CROWN PAINTS PLC
As the Business Monthly EA team sat down in readiness to interview Crown Paints PLC Group CEO Dr Rakesh Rao, we were delighted to find out that he serves as Board Chairman of The Art of Living, an educational and humanitarian foundation engaged in stress-management and service initiatives.
“The tongue has no bone, but it can break and still build many,” Dr Rao states, as he explains the need to not only connect people, dignifying their work in the process, but also to give ownership by delegation: vital ingredients in the development of a successful leader.
It is with this mentality that Dr Rakesh has been able to grow Crown Paints into the people-first, planet-focused and extremely profitable company it is today, having joined the group in 2005. In charge of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, Dr Rao steers the strategic direction of Crown Paints, including new product optimization and market share growth.
While most CEOs would begin by discussing the financial aspect of their businesses, Dr Rakesh immediately delves into the work he does for the painters- a core driver of Crown Paints’ business. From specialised training, to the provision of smart equipment, to their individual welfare, Dr Rao has created a painters fraternity.
For instance, Crown Paints has invested in an array of smart painting tools that increase efficiency and quality. Instead of the traditional paint brush, devices like the airless spray gun, jet sprayer and automatic paint roller are utilised, on both large and small surfaces. These tools are portable, easy-to-use and result in an even finish.
Intensive training programs have been initiated to guide painters on the accurate use of this smart equipment. The tools enable the painters to cover more surface areas than they normally would, leading to meeting deadlines and increasing productivity all-round.
What’s more, Crown Paints has instituted a Painters’ Loyalty Program dubbed ‘Paka Rangi, Pata Pesa’, that operates as a SACCO, to help painters save for both their individual and familial needs. The program includes an online points system, where points are digitally earned and exchanged for foodstuff (in partnership with Naivas Supermarkets) as well as being used to pay towards utility bills such as electricity. The loyalty program is instrumental in motivating the painters as they work, giving them peace of mind and contributing to their personal development.
Crown Paints maintains a conducive and collegial working environment, where all employees are made to feel as equals while being part of a team with structured leadership. Dr Rakesh goes on to mention that during company meetings, everyone’s opinion is taken into consideration, giving a true sense of ownership, including in its successes. “Prosperity of the organisation is dependent on prosperity of the workforce,” he adds.
In favour of gender, diversity and inclusivity, women constitute over 60% of the nearly 1,200 direct employees, including senior management, distributed all over the region.
Through his leadership model of coaching, mentoring and empowering the workforce, Dr Rakesh is fondly referred to as the ‘Father of the Company’. Employees are consulted in the decision-making process, including business development as well as in discussion of issues on their welfare. Dr Rao goes on to explain that the necessary resources are released to the staff, in order to achieve set goals. Additionally, appropriate delegation is accorded to each employee, depending on the levels of their responsibility.
Crown Paints has embraced a green initiative, both in terms of the company operations as well as the manufacture of products. The entire firm operates on a solar energy system, using only solar-powered LED bulbs for lighting. Water harvesting is a regular practice at the company. Crown Paints produces lead-free, non-volatile organic chemical (non-VOC) paints that have no smell and are friendly to the environment.
A National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)-approved waste system (machinery-run) is utilised to get rid of any unused paints, staying true to the United Nations 15th Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG #15).
Dr Rao describes Crown Paints as a lifestyle product. From different aesthetically-pleasing finishes, such as textile, matte and metallic, to durability, the paints are of top-notch quality and appeal. Established in 1958, Crown Paints has an impressive 65% market share. Today, the paint company is valued at $3.5 billion, with an annual turnover of $90 million. Since taking up the helm in 2005, Dr Rao has increased annual sales revenue from $10 million to $100 million. He has overseen the entry of Crown Paints in Uganda under the name Regal Paints, and as Crown Paints in Tanzania and Rwanda.Over the last 18 years, Dr Rakesh has amplified Crown Paints production capacity from 5 million litres to 45 million litres. One of the ways he has achieved this is by propelling 17 new products into the market. Technologically, Dr Rao launched the first ever digital platforms for home decor in East Africa, including mobile applications such as the Crown Colour App.
Having started at Mitsubishi, a Japanese company, Dr Rakesh was inspired by the people-centric Japanese culture. “A true leader is measured by how they treat their staff: to encourage, to inspire and in turn, to make them feel honoured,” he states. A fair and humble leader, Dr Rakesh listens to his employees’ concerns and often jointly finds solutions to problems. He is a hands-on man, constantly going on the ground to review how Crown Paints products are moving: what’s doing well versus what’s not doing so well. “It’s important to do work on the ground, see what’s really happening,” he adds.
Dr Rao is a proud father of two sons, and is passionate about his parenting role. He is a 17 handicap golfer, and enjoys the game as a form of networking and serves as a stress reliever. From the peace of mind Dr Rao derives by being pleasant, coupled with his passion for reciprocity in the workplace, Crown Paints has positioned itself as a top socially responsible corporate and undisputed premium brand.