Building a global brand


Some 15 years ago, Max Sartiyev, Tambour’s current chairman, was persuaded to use Tambour paints and materials by the builder who was working on his house. Initially reluctant because of the higher price, he was soon convinced by the superior quality. Later, he was introduced to more of the Tambour product range.

Fast forward to 2014 and Sartiyev got a call out of the blue from Kusto Group founder Yerkin Tatishev wanting to know what he knew about Tambour. “I couldn’t believe it. I told him it was great – that I’d used Tambour products on my house. He was pleased, then told me to do some research and let him know if we should buy the company,” says Sartiyev. Within three months, the deal was done and Tambour joined the Kusto portfolio of industrial investments.

This was classic Kusto. Someone spots
an opportunity, does the research
and closes the deal

This was classic Kusto. Someone spots an opportunity, does the research and closes the deal.

Tambour was already a successful company and well-known brand in Israel, where it is number one in the Israeli market. It’s well loved and enjoys a great heritage. It has original intellectual property, many of its products are environmentally friendly, with low solvent content, and this year marks its 80th anniversary — making it older than Israel itself. The company also enjoys success in foreign markets. For Kusto, the potential to become a leading global brand was obvious.

Post acquisition, Sartiyev and his team spent the first nine months looking deep into the company, learning about its products, R&D — and getting to know the people. “We wanted to really understand its full capabilities and its legacy,” explains Sartiyev.

He reviewed the product range, honed it and sharpened the focus — discontinuing non-core product lines — and then set about changing the culture from local
to global.

There’ve actually been very few changes, which is good as we want to save and nurture the in-house knowledge

“There have actually been very few changes, which is good as we want to save and nurture the
in-house knowledge,” he says. “But we needed
to expand the management’s horizons. The culture very much had a local focus. The company had spent 80 years concentrating on the local market – and it’s done a great job. But we’re now going
to make it a global brand. Management must think globally. Everything we do now must be thought
of in global terms. That’s been a big change.”

This has involved improving logistics and business processes and a powerful new IT infrastructure
to support worldwide operations.

The next stage will focus on positioning and the coming 12 months will be all about quality. For Sartiyev, that’s not just the quality of the products, it’s the quality of all aspects of the company, from internal processes, to how it approaches customers, and management.

“To be successful on the world stage, you have to be efficient and strong at home. You have to be the best at everything you do, not just sell the most,” he says.

At the same time, he will push for international expansion. Already present in Romania, Greece, Croatia, parts of Africa, the US and Jamaica,
he sees attractive growth potential for the brand
in Vietnam, where Kusto operates real-estate and construction materials businesses and where demographic and fashion trends are moving
in Tambour’s favour. Other areas ripe for expansion include Russia, Kazakhstan and India.

The stats back him up. “When you look at the markets, in the US people on average buy 15kg
of paint a year. In Vietnam, for example, it’s just 3kg. That’s a huge opportunity for growth."

“We already know Vietnam and it will be a great springboard for neighbouring markets. But India
is probably first. We’ll be there in May or June next year,” he says.

In this vast market, with rapidly-growing levels
of affluence, paint is seen as a far more fashionable and modern alternative to wallpaper. Other countries will follow.

“We want to be a global champion,” he says.

“Be in the top 20 in our market in the world. If you ask Yerkin, he’d say the top 10, within five to seven years.” There may even be an IPO – possibly in Singapore or Hong Kong – and timing will depend on when they reach their target.

We’re reinvigorating the company
with ambition and new inspiration

“We’ll turn over $300m this year and actually the sky’s the limit. We’re reinvigorating the company with ambition and new inspiration, have opened up new opportunities and given management a taste of freedom,” says Sartiyev.

And perhaps just as importantly, Tambour has given Kusto food for thought. The group has never before taken on an existing brand and set it on the world stage. Sartiyev admits it’s been a learning curve. “Yes yes,” he says. “We’ve learnt lots that we could apply again to another brand. And we’d do it better next time.”