"Now innovation is no longer just about products but about logistics and business relationships. The industry is reinventing itself."
To what extent did you notice prices increase in the paint and coatings sector in 2021 due to a lack of raw materials, and what measures did Kemikals take to mitigate this challenge?
There was not been a single product that did not suffer more than one increase throughout 2021, a year that was characterized by uncertainty. At first, we believed that this would last three months maximum, that by July, prices would have deflated, but they got even higher. Transportation, logistics, raw materials, everything had severe increases by double-digit percentages.
To mitigate this challenge we have returned to the basic values of Kemikals. Our mission and reason for being have always been service. All crises are opportunities and this has brought positive impacts. All companies talk about service, but it is now that you see who has a vocation, who made an effort to increase their inventory, and who were loyal to their customers. We protect our customers as much as humanly possible in these atypical situations, communicating honestly with them. If we are not going to be able to provide a product or we do not know at what price, we tell them and try to solve it together.
I think that has been a success story for us at the end of 2021. As a summary of the year, our clients would say that Kemikals protected us, defended us and worked with us.
Can you explain how the company's technical laboratories add value to clients?
We have developed an increasingly professional laboratory. Among distributors, there are many different business models, but Kemikals went a step further by catering to customers’ needs not only from a commercial and logistical point of view but also from a technical standpoint. There was a shortage of many materials in 2021, so our labs have been an added value because we can offer alternative solutions with a series of in-house evaluations that allow us to recommend a product, explaining its pros and cons and whether it would be viable.
Can you elaborate on Kemikal's slogan, ‘We are committed to sustainable innovation’?
We are not manufacturers; we are distributors and representatives of many lines. Our commitment has always been to represent and distribute for companies with all the sustainability certifications such as ISO 14000. It is important that behind us are companies committed to sustainability and our job is to represent them and demonstrate that we are going in that same direction.
This slogan was developed three years ago when the world was different, since when we have brought up new lines and thought of new VOC-free products. We have continued to keep pushing these products, but in the current market conditions, customers will buy whatever is available to avoid stopping production. The trend of looking for increasingly greener products switched to survival mode. Now innovation is no longer just about products but about logistics and business relationships. The industry is reinventing itself.
Which trends did you notice in the chemical distribution market in 2021?
International consolidation is a trend that we continue to see among the largest distributors. It is not something Kemikal’s currently has planned, but if at any point this decision would add value for our customers, shareholders and suppliers, of course we would make it. What we seek is to improve our value-added ideology. The supply chain crisis brought distributors to the forefront and reminded people of our value. Previously there was a trend used to try and skip us and buy directly to maybe get better prices. However, now there are clients who wish they had known us before to leverage market knowledge and strategize together to optimize the supply chain.
What would you like to achieve with Kemikals by the end of 2022?
We would like to continue with our line of growth and consolidation and to be perceived more as a business partner. We hope that by December 2022 the waters have calmed and we can see the future with a bit more certainty and with recognition earned from customers and suppliers during this challenging time. If in bad times we were together and we got ahead, in good times the relationship can be even better.