Innovation as Catalyst for Repositioning the Building Industry


As part of a strategy to expand its global market share of the Saint-Gobain brand, its promoters have raised salient issues on innovation and creativity and charged experts in the building industry on new technologies. Raheem Akingbolu writes



 What have innovation and creativity have to do with the building industry? Are there rooms for expansion in the nation’s building market and what are the challenges currently facing stakeholders in the industry? These are some of the questions that were answered recently at a one-day workshop themed ‘Creating Great Living Spaces: Innovative Solutions for Greater Wellbeing’ organised for stakeholders in the building industry by the management of Saint-Gobain, in Lagos. The company, a leader in the habitat and construction markets, had ride on the platform to announce its expansion plan in Nigeria.

The workshop was packaged to showcase Saint-Gobain’s innovative products with a demonstration of the techniques of mounting and finishing plasterboards from start to finish. This is an alternative to current building methods, bringing thermal, acoustic, fire resistance and aesthetic comfort, as well as easiness of installation. The occasion provided a unique opportunity for the company to interact with members of various professional bodies who make use of their products and seek better ways to meet their ever growing needs.

At the workshop, which was attended by professional bodies that included Architects, Civil Engineers, installers and major distributors, Saint-Gobain Product Manager, Heidi Olivier, admitted that Nigeria market is a major destination for brands that want to excel in Africa.

According to her, “Nigeria is no doubt the biggest market in sub-Saharan Africa, and as such we are happy to be here to expand our business scope in partnership with our major distributor of Gyproc plasterboards in the country. The whole idea of this workshop is to bring together various professionals who use our products and service in the course of doing their jobs and to also bring them up to speed with our latest offering in the market.”

She further stated that Saint-Gobain has made a name for itself in the industry with the production of high quality plasterboards which are second to none in the industry, pointing out that the achievement has earned the brand a lot of recognition globally.


Significance of the brand’s arrival

After being in existence for 352 years, with spread in many countries of the world, many wondered why it took the company this long to explore the Nigerian market. Beyond this, questions were also raised on the timing of the company’s final arrival, considering the current economic situation. But according its regional director, Westtar Kapito, the company believes in the country despite the recession. He also pointed out that its products were not entirely knew in Nigeria as the company had in the past worked with notable distributors to handle some projects in Nigeria.

He said: “For us we have always believed in the Nigerian market despite the recession. We believe in the economy, the people and resurgence of the Nigerian market. That is why we have decided to make substantial investment in the Nigerian market. We have been working with our partners because we believe in what we can bring into this market. More importantly, I think the timing couldn’t have been any better. For us, we have upbeat appetite for Africa, and Nigeria seems to be one of those countries where we just have to be present. Should we have done this five, ten years ago? Perhaps ! But this is the right time.’’

Meanwhile, to cross section of professionals, who attended the workshop, the coming of Saint-Gobain into Nigeria with its modern innovative technology in the making of plasterboards and other construction materials would be of immense benefits not just to stakeholders but the entire construction sector which they believed to be in dire need of innovative technologies to drive the industry.

“Consumers can be rest assured that Saint-Gobain’s range of products would offer them a new value chain in the long run. This global company is reputed for contributing to the development of sub-Saharan Africa in offering an array of its products and services. Saint-Gobain’s range of products has become part of everyday living, making up public and private buildings, transportation system, massive infrastructure and most industrial hubs around the world. Their products and activity scope include; plasterboards systems, building plasters, industrial plasters, gypsum ceilings and mineral wool & metal ceiling, mortars, insulation, pipe systems, glass, and abrasives,’’ Ayo Akinyemi, a civil engineer and participant said.


Attesting to the expertise of Saint-Gobain, another expert at the workshop and the Executive Director at Avalon Intercontinental, owners of Renaissance hotel, Ahmed Tajudeen, said: “It was indeed a great experience having Saint-Gobain as part of the finishing of the hotel, which today stands tall as one of the best in Lagos. As a matter of fact, the company helped in designing and also provided an installation team for all materials required including gypsum boards, walls, ceilings, cross and main tee, insulation, finishing solutions, flooring solutions. Saint-Gobain brought specific solutions matching our needs: standard regular boards (ceilings), firestop boards (corridor walls and bedrooms), moisture resistant boards for wet areas (bathroom and kitchen walls), glass wool insulation for acoustic performance in walls and ceilings. In the course of the project they actually flew some of their personnel all the way from South Africa to train our men in Nigeria, which for me is quite remarkable. It will interest you to note, that Saint-Gobain supplied virtually everything from the kitchen finishing, to the bathroom down to the nails. It is on that ground that I highly recommend Saint-Gobain brand to everyone.”

Earlier, Kapito had said that the company had come a long way in mastering the art of designing high quality plasterboards to suit all categories of customers. He said for the moment, the company’s focus in Africa was to provide innovative solutions.

“We are not talking about finishing and smoothening; we’re talking about providing walls and well being. These walls have characteristics that make them fit in a living space. We want to emphasise that we are not providing products only, there’s a destination for our solutions in all aspects of construction. We are not pretending that we are going to make everybody’s life better, but we think that through those innovations, we can provide more comfort in terms of fire protection, aesthetics and air quality.

He concluded that products coming from the stable were reliably made with the finest raw materials one can get anywhere in the world, adding that they could indeed stand the test of time. To this end, Kapito said the company was in Nigeria to replicate what it had achieved in other markets.

Meanwhile, over the years, Saint-Gobain was said to have built a reputation for itself creating a unique positioning through its industrial and distribution expertise which has been brought to the fore, as well as up scaling its research effort in the area of materials and energy efficiency. The company was also said to have mastered the art of creating a network of professionals using its existing distribution network team across the world.

It was indeed an eye opener for participants who attended the event to the various areas of business opportunities that abound in the industry, as well as equipped them with the processes involved in making plasterboards and the distribution networks available in the country and how to locate them.

Saint-Gobain is in partnership with Tormek Global Services limited, a major dealer in Gyproc plasterboard in Nigeria, with a showroom in Lagos. Before the end of the year the company has promised to hold yet another event basically for installers to bring them on board. It has also been announced that plans are already underway to open a customer experience centre in Lagos.