Interplast Limited: Leading Producer of Plastic Pipe Systems in Ghana and West Africa

Hayssam Fakhry talks about the use of plastic pipe systems in Ghana and West Africa and presents Interplast Limited, West Africa’s leading producer of plastic pipes. He also discusses current projects, competition, international policy, and shares his vision for the future of the company.

Interview with Hayssam Fakhry, Managing Director of Interplast Limited

Hayssam Fakhry, Managing Director of Interplast Limited

Tell us about the sector itself.

The sector that we are in depends on funding big projects, obviously to transport water amongst other things to various villages, towns, and cities or to replace existing pipelines. We realize local funding and we can feel that there is quite a bit of funding that is coming into the West African region. That trend seems like it will carry on. We feel that the sector will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

In which specific areas are you looking to develop more?

Mainly water, of course, because all West African nations always need to distribute their water more efficiently to more segments of the population. In the telecom sector we have fiber optics which is quite big for us. All fiber optic cables have to go through our piping and we have been supplying that to a number of countries.

What about innovations?

The technology is for the most part still the same. There are always new products coming in, some more expensive. But the region is used to these products that are extremely good, affordable, and for now, we do not see anything replacing them in the short term.

What are your competitive advantages in 2018?

Our competitive advantage is first and foremost quality. We are extremely fussy on quality. We will not compromise. That is not only the quality of product but also the quality of service and after sales as well. Our competitors do not take as much care as we do.

How do you assess this? How do you see that you are better? Many people say that sort of thing and it is difficult quantify.

Our clients do not rely purely on our words. They take samples of our products to laboratories in Europe or even conduct their own tests here in house. Our products ultimately are above standard.

What is the turnover cycle for products? The offers that you have can be for five years, ten years?

Unfortunately, our products do not turnover much. Their life span is extremely long. Polyethylene pipes, for example, could last up to 100 years. So, we do not replace them on a regular basis, it is more replacement of other quality or very old pipelines or extensions of existing ones. Our products last a very long time, at least 20 years.

What is your R&D? Do you work with other companies and partners to have the latest available product?

We are now the leaders in West and Central Africa. There is no reason why we should not be the biggest in the continent.

We do a lot internally. Obviously, our suppliers and colleagues are a great help. Raw material suppliers are always staying on trends, on what is new. We also always go to fairs and shows and see what the new techniques and technologies are. We have a lot of discussions amongst ourselves. When we are driving around the streets of London, for example, and we see something, we will stop and take a look at it. Our industry is very specialized, so the trends tend to be quite obvious. It starts in Europe, then the US, then it carries down through the rest of the world.

What about China?

Obviously, there is competition coming in from China. We are lucky in that our products are extremely expensive to transport because they are empty so you are shipping a lot of air. We have to deal with the competition, but we like competition.

What is your international policy? Where are you based? Where do you serve and distribute your products?

We distribute our products to between 23 and 24 countries in West and Central Africa from Mauritania to Chad and down to Angola, that triangle in West and Central Africa.

Do you need to have a factory there or a distribution center?

In some countries, we have representatives. We actually deal mostly with the individual needs. When it comes to big water projects, we talk directly to the water companies, all the contractors that have won projects. It is not very difficult. The water companies will tell you what projects are happening at the moment and who the people are that will be undertaking them and we can contact them directly. Once they visit us, they know that they can really trust us in terms of quality and the rest will be negotiating the price.

Is there room for investors to come and join your company?

We have investors coming in asking us that same question all the time. This is a family-owned business and we would like to keep it as is, but we have a lot of investors wanting to buy stakes in our company. So far, we have not wanted to do so.

Is being on the stock exchange something that you are interested in?

It is something I have actually discussed in the last few weeks and I might consider it. It is a new idea so it may be something to look at, but it is the same as having investors, so it will have to be a family decision.

What are your current projects?

Now, we are concentrating on irrigation and agriculture. This is what we want to focus on for the next few years. We have invested in a state-of-the-art drip line production facility. There are not any manufacturers of drip lines in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are the first. The future is in agriculture and we would like to be part of that success and help educate people on the agricultural techniques and why they should use drip and not just regular sprinkler systems.

What is your interaction with the customer base?

We do a lot of seminars and we talk to a lot of people. But, at the end of the day, in this part of the world, they need to see. So, we need to do showcases and demonstrations. Talking is very easy but once the farmer or the agriculture person sees it in operation, it obviously takes a little bit of time to see the yield, they will know that it is the best technique and the way forward.

You are one of the biggest manufacturers here in Ghana. What is the new government doing for the industry? Do you feel that you have been helped or not by this new administration?

There is no real help per se in terms of local industry. At the end of the day, we help ourselves. The government does not have a specific strategy to help the local industry. Obviously, they have that in their thoughts, but it has not come to fruition yet. So, we just help ourselves and we deal with the situations as they come.

Project yourself two to three years’ time, in the medium term. What would you like the company to be?

The idea is obviously to become leaders throughout the whole continent. We are now the leaders in West and Central Africa. There is no reason why we should not be the biggest in the continent. As long as we keep doing the right job, offer quality products and a good price, our location and our reputation as well as our ethical way of doing business will make us leaders across all of Africa.

What other areas are you participating in?

We are in construction and real estate development. We have just put up the largest single structure in West Africa, 120,000 m², which is quite huge. The company is called Dream Realty and the building is called the Octagon. It is a company that is mainly offices. It is a new concept, actually. It is buy or rent any size you wish, walls can be shifted, you can have an entire floor, a single office, or the entire building. This is a totally new concept because people are used to standard spaces where people believe that these walls are permanent, but walls can be knocked down and you can modify your office and design it any way you like. It takes time for people to understand it but we have finally reached that stage now.

Do you have any other projects?

In real estate, we have quite a large land bank, really beautiful lands in Accra and some on the seafront as well. We would like to go a bit further in the existing project and then we will embark on the next one.

In other sectors, what current projects do you have?

We do paint and insecticides as well. It is quite innovative. It has actually personally changed my life because I now live in a totally insect free home and office. It is not a gimmick, it does work, it is perfectly safe. Obviously, the price is slightly more expensive than regular products, but when you calculate going to the doctor and days off work because of malaria and such, the product is actually quite cheap. This also has to do with education. It takes time to introduce new products, but we believe the future is ready for it.

Are you interested in new technology?

For now, we are just taking it easy as is. We have invested quite a substantial amount of money. We would like to reap the rewards a bit before we invest further, but we are always thinking of new things to do. We would love to put up the first PGA standard golf course in West Africa. We will do it one day.


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