Dimitri Propp, Director of Marketing Group KNAUF in Central Asia, answers the questions of The Kazakhstan magazine.
What sort of company is Knauf in global terms? What ate the major directions of the company activities?
The Knauf international group is one of the most successful and non numerous examples of the companies that operating worldwide have managed to keep committed to the traditional family values. Knauf is one of the world’s leading building materials manufacturers, which has the network of more than 150 productions worldwide. Knauf international group accounts for about 23 thousand employees in more than 40 countries. The major directions of the company activities are innovative interior and exterior solutions and heat and sound insulation, providing high efficiency in the construction and exploitation.
How do Knauf and, first of all, Knauf Gyps Kapchagai develop their business in Kazakhstan?
Knauf Gyps Kapchagai is the enterprise set up with the participation of DEG (German Investment Corporatin). This recently established production was set up on the basis of the gypsum plasterboard producing plant at the Zarechny settlement in Almaty region. For three and a half years Knauf and DEG have invested 25 million Euros in the reconstruction of the given enterprise. As a matter of fact, they erected a new plant.
The grand opening of the plant, engaged in manufacturing of Knauf plasterboards and metal sections took place in November of 2004. The launch of a new line for manufacturing of building compounds in January of 2009 added to diversification of the product assortment. Today, Knauf Gyps Kapchagai is a largest manufacturer of gypsum plasterboards in Central Asian region. The consumers are offered the products of new quality that makes construction and repair of buildings and structures an easy process.
How do you position the Knauf brand name in the Kazakhstan market? What are the main competitive advantages of your products?
The Knauf brand name is well known in Kazakhstan. The local consumers are offered the products of traditional super quality and well thought-out solutions that create the comfort conditions for the life and work, safe to people’s health and the environment. Knauf is committed to its responsible attitude to the society and nature. Throughout the entire process of manufacturing, including the production and processing of minerals used as a source raw material, Knauf applies the most efficient energy saving technologies, striving not to cause any harm to the environment.
We aspire to be close to the customer, to provide the optimum terms of supply, to pay attention to the market demand and to offer innovative products. I would like to emphasize that we pay special attention to the quality of products produced, which is distinguished as high both in the European market and in Kazakhstan, and to the efficiency of use of our materials, including the economic efficiency.
What are the specifics and current trends of the building material market development in Kazakhstan? What factors are the key ones for further expansion of your company’s share in the market?
The building material market in Kazakhstan expands gradually that meets the condition of the economy in general. At the same time, despite the increase in real income of population in the republic, today people become more saving money than spending them. Besides, the Kazakhstan’s government is implementing the program of construction of residential buildings for lease and the 100 Schools and 100 Hospitals Program that also implies the economic spending of budget funds. Thus, strategically, Knauf is aimed at the manufacturing of products for the needs of the local market, including products of economic class.
We hope that the measures the government takes to increase the local content share in the national projects will contribute to the increased sales of Knauf products in the Kazakhstan market.
What role do Knauf training programs play to increase qualification of Kazakhstani builders?
There are two training centers hosted by Knauf in Kazakhstan. One of them, located at the plant in Kapchagai, was the Knauf pioneering project in Kazakhstan, launched as early as in 2003. The second training center was created at the Kazakh Main Architecture and Building Academy (KMABA) in Almaty. 3,623 builders and dealers total were trained during this time. At the KMABA, we have a permanently operating Knauf exhibition. Recently, we reached an arrangement that we will create and equip a Knauf lecture hall and will introduce a specialization in the training course.
Besides, we opened two Resource Centers, where we also provide knowledge in Knauf materials and technologies. One of them operates on the basis of Professional College #10 in Almaty, the other on the basis of the Polytechnic College in the capital city of Astana.
With the help of Knauf, two working specialties were launched in Kazakhstan. The latter one is the framed structures worker – this specialty was approved by the state agencies in December of 2009. In aggregate, at present 718 students are studying the Knauf technology in educational institutions of Kazakhstan. Our company was the sponsor of Kazakhstan student teams in international contests in professional skills for three times. At the contest held in December of last year in Novokuznetsk, Russia, the Kazakhstan team took a third place.
It is worthy of noting that the Knauf Training Centre in Kapchagai supervises the work of all the Knauf training centers that training in Knauf technologies in Central Asia, and this implies the relevant training courses in institutions of higher education in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and in professional colleges related to the area of construction in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Of course, all these measures require considerable financial contribution from Knauf. Along with that, this contributes to the development of up-to-date construction and furnishing technologies. Thus, this is advantageous to everyone: the Kazakhstani society that will be able to live and work in pleasant and comfortable buildings, the state that will receive more taxes from the highly-skilled professionals rather than non-skilled ones, and the Knauf Company. This is because the up-to-date technologies and materials market development generates extra demand for these technologies and materials and increases the satisfaction of the ultimate consumers with the result of work.
Will you tell us about the social and charitable projects of the company? What sort of contribution does it made in the development of the Kapchagai town and Almaty region?
Knauf always participates in the social life of the regions where the company has its subsidiaries; this is part of our corporate policy. The charitable fund is formed annually. In 2009, we provided charity to the Rehabilitation Center of Public Fund Umit Ui for children and teenagers that released from jail, to Corporate Fund Kamkor which addresses help to the physically challenged children and children with limited capabilities, to Women’s Association Asyl Arman which provides help in social and psychological adaptation of the youth and protects women from violence, to Fund SOS Children’s Village, where children-orphans live in specially created villages in Kazakhstan. This list can be continued.
Moreover, Knauf Gyps Kapchagai finances the annual celebration of the Nauryz holiday (the New Year by the Eastern calendar) in the Zarechny settlement. We have other projects of cooperation with the local executive bodies.
What are the further plans of Knauf in Kazakhstan? What sort of new investment projects are scheduled for implementation?
The world economic recession resulted in considerable limitation of potential investments. From 2007 the construction activity in Kazakhstan and some other Central Asian states has reduced greatly, although we observe a certain brisking of the market. Despite all these constraining factors, Knauf continues its investment activity. In 2010, we are planning to start construction of a new plant for production of cement-based dry building compounds in the Inderborsky settlement in Atyrau region. This is quite a large project – the amount of investments in it is expected at 1.5 million Euros.