Nepali Times: What is Nepal's paints market like?
Soumitra Roy: The total market for paints is over Rs 900 million and Asian Paints' share of that is approximately 33 percent. Our clients range from the general public to big housing complexes to offices.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Paints require a large number of raw materials, and for an international standard paint you need many additives. If there is a shortage of any one, the product suffers. For the last 25 days, the Birganj border has been closed-and this has happened regularly over the last few years-which means we often run out of raw materials.
Countries such as Singapore and the US have stringent laws about discarding paints past their expiration date, but often they are sold to India and Nepal at a cheap rate, pretty much making us their dumping ground. Many importers bring in these products to repack and sell. They are fooling the customers. In fact, it is easy to identify these products-they will have no maximum retail price, be missing the dates of manufacture and expiry, and be cheap.
Another issue is under-invoicing of the finished goods of other companies that come from India or other countries. Most shops in border areas sell these products at a cheaper price, without customs or duties added on. Asian Paints is not licensed to import finished products-we bring in raw materials and manufacture the paints right here at our factory in Hetauda.
You mentioned a new product, Apex Ultima. How is it different from the range you've marketed so far?
Apex Ultima is meant for exterior surfaces, and this is the first time any paint company has offered a seven-year warranty on certain criteria of product use, such as fading (due to ultra violet rays) and flaking, and a five-year warranty on fungus, provided they follow standard instructions. We use high quality chemicals resistant to UV rays and fungus, and issue warranty certificates to our customers along with the bill.
It's a diminishing value warranty-if you face problems with the paint during the first year, we offer a free repainting-the customer does not have to pay for paint or labour. From 13 months on, we bear 80 percent of the cost of repainting, and that drops with time because the customer has already made use of our paint for a certain period of time without any problems. The idea is that while paint is expensive, the labour charge is even more so, so the longer the paint lasts, the more you get out of the paint. Apex Ultima paints cost more than others, but in this case, expensive does mean better quality, because we give value for money.
What are Asian Paints Nepal\'s future plans?
Next month we're launching a new product, the Asian Exterior Patti, a product to smooth exterior walls and protect the plaster, the exterior paint is applied on top of this. Apart from that, we've been in Nepal for the last 23 years and will be here for a long time to come. We will expand, reach out to customers, and offer the best products.