to be the commanding height of the economy,  and then transferring that to the private sector that is truly occupying that commanding height so as to dictate the pace. Getting to a conclusive point of that transition  has taken a long period of time and we are still a long way off with government still controlling quite a lot starting from the inflow of what Nigeria makes annually”. In a traditional market like Nigeria,  Olayinka thinks businesses are not likely to be doing extremely well because there is a huge control on what government does.

He thinks that if government truly operates the capital expenditure the way it ought to be done that  would greatly impact the economy: “ We have not gotten to  the level where we can truly say  the private sector is in control of the growth of the economy. And in the last three to four years, government has not really been sitting properly to ensure that there is a marriage between the public and private sector to ensure that they continue to take the temperature of the growth of the economy”

“So many projects that the government should have embarked upon to benefit the economy are on hold. Even funds meant for capital expenditures are being returned to the treasury instead of being expended  to make a difference in the economy” Nevertheless, he thinks all these government shortcomings could be remedied if the private sector begins to look at the issue from a serious perspective with measures and indices in place to “assure us that we are moving in that direction”.

Describing the paint in-
dustry as being very tough, Olayinka said that the way it is structured makes it a ‘very tough cookey’ because if one is not a dye in the wool manufacturer, the paint industry is an area one shouldn’t dabble into  “You have to constantly find ways of navigating yourway out of chaotic situations on daily basis. And this makes us think on our feet everyday in an industry which now has no entry barrier as a result of the influx of every Tom, Dick and Harry. This has also made regulation to be extremely difficult because we operate under the aegis of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) which  is biting so much than it can chew and we have since resorted to self regulation”

“I am equally privileged to be the chairman of the Paint Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and so I’m in the best position to give an eye view opinion. In the Paint industry today are lots of nuisance manufacturers; people who convert their garages and apartments into paint manufacturing outfits and who naturally eat into our own business.

Beyond that are other operators within the industry who  are nothing but adulterators looking for premium manufacturers like Meyer brand  and then adulterating the products and selling them in far away locations.

The law has not been very helpful in this regard as the maximum punishment for adulteration is about a thousand naira so,  there isn’t much we can do from the legal perspective but of course SON has put in a lot of structure to assist us by ensuring that there is a minimum standard which we call Mandatory Conformance Program Certification (MANCAP) before anybody can operate but then, we need to trap them before MANCAP can be enforced. And with this case scenario, we are left with serious key players with both local and international certification and who also have names to protect.

And these players have
been operating for so many years with very strong brands that have cut a niche in the market. In trying to make sure that whatever one does is very well done is the category DN Meyer falls into”. DN Meyer has a very rich and enviable history.
The company’s origins are directly linked to John Boyd Dunlop, the Briton who invented the world’s first practical pneumatic tyre in 1888 and Hagemeyer N.V, the great Dutch Trading Company which operates as a holding company for a vast array of subsidiaries located all over the world( It also manufactured  Sigma Paints and Cosmetics). The company was originally formed as Hagemeyer which commenced Nigeria operations in the early 1940s.

In 1960, it was registered as Hagemeyer Nigeria Limited. Dunlop as a company was established in 1961 and was involved in manufacturing of tyres and tubes and the sale of equipment, industrial rubber goods and footwear. In 1979, multinational companies operating in Nigeria were forced to locate their shareholding in the capital market. This brought the nationalization of the company to become Dunlop Nigeria.  In 1994 Hagemeyer’s parent company in Netherlands divested and Dunlop Nigeria took over the majority shareholding.

The company thus became a full subsidiary of Dunlop which then introduced the corporate and brand name changes: The DN stands for Dunlop Nigeria while  Meyer  derives from (Hagemeyer). The company’s product brand also shifted from sigma to Meyer brands. Again in 2003, Dunlop  divested 100% from the company leaving the board with no option but to once again change  name.

The  company’s board  has since given approval for a name change but the procedure requires approval from the company’s shareholders and this is still in the making: “The period between 1994 and 2002 before Dunlop divested, played a key role in sustaining the culture and tradition of DN Meyer Plc. Most of the developments you see today were initiated in the period of Dunlop and I would like to say that the company is forever grateful to Dunlop for the role it played in creating a future for the company”.

In the face of the divestment by Dunlop, Olayinka states that DN Meyer has moved to a new phase in its life by becoming a fully Nigeria owned company through shareholders that acquired stakes in the company  at the capital market.

And he thinks that standing alone has been very challenging for the company: “The resilience we have now has been built over time and our very rich history has also sustained us, especially in our key business decisions.

Indeed, the partnership we had with Dunlop has strengthened the structure to such an extent that even though Dunlop is no longer a part of us; what it left behind is part of the rich structure and culture you see in DN Meyer”. Looking around, chances are you’ll see DN Meyer’s influence.

Its products can be found everywhere from airports to quite possibly the house next to you. Meyer products are the best in its segment of the market. One of its product,  the Meyer Long life paint is a specially formulated water-based and environmentally friendly paint which is peculiar in the industry because it is manufactured to last for as long as 15 years on structures. Perhaps this explains  why it is  being recommended for high-rises, coastal building and other buildings that are susceptible to fungi attack: “We have   products which are basically water and chemical  based,” he says.

“And  amongst our products are emulsion of imperial and ultimate. We also have the gloss both in  imperial and ultimate as well.  And In addition to that, we can customize products for customers on demand since we have the technical competence and ability to produce what  they want and our customers have always been impressed”.
Understanding customer needs is as aspect DN Meyer takes seriously and as he puts it: “Without the customers we are nothing”

“Everyday we continue to learn about them and we’ve never gotten to the point of boasting that we know so much about our customers because they are also influenced by what goes on globally in terms of sophistication, loyalty, taste and demand. And that puts pressure on our own research efforts”

“We have a world class laboratory where we continue to think through and we have created mechanisms to ensure that we get feedback from them from time to time.

The first rule here says the customer is king and the second rule says where the customer is wrong you go back to rule one so everything converges on our customers and we continue to understudy them.
And the fact that we have a shared vision makes things work a lot better for us at DN Meyer”


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.