Chris Malthouse caught up with Laurent Nataf, recently appointed CEO & President Asia Pacific at Azelis, to discuss the company's plans for 2017 and its role in the region.

Q. What were the highlights for the company in Asia Pacific in 2016?
A. During the first part of the year, Azelis established legal entities with full import license in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, allowing us to cover the key economies in South East Asia. In those three countries,. we have hired qualified and enthusiastic sales managers, whose efforts are supported by four application laboratories. Alongside this, in order to better capture the growth of the region, we have changed the structure of the group creating a dedicated organisation in APAC, based out of Singapore. I moved there with my family in August to be closer to our team and to the market.


Q. Have the strategic organisational changes, announced in July 2016, already made a difference?
A. Definitely! With this new organisation we are better equipped to accelerate our growth in the region and it has been seen by all our stakeholders. Discussions with principals are happening on a daily basis, we are about to take on-board two significant mandates in the region and we are receiving many résumés of people willing to join and strengthen our team. It is widely known that we now have a stronger focus on the APAC region.

Q. Could you elaborate on Azelis' priorities in 2017 both generally and in the coatings sector?
A. In APAC, we will continue our geographical expansion and are planning to open new entities in the region. We intend to enter into many new distribution agreements with our key partners in EMEA and in America in order to complete our portfolio.
This is particularly relevant in the coatings sector where we want to build further on the first successes we have had in the region.

Q. Where would you say are the emerging markets in Asia Pacific over the next five years?
A. The biggest potential is coming from countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. A lot of Chinese, Korean and Japanese firms are investing heavily in those markets. Sectors like textiles: agrochemicals, food, PU foam are showing strong potential, as is building and construction. Apart from those countries, we are looking closely at the developments in India where speciality chemicals is expected to grow significantly and catch .up with China. The question here is more around the timeline, will it be five or 10 years?

Q. With the company covering so many different markets how big a part does coatings play?
A. Worldwide in Azelis, CASE (Coatings, Adhesives, Sealants, Elastomers) is our biggest market segment representing almost 25% of our sales. It is a strategic segment for the Group and we are investing in state-of-the-art application laboratories in order to support our development. We will explore our current partnerships and synergies inside Azelis, with the aim of bringing them into Asia Pacific in order to grow our business further in this fast-growing region.

Q. Who would you say are your main competitors in the coatings market in Asia Pacific?
A. We see the activity of the usual global players in this market, as Well as some regional players.

Q. What makes Azelis stand out from the rest?
A. We pride ourselves on the strong, long-lasting partnerships with our principals and customers alike that are based on mutual trust, transparency and pursuit of the highest operating standards. We invest significantly in our technical capabilities, as this is what truly makes or breaks players in the speciality chemical ingredients market. Principals increasingly value the formulation and application support we can offer to our customers in order to be able to grow their business in partnership.

Furthermore, it is of high importance to us to enable employee development, promoting life balance and well being and ensuring equal opportunity and diversity. We also focus on the effective management and a sustainable use of our resources so that-we can minimise the impacts of our activities on the environment. With a particular focus on excelling in these areas and ensuring we do business in a responsible and sustainable way, we believe. we are building a stronger business and set ourselves apart. In Azelis, we work hard because we know that the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary!

Q. What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages:of doing business in Asia compared to the rest of the world, both from a company and a personal point of view?
A. So far I can see only advantages. Working in a market that is developing and growing at such a pace is a fantastic, experience and opportunity both from a company and a persbnal point of view. •

Laurent Nataf, thank you very much.


Biography. Laurent Natal holds a Master's Degree in Engineering from the Engineering School of Industrial Chemistry of Lyon, France and an MBA from the Sorbonne Graduate Business School in Paris, France. In 2003 Nataf became Marketing and Sales Manager for Arnaud (founded in 1908 and merged with Italian company Novorchem to form Azelis in 2001). His initial responsibilities at Arnaud included intermediates, custom synthesis, formulation additives and active ingredients. He went on to assume the role of International Business Director Chemical Industries in 2008, assumed responsibility for Composites in 2010 and then took on overall responsibility for the Azelis Industrial Chemicals business. In 2012 Nataf was appointed Group Chief Operating Officer, a position he held until the recent appointment of CEO and President Asia Pacific in August 2016.


Written by Chris Malthouse. Article published in Asia Pacific Coatings Journal.