The Big 5 Show 2017, the largest construction materials exhibition in the Middle East, kicked off in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on November 26. Some 80-thousand buyers from the Middle East, Africa and Europe gathered at the event, which is considered a bridgehead in the construction market of the Gulf region. At the exhibition, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, commonly known as KOTRA, runs a booth where a number of small- and mid-sized Korean firms are showcasing their products. Among the companies, “Jin Gwang Industries” seeks to approach the Middle Eastern construction market over the longer term. Let’s hear from Kim Jang-ryeol, the head of the company known for its excellent solid surface adhesives.
I’ve run this company for the past 17 years since I registered the business on September 18, 2000. Prior to that, I worked at Samsung Engineering for 11 years and also at Cheil Industries for 12 years to deliver some materials to Samsung Electronics. For the last four and a half years before I quit the job, I served as the head of the construction materials department. I thought it would be very important to work for a long time, since Korea would become an aging society. So I decided to start my own business before it was too late.
Kim set up Jin Gwang Industries when he was 50 years old. After he studied chemical engineering at Yonsei University, he worked at Samsung Engineering and Cheil Industries Inc. By establishing his own company, he started his second life. From a long-term perspective, Kim looked for an item that would guarantee a promising future, rather than something popular at that time.
I turned my attention to solid surface adhesives, something related to what I had worked on while I was in charge of construction materials at Cheil Industries. I wondered what business item I should choose, having the next 20 to 30 years in mind. At the time, the adhesives business was not very lucrative and its size was rather small. But I focused on its potential as a global player. I believed it was a high value-added product, although sales might be small. I thought its potential would be enormous if I increased the sales and exported a large amount of the product overseas.
Natural marble is a first-rate construction material in terms of the exterior and texture. But it is hard to process the expensive, heavy material. On the other hand, artificial marble or solid surface is light, affordable and easy to process. Due to the advantages, solid surface has been used not only for interior decorations at ordinary homes but also for luxurious houses and the outer walls of famous buildings. With the solid surface market expanding, adhesives for construction use are also drawing attention. Kim learned about adhesives for solid surface while he was working at his previous company. At that time, the business was unprofitable due to the poor product quality. But he saw its great potential and began to make efforts to improve the quality. In October 2000, he was able to develop an innovative product.
In the past, there was only one type of adhesive, which was used all year round. Chemical reactions are slow when it is cold and quick when it is warm. Korea has distinctive seasons, so we have very hot summers and cold winters. Meanwhile the weather in the Middle East is very different from that of Russia. With exports in mind, I thought it would be necessary to make adhesives that would be suitable for different temperatures. So I developed different types of adhesives to be used exclusively in summer, winter, and spring and fall, and other types as well to match the users’ environment.
There was a time when the same type of solid surface adhesive was used, regardless of temperatures. But Jin Gwang Industries released the world’s first winter-use adhesive that works well even in a temperature of minus 15 degrees Celsius. The company continued to develop adhesives that would suit the various temperatures in different regions. One of the attention-grabbing products is the 100-percent acrylic, epoxy-based adhesive that is strong, quick-acting, and has a long shelf life. In line with diversifying solid surfaces, the company now has adhesives with some 1,200 different colors. In 2001, it registered its brand “ConfiAd” to make inroads into foreign markets.
The major foreign markets are the U.S., Russia and the Middle East. In the initial stage, there were six local manufacturers of solid surface adhesives and my company made up more than half of total sales in the domestic market. But we focused more on exploring overseas markets. During our heyday, we exported our products to 78 countries around the globe to become one of the top three brands in the world. In Iran, in particular, ConfiAd was once the most popular adhesive brand. It enjoyed great quality reviews and a high level of brand recognition in the Middle Eastern country.
“ConfiAd” is a combination of the words “confidence” and “admirable.” As the name suggests, the brand has come to represent reliable and high-quality products trusted by customers. From the beginning, the company received a flood of orders from dealers of sheets and manufacturers of kitchen equipment. As a result, Jin Gwang Industries grabbed 50 percent of the market share in the domestic market and went on to export its goods to 78 countries in the world. The top-quality product boasting quick adhesion that helps simplify construction was the driving force behind the company’s exploration of the global market. This year, the company is pursuing a new dream at the construction materials exhibition in Dubai.
Since I set up the company, my goal has been to make all my products one of the top three brands in the world. In the first three years after I first participated in a foreign exhibition with my adhesives, sales of my products were insignificant. But after four years, sales began to explode and increase exponentially. The same is true of a new business. I’m working on solid surfaces, sheets, stone care, and diamond tools and abrasives. I think I have to wait for three to four years at least for these new businesses to take root and grow.
The company diversified its product portfolio for sustainable growth. By showcasing its new products, it is demonstrating the power of Korean construction materials at the Dubai exhibition, which will run through November 29. The company has its sights set on the future, not on immediate gains, just as it did when it was founded. At the ongoing exhibition, the company is laying the groundwork for another major success.