Levante newspaper publishes an extensive interview with Rami Hamze, Saniceramic Group’s CEO, in which he talks about the growth experienced by ITT Ceramic, the group’s most emblematic brand, and its prospects for future growth, as well as the current situation of the Spanish ceramic sector. The contents of this report are reproduced below:
ITT Ceramic is in the midst of a process of growth and expansion through a plan that involves expanding its human team in order to gain in-depth knowledge of its strategic markets and meet their demands. The company, which cedes its production to third parties (“we are the largest factory in Castellón and with the best technology”, states its CEO, Rami Hamze) has created the Arklam brand to group its proposals for large formats.
QUESTION: What was the balance obtained by ITT Ceramic in 2017?
ANSWER. Last year was quite good in many respects. We followed the path set 4 years ago, when we started a new and drastic commercial policy with the diversification of markets so that ITT Ceramic‘s activity was not basically concentrated in certain areas of consumption, as in our case was the Middle East. Four years ago we saw the need to expand into many more markets to guarantee, above all, the continuity of the company because you can’t be alone in one area… Right now, without going any further, the Middle East is very touched and, if we hadn’t turned 4 years ago, it would have been fatal for the company. 2017 we closed it with a turnover of 25.4 million euros, which means a growth of 23.39% over the previous year. We have invested a lot in people to get to where we are now, and we are following the plan until 2020, the year in which we want to become a benchmark for the sector.
Q. In which countries are ITT Ceramic products present?
R. In 2017 we were able to gain a foothold in many new markets and, at present, we export to 120 countries. Now, the objective is to consolidate our presence in all these markets. We come a lot to the United States, we are growing a lot in Australia and we are also growing in Central Europe, which is our natural market and we still have a lot to do. Together with the Far East, these are the strategic markets for ITT Ceramic.
Q. What policy has been followed to grow in so many countries?
R. We have invested in people, in professionals, in order to be able to grow all over the world. We had a sales team limited to the areas in which we were focused, and the ITT Ceramic family has grown with a team of professionals specialized in the areas that are strategic for us. And then, and at the same time, we have been changing our product policy to adjust it to the needs of those markets in terms of formats, colours, finishes… And to know where each market is going and what is working, we are also making a very important investment not only to attend international fairs, but also for our sales representatives and myself to visit those markets and, in direct contact with customers and distributors, to have exact knowledge of each consumer area.
Q. And what goals has ITT Ceramic set for 2018?
A. We manage the forecast of closing 2018 with a turnover of 27 million euros. Every time, logically, our percentage growth is lower: about 12 years ago we had 80% growth, which is now logically impossible, and for this year we want to achieve an increase in sales that will range between 12% and 15%.
“We are the largest factory in Castellón and with the best technology in the world”
Q. How does ITT Ceramic understand the marketing concept?
R. Our sales model, the one we started 8 or 9 years ago, is the one that other tile manufacturers are now taking on, as practically all of them produce for everyone. ITT Ceramic or we are a warehouse: we have our own identity and we create our product from scratch, and this is something that is clearly specified in the contracts and agreements we have with the companies we work with. We have an exclusive catalogue and an identity of our own, and we are very jealous of that because it is the added value we offer our customers. In fact, we have an exceptional product development team. And we’ll be doing something right when, 7 or 8 years after opening up to the world, we’re invoicing 25 million euros.
Q. What are the advantages of manufacturing in other plants?
R. The good thing about manufacturing abroad is that we are the largest factory in Castellón and, moreover, with the best technology in the world. And it also provides speed: starting up a ceramic slab plant can mean an investment of 30 million and 2 or 3 years in starting it up… For us, from the day we decided to manufacture slabs, the product for which we created the specific Arklam brand, to the day we presented it, which was in the Cevisama two years ago, it only took 4 months… We choose the best factories for our products, but as long as it is 100% Spanish, because ITT Ceramic‘s product is 100% Spanish. We have plenty of factories with an impressive product and it is not necessary to look outside… We carry the Spanish flag in front of us.
Q. And how do you explain that ‘made in Italy’ is priced more than twice as much as ‘Tile of Spain’?
R. The Italian ceramic sector sells an image, but what the consumer doesn’t know is that a lot of this product is made in Spain. Most of the coating sold in Italy is made in Spain. But the Italians have been able to sell their brand much better than we have. They sell at a much higher price than we do, but their profitability is lower because they spend a lot on image, marketing… It is not a question of making a lot and selling cheaply, nor of making little and not being able to defend it in the market, but of finding a hybrid between the two formulas. We need a balance between quality and price, as we are doing at ITT Ceramic, which allows us not to have to spend as much money as they do on a product level but defending the price, which is the only way for this sector to survive.