The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is awash with opportunities for forward-thinking construction companies and their suppliers.
Following the economic slowdown of a decade ago, operators in the region’s construction industry and supply chain are observing a stabilisation of the market thanks to an improving financial picture, driven in part by recovering commodity prices.
Fletcher Building Roof Tile Group (RTG) is one such observer. A regional division of the New Zealand building giant, the unit delivers roofing solutions through three brands – Decra, Gerard and Fortiza.
In charge of growing brand awareness and facilitating innovation of Fletcher Building RTG’s product portfolio further is Lamjed Kefi, Managing Director Middle East and Africa.
Having worked out of the Middle East since 2007 for two construction multinationals, Kefi says that the investment climate is improving, and that Fletcher Building RTG is well-placed to take advantage and supply this demand.
“We see stability coming and that economic improvement can benefit our business,” he explains. “We need to realise that the Africa-Middle East region is a large one, and that by 2030 around 25% of the world’s population will live in this part of the world. There will be a big housing deficit and that is a huge opportunity.”
Kefi also points to the wider Fletcher Group’s formidable history and reputation in the sector, something which will stand it in good stead when looking to expand into new markets. The Kiwi corporation can be traced back to the early 1900s, and over the course of the last century has developed into a multi-billion-dollar multinational.
A standout portfolio
Fletcher Building Roof Tile Group manufacturers solutions under its three brands from plants in Asia, Europe, the US and New Zealand, and pioneered in the first metal roofing tile in 1957, a formula which defines the company’s products today.
It is this characteristic that enables it to provide a massive 50-year warranty to customers, with tiles able to withstand the harshest of environments, from extreme heat to Arctic cold. A durable base coat and layer bonding also ensure these tiles can withstand being chipped or strained, making sure the important 100% coverage remains.
“When I found out about the warranty before I joined it said to me ‘wow this is a very special product’,” Kefi says. “It also said that this was a special company that commits to home owners and customers.”
Another key characteristic of Fletcher Building RTG’s portfolio is that it covers a wide range of price points which can cater to various budgets and specifications. This ability to be competitive is underpinned by an efficient manufacturing and transportation operation.
Kefi explains: “The lightweight products we have are up to seven or eight times lighter than our competitors, which allows us to transport goods very economically from the likes of New Zealand. Not only does this keep our cost down, but lighter tiles also save on the structural elements of the house or building.”
Further, energy efficiency qualities also help to make Decra, Gerard and Fortiza roofing solutions economically sound.
“They are 100% recyclable,” Kefi states. “The material is thin and light so that means it cools down quicker during the evenings than clay or stone tiles, which radiate heat through the night and results in higher energy consumption.”
Based in Dubai, Kefi cites significant construction projects in the emirate that Fletcher Building RTG has supplied through the decades, the most notable being Jebel Ali Village and several landmark hotels such as Jumeriah Beach and Murooj Rotana. It also provided roofing solutions for the Dubai Mall.
In order to keep securing significant building projects, innovating a fresh offering and differentiating from competitors will be crucial to Kefi and his team.
From diversifying colour palettes to developing an authentic slate-style tile, Fletcher Building RTG is constantly seeking to offer something new to existing and prospective customers.
“We are able to have a profile which has the same look and feel,” Kefi says, “and that gives our customer the option of a lightweight product but with the beauty and look of slate. That's one of the inventions we have worked. Of course, we keep on inventing and making the system more user friendly and easy to install, using tooling which is more friendly and safer for installers.”
Beyond reformulating products, Kefi also explains how the business has introduced more innovative ways of marketing and reaching out to its customers in the first place.
“We are very active on social media and try to reach out to the end users to make them aware of our product, our advantages and what it is giving to them,” he adds. “We want them to use our products and let them experience the durability, the warrantee, the cost saving they'll have in the long term and in the short term because of the installation cost.
“We have already built up a very high brand equity in the region. We are the largest branded metal rooftile supplier, and that is in part due to what we have invested in marketing, not only online but also on billboards, at trade shows and on TV and radio spots.”
Receiving feedback from these customers is equally as important to Kefi, who highlights how communication with distributors is vital in ensuring that comments make their way back to decision makers at Fletcher Building RTG.
“We have set up training programmes to train professional and approved installers for our products and these guys are constantly on the road installing our roofs,” he continues. “They come up with very valuable feedback on what they experience, how they experience it, especially when we launch new products.”
A partner-powered future
Looking ahead, as well as growing its presence across the MEA region, Kefi and his division may explore the possibility of moving production closer to its key markets.
“Bringing some production locally should have a significant cost advantage, but it is not likely at this stage,” he explains. “We always revaluate these options and it might be possible in the future that we do this.”
Whether relocating production closer to customers or simply expanding the Decra, Gerard and Fortiza brands in MEA markets, utilising local partners is and will continue to be paramount.
“Local distributors and agents have that knowledge of the market, rules and regulations that we need in order to be successful,” Kefi says. “Furthermore, we are cooperating with the New Zealand Trade Organization who is helping us a higher level. We hear more about trends and what's going on, on a political level, about the currency available in the region as well.
“This knowledge will help us deliver our key priorities of reinforcing our presence and differentiating from the competition.”