The stage was all set for Kansai Nerolac Paints Bangladesh, as it was annually growing at 25 per cent since acquiring majority stakes of another high-performing paint maker RAK Paints in 2018. Foolproof strategies were also in place to become the best in the business.
But suddenly the Covid-19 came to the scene and slowed the momentum.
The contagion started its run by hitting the revenue first and reducing the quarterly sales by almost a half, said Vishal N Mothreja, CEO of Kansai Nerolac Paints Bangladesh.
Thanks to the strong management, however, the company stayed afloat, said the Indian, who joined the Bangladesh chapter of Kansai Nerolac with over 22 years' experience in the paint industry.
The pandemic caused an economic trauma and showed how poorly prepared the country as well the world was to fight a disease, he told The Daily Star during an interview last week.
All but fast-moving consumer goods, food and hygiene products-related industries remained closed from the end of March to mid-May, when the demand for paint fell sharply, he said.
"We were actually doing really great before the Covid-19 outbreak. But the pandemic caused a complete pause in the whole supply chain."
All of a sudden, there was none to offer any paint job to the painters, the frontline soldiers of the paint industry, he said.
People's intention to avoid being infected with the microscopic virus by postponing all kinds of paint jobs eventually dented the financial health of all paint makers, he said.
However, Kansai Nerolac Paints Bangladesh, which originated from the world's eighth largest paint manufacturer Kansai Paint of Japan with operations in 80 countries in Asia, Europe, America and Africa, stood by its employees, painters and Bangladesh as a whole in the trying times.
The company extended donations to the painters who were the worst hit by the pandemic, said Mothreja.
"We didn't go for any job cut. Rather we kept paying salaries to our employees on time. Moreover, we also hired a few more to take care of our future range of products."
Moreover, the multinational paint producer joined the battlefield to kick the coronavirus out of Bangladesh with the launch of a countrywide safety awareness campaign in May, he said.
"We launched another campaign during the Eid-ul-Azha urging people to stay indoors and not to travel unless it's necessary in order to remain safe from the coronavirus."
"Kansai Bangladesh believes in the wellbeing of our stakeholders. We had given safety guidelines and safety kits to our employees and took all effective measures to ensure their safety."
Digital platforms became the medium to hold all external and sales meetings of the company, he said.
However, the sector started slowly recovering with the reopening of the economyin early July, from when Kansai Bangladesh once again started growing faster than its competitors, he said.
The demand for paint, the number of paint jobs and the overall sales figures all began increasing, he said.
During the two-month closure, the company worked on some marine products and launched the full range, including a few construction chemical products, just after the shutdown, he said.
"We shall be launching powder coating and adhesives in the next few months."
"All our earlier growth plans for Bangladesh have been a bit delayed due to this pandemic, but none has stopped," Mothreja said.
A 101-year-old company, Kansai Paint entered India by acquiring 75 per cent stakes in Nerolac in 1999. Today, it is the largest industrial paint and third largest decorative paint company of India.
Net sales of Kansai Paint, also a champion in automotive coatings, were up 6.33 per cent year-on-year to 427,425 million yen in fiscal 2017-18.
Kansai Paint forked out $7 million or Tk 57.26 crore to buy 55 per cent stake of RAK Paints through its Indian subsidiary Kansai Nerolac Paints.
In India, Kansai has introduced a unique technology paint called "Nerolac Excel Virus Guard" interior emulsion, he said.
Based on Japanese SHIQUY technology, the paint is 99.9 per cent effective against virus and bacteria and it also controls surrounding bad odour and humidity.
"We shall launch the same in Bangladesh soon."
At present, people are getting used to the "new normal". "It's a good thing."
"We do hope that the Covid-19 situation comes under control in the near future. However, one should also be prepared in case the situation holds out for long."
The focus of Kansai Bangladesh would be to ensure both the top-line and the bottom-line growth, he said.
The company has a range of decorative products under the Kansai Nerolac Paints umbrella, which have distinctive advantages for the consumers in terms of economics, aesthetics, health and hygiene, he said.
"We will be building on this range by adding a few more products under the Healthy Home Paints plank. We also would be looking towards consolidating our water proofing range."
The focus of Kansai in Bangladesh has always been on high performance coatings required for all the mega infrastructural projects, he said. "This shall help us in increasing our revenue."
To increase dealer-based sales, the company is focusing more on the "below the line" activities, as dealers and painters are key, he said.
The government should now think about launching a system for online transfer of customs duty, which would ensure faster release of goods from the ports, he said.
The government should now fulfil the long-pending demand of the paint makers – a waiver on supplementary duty, he said.
The minimum tax on sales should also be waived during this pandemic year for the sake of the return of the small and medium industries to normalcy, he said.