Nippon Paint, the fourth-largest paint company in the world, is looking to expand its footprint and grow in new territories. The company, which has a strong presence in Southeast Aisa and India, is eyeing growth organically and via acquisitions in West Asia and Africa.  

Sharad Malhotra, President, Nippon Paint (India) & Senior VP, NIPSEA Group, and Alpansh Sharma, General Manager, Nippon Paint Middle East FZE, elaborate on their plans and targets in this exclusive interview. Edited excerpts: 


Nippon Paints was looking to expand to Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia in 2022. How have the plans panned out? 

  Sharad Malhotra: We are already quite strong in Southeast Asia, and we are still expanding there. In fact, a couple of acquisitions which are being planned in the coming few months are all in Southeast Asia and India. In this region, our organic business is also growing very well -- it’s like our home turf. So, we are very comfortable in that market, and we have deep roots in that market. Australia has been a very interesting start-up for us, and we hope that in the coming days we will expand our business there. We started our automotive aftermarket business in 2016, and today we are becoming a force there.  

Africa is the new kid on the block, as far as we are concerned. We hope to have our first subsidiary in Africa up and running by next month. We started an export business to Kenya last year, and we have expanded that business this year. Now, we will be setting up our own fully owned subsidiary in Kenya by the end of this year. 


What are your plans for the African continent? 

Sharad Malhotra: We are trying to study the market. Africa is not one market -- it is 55 countries. It has a lot of different markets, different buying behaviours, different consumption patterns. I was in Kenya a couple of months ago, the buying behaviour, product consumption and application of the product are quite different from Asia. So, it’s a lot of reworking in terms of the education and it also involves revisiting the product technology. 


The company is focusing on West Asia right now. What’s the outlook for the region?

Alpansh Sharma: The car market is a fancied market across the UAE and the Middle East. All the major OEMs from across the world are present here and the markets are also going up after the Covid pandemic. So, for us, it’s a battlefield and we are very positive to get into this Middle East market. We are also getting a positive response from them (at the Automechanika event). We have grown the business rapidly (since 2021). We are heading to achieve at least 20 per cent market share by 2025. So that’s a milestone for us. 


What are some of the challenges you faced here in West Asia? 

Alpansh Sharma: We don’t have the manufacturing unit here, so I’m dependent on the supply chain. The effective supply chain is pretty much perfect here in UAE, so, I think it’s been pretty smooth.


The company had previously announced that it is in the process of setting up a factory in Sharjah in the UAE. What is the status of the factory? 

Sharad Malhotra: We have a free zone company in Sharjah, where we also have a warehouse in Sharjah. We are talking to a partner, potential partner in Sharjah, who is planning to construct a factory for us. That’s not going to be a Nippon Paint-owned entity. It’s a facility which has been created for Nippon Paint by one of our strategic partners.

Alpansh Sharma: It will have an impact on one the service time and it will also help reduce costs. 


What are the plans to grow the business in the near- and long-term? 

Sharad Malhotra: We aspire to be a larger player (in the space). For that to happen, we need to look at a combination of organic growth and inorganic growth. As far as inorganic growth is concerned, we have in the last few years done very successful acquisitions, whether in Australia or in Turkey or in the US or in France or many other countries as well. While we have subsidiaries -- like our Middle East subsidiary, which are growing rapidly -- we’re also looking at the inorganic growth opportunities.  We’re also looking at two or three acquisitions in India in the next one year. So, there’s a lot of focus on medium, small and large acquisitions as well. 


The company targeted to get 20 per cent market share in the aftermarket segment by 2024 in India. Is the company on track to meet this target?

Sharad Malhotra: We are growing quite rapidly, but we are not at that market share level at the moment. But anyway, the point here is that in India the market is quite large and the way we look at the market is also in a very larger way. We’re looking at allied businesses, businesses which are using automotive products but not for automotive use.  So, when we add that up, the market is around ₹3,000 crore. Our business in India is about 10 to 12 per cent market share, in India for the automotive aftermarket. We definitely would like to double that in the next 2 to 3 years. 


How is the company achieving this goal? 

Sharad Malhotra: Expanding manufacturing capacities, expanding sales teams, launching new products, getting into mergers and acquisitions -- anything and everything that we need to do, we are doing. We are doing more collaborations as well. So while our business is not that OEM-heavy, but they do play a large role in growing and developing the business. We do work with them for their aftermarket customers as well. For the aftermarket in India, the big customers for us in the aftermarket are OEMs like Suzuki and Tata Motors. They are some of the bigger ones that we have large customers of the commercial vehicle space as well. There are multiple customers, not just the OEMs, but also the independent aftermarket players and investors. 

(The reporter was invited to attend the Automechanika 2023 trade fair by Nippon Paint India – Automotive division.)