2018 will be better than 'unpredictable 2017' says Henkel's MENA head

Erdem Kocak, Regional Vice President at German Chemical Goods conglomerate Henkel explains why although 2017 was challenging, the year ahead bodes well
Erdem Kocak, Regional Vice President at German Chemical Goods conglomerate Henkel
By Jeremy Lawrence
Wed 30 May 2018 06:26 AM

What were your toughest challenges of the past 12 months?

Last year was unpredictable. We saw many challenges, several regulatory changes across the region, and relatively slow economic growth. However, since agility is a part of our DNA, we were well-prepared to face these challenges. We have a rich “know-how library”, which has been developed over our many years of experience and these learnings have guided us during pressing times to stay strong and succeed.

Despite these challenges where did you find cause to celebrate in 2017?

Our company is 141 years old and thanks to that, we have a long and varied history. Challenges have shaped our company culture, and for more than a century have translated business opportunities into success stories. This is why, in the MEA, we hold top positions with our different businesses, categories and industry segments.

For example, last year, in the laundry and home care segment, with strong and attractive brands such as Persil, we leveraged our capacity for innovation through our regional Innovation Center based in Dubai. With a genuine innovation hub for the region, we develop uniquely engineered sustainable products, and our choice paid off in 2017 when a number of our brands were awarded “product of the year” awards by various organisations.

Our aim is to become more customer-focused, more innovative, agile and certainly more digital. In addition, we aim to promote sustainability in all our business activities”

With regards to our beauty care business at Henkel GCC, we brought in an international network of quality hair education facilities called “ASK Academy”. Our Beauty Care division’s academy in Dubai, by Schwarzkopf Professional, aims to bring a new customer experience to build capabilities and knowledge while creating trends. Through this customer and consumer proximity approach alongside with advancing digitalisation we invest in tomorrow’s successes.

We also further leveraged digitalisation in the beauty care business in GCC with an online brand store. Last but not least, we successfully integrated the Pert brand of shampoo into our business in 2017, with the acquisition already yielding positive results.

What are your goals for 2018?

Our aim is to become more customer-focused, more innovative, agile and certainly more digital. In addition, we aim to promote sustainability in all our business activities.

In the coming year, we would also like to achieve a more superior customer and consumer engagement level. We aim to do so by introducing multiple levels of interaction. Additionally, we want to capture growth opportunities by addressing the needs of specific target groups and ultimately offer our consumers a unique experience. Exciting innovation is also an integral part of Henkel’s offerings, and in the coming year we want to get more wins in this area.

Lastly, on the digital front, we plan to digitize interactions with customers, consumers, business partners and suppliers. This will be made possible by exploring engagement through omni-channel offerings and e-commerce platforms. In 2018 we certainly aim to expand the use of the digital sphere.

Building partnerships Henkel launches its international education initiative, ‘’Forscherwelt” (Researchers’ World) in the UAE

What do you think will be your biggest challenges of the year?

Our biggest challenge in the coming year would be to address changes in consumer buying habits. We can do this further digitising our communication channels and services. This will certainly require us to enhance capabilities of our current employees, which will then require the organization to expand its digital training and development programs. And with the introduction of VAT, of course we are making sure we are completely VAT compliant.

What would your advice be for budding entrepreneurs looking to start a business in 2018?

I’d suggest budding entrepreneurs need to consider three key factors: First is customer proximity. It is very important to assess your target customers and understand their current needs to stay relevant.

Second, you have to create a unique identity for yourself. Your customers must always be able to tell you apart from your competition.

And lastly, patience and persistence are the path to success. Every person meets obstacles on the way, but only those who don’t let the obstacles discourage them, and who have faith in their vision, will succeed.

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Last Updated: Wed 30 May 2018 11:13 AM GST

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