Interview
Dated: 13-03-2017

“Our consistent effort is towards being a company that any potential customer looks at for innovation, sustainability and uniqueness.”

Dhofar Global completes 10 years in the industry this year. Chief Executive Officer, Chandan Singh talks about the company’s strategies, unique selling point (USP), and innovations in a candid interview with Shanti Petiwala. Some excerpts…

How is the tissue paper industry in the GCC region faring?

The tissue paper industry is a booming sector in the GCC with small paper companies mushrooming; however, the products still do not fill the gap. The way I see it, the region’s tissue paper market will eventually dilute down, with fundamentally, strategically and financially strong companies with human capital, value addition and services ruling the roost. The smaller companies will face mergers and acquisitions or an eventual shutdown. Because of all this action, there will be ample transition and movement that will add quite a lot of turbulence to the market, making it an exciting place to be in.

What kind of strategies does Dhofar Global adopt to combat competition and market changes?

Our consistent effort is to offer innovation, sustainability and uniqueness to potential customers.We manage the market fundamentally on a service basis by launching ground-breaking campaigns that aim to educate and increase awareness amongst our customers. For instance, our recent ‘Cutback Campaign’ has helped reduce the consumption of tissue by 22 per cent. In addition, we work as a hygiene consultant and advice our clients on the kind of tissue and dispensers to be used for different applications.

The ‘DID (diagnose, impose, dispose) Campaign’ is specifically suited for disposable products where we diagnose critical areas and advice the client on how to use them. ‘Colour Magnet,’ on the other hand, is a pioneering campaign in which tissues are colour coded as per their applications; white tissues are used in the guest area, blue in food preparation areas, and green for general use. The idea behind this initiative is to allow attendants to understand the proper usage of tissues for hygiene, health and safety purposes.

How has Dhofar helped customers understand paper and its applications?

To start with, understanding the quality of paper is important. The easiest test is to soak the paper in water. When it is taken out, if it can be unfolded properly (versus becoming a pulpy mass), it is of a good quality. When it comes to application, we find that C-fold tissues are most commonly used in the washroom. Such tissues are unattached and when pulled out, can result in the whole lot falling out and resulting in wastage. Hence, we recommend auto-cut tissues, which reduce consumption by 15-20 per cent.

For the toilet roll, interleave dispensers are ideal. Not only do they prevent open exposure of the roll to water but they also prevent wastage. In food preparation areas, we recommend 2-ply tissues with higher absorbency usually made through air drying or embossing systems. The tissues must have a centrefold, and the dispensing systems must be smaller.

We have also started a disposable wipes division to be used specifically in gyms and food preparation areas, amongt others. Apart from this, we have also launched personal protective disposables such as masks, aprons, gloves, and chef hats, to name a few. We also plan to provide chefs with disposable wipes similar to the kitchen towel that can withstand up to 210 C heat.

Technological advances and social media activities in the industry are increasing awareness and changing the outlook of both consumers and suppliers. Smart solutions that involve facility and housekeeping managers to remotely understand the tissue usage and the requirement to refill has started gaining pace in the industry. Dhofar Global is working on smart products in its portfolio and will soon announce something exciting.

Tell us about your partnership with Kleen Purgatis in 2015. Why the addition of chemicals to your portfolio?

Dhofar Global was launched as a hygiene company in 2007 in the UAE to fill the gaps in the market. As a result, our ‘Away from Home’ (AfH) business boomed, and although we do not have specific statistics, it is safe to say that we have command over nearly 80% of the market share. But, after a certain point, depending on just one market is risky and in order to mitigate the risk, we decided to branch into related industries.

After two years of research, we realised that there was a huge gap in specialized cleaning chemicals. Soon after, we entered into a partnership with Kleen Purgatis. We have now launched Housekeeping and F&B chemicals in two phases in the market and have plans to launch laundry chemicals, too.

In the past two years, Dhofar Global has expanded across the GCC. Tell us about this strategy.

Our vision is to grow in all the GCC countries by 2020. We already have established offices in the UAE, Oman and Qatar and by 2020, aim to consolidate our businesses in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The strategy will change as per the market, depending on the consumer behaviour.

How does the consumer behaviour change with the region?

Consumer behaviour changes from city to city; for instance, Abu Dhabi is more concerned about service, while Dubai is a buyers’ market where the customer is the king. Oman, on the other hand, has a more traditional setup with customers being unused to frequent changes or upgrading, making them slow in decision making. Likewise, Qatar has undergone lots of changes, driven by the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, while Saudi Arabia has a strong focus on recycled products with huge volumes but lower margins.

What is your opinion on the global cleaning and hygiene industry?

I think the industry is growing rapidly albeit with lots of changes. And that itself is a challenge as not every company is accustomed to adapting to change. Specifically talking about the UAE, the focus has shifted from just quality to both quality and cost. Per capita consumption has increased as has overall awareness and customers are more educated and decisive about what they want. They understand how importance FM is and how much regular maintenance can save time, cost and resources in the long run.

What is your approach to sustainability?

Our aim is to ensure that our customers continue to practice sustainability with our products. Apart from consulting them on how to reduce wastage, we also provide them with recycled paper. We are probably the only other company globally to provide recycled tissue for food preparation areas. The waste we use is ‘waste 1’ where the trimmings of tissue reels are used and recycled.

Dhofar completes 10 years this May. What is your plan for the anniversary, and what is the future for the company?

For the 10th anniversary, we have planned three days of fun-filled activities. We want to celebrate the accomplishment with our colleagues, stakeholders and customers. Our team members have been our biggest strength; had it not been for their consistent effort, diligence and passion, we would not have established three offices in the GCC region, an ever-expanding portfolio, and stable position in the market. And, of course, our Chairman, Dr. Amer Al Rawas has supported us in our growth, giving us the freedom to look at higher avenues and grow beyond our core industry. We would also like to extend our sincere gratitude to the Management Team who has been a strong driving force for our success and achievement in the last one decade.

In terms of our future, by 2030, we are looking at expanding beyond the GCC region into South East Asia, the rest of the Middle East, and Africa. The bigger aim is to achieve a turnoverof a half a billion figure by 2019-2020.