Top Player in Kenya’s Paint Market Introduces New Products and Increases Capacity in East Africa

Latest news in the Kenyan pain industry market and more in detail develpjments in Crown Paints Kenya PLC.

Latest news interview with Rakesh Rao, Group CEO of Crown Paints Kenya PLC

Rakesh Rao, Group CEO of Crown Paints Kenya PLC

What is the latest news as the market leader, innovation has been the core attribute affiliated to the brand Crown Paints. What is still keeping you on top of the game, regardless of the competitive nature of the paint industry?

Our latest news is that the company offers more value proposition to the customers and give more to the clients. At Crown Paints, we set our standard very high at the international level. We continue doing gap analysis to see what we can do best. We have never compared ourselves to what the African market paint companies offer to the customers, but we are the people who are setting very high international standards to serve the customers in a better way, with more innovative ideas which others cannot even think of. That is what is keeping us on top and as the brand leader in the market here.

What is the news with regards to your competitive advantage?

Latest news is that our competitive advantage is brand heritage. Our company has been around for 64 years, and that is one of our biggest achievements.

The second is trust – trust in the quality and trust in the longevity of our brand. When people use Crown brands, they are so happy that they are able to save cost on a long-term basis. The colors never fade. These are advantages which we have over our other competitors. Third is our innovations. We are the most innovative brand compared to other brands.

Lately the newest development is that we continue to add new products in the market. We have also been able to provide a lot of digital solutions such as the Crown Colour App, which includes Crown colour visualizers.

We have our digital dashboard painter platform called Team Kubwa where we have been able to connect with all the painters and get information about all our territories, how our painters are buying paints, continuous feedback from the market, and then what action can be taken, what products these people are buying, and what products they are not buying.

What is the latest news with regards to paint industry currently? What are the general trends?

Overall, our strategy is to grow market share in all the regions the way we have been strong in the market share in Kenya.

Latest news is that things are slow at the moment as an election is coming. Big developers and stakeholders are monitoring the situation very closely. This election is likely to be very tricky and we do not know who is going to win and what the policy will be for supporting business communities. People would like to keep a close watch on these political situations, so they are not taking risks to invest. As the election is taking place, most of the government organizations do not make any decisions and the government has always been a very big consumer of paints in infrastructure and construction.

We will see the decision making slow down and there will be impact on cash flow. In the last two years, we have had fantastic years as far as business growth and volume growth are concerned. We have grown by almost 35% in the last two years. People are spending a lot of time with family at home. But as soon as we have enough clarity on the elections, the market will start to catch up. Tourism will pick up here because people are starting to travel now as soon as most of the countries are opening their restrictions. Kenya is one of the biggest economies for tourism. We expect for six months that there will be a challenge for us, but our subsidiaries are doing well.

What is your six-month plan for the company?

We always plan as per our last year business growth. We need to have a positive outlook towards the business. We have been trying hard to make sure we remain on top in market share and if the conditions slow down, we eat competitors’ shares and try to make our numbers.

What has been the impact and the growth you have seen in Crown Paints? Did you adopt any new strategies to adapt?

We have increased a lot of our digital training programs. If something is not happening in a physical way, we should adopt another way. We have a wonderful digital platform where we even train our own painters online.

We are now doing a lot of meetings online, improving efficiencies, we can meet more people online, we can strike more deals with people who are looking for paint requirements and contracting. Now, in five or ten minutes, you can finish the discussion, show a proposal, negotiate what is to be done, and then we can close the deal. It is a new lifestyle.

We can reach out to more people. With the architects and other professionals, we were doing Zoom meetings, educating them, talking about our new products. We have also had a virtual launch of a new product called Granite Paint. We were able to send the videos to all customers and 5,000 people were logged in for the launch. We have changed the system and proved that business can be done in this way without meeting physically. Business can be done virtually and we can get our numbers and we can meet our business target.

Can you go into more details about some of your new products?

Latest news is that we have launched two major products which we are seeing huge growth with. The first is Wallplast Cement Putty which is doing extremely well. Earlier in Kenya, levelling out the wall effects and helping the quality of paint to get a smooth finish was not a very big concept. We have trained a lot of painters and we push how to do the job better and the quality of a job you can do. It has also enhanced their knowledge and they are very happy to adopt the new technique and we have been quite the leader.

The second product we launched was our Granite Paint which looks exactly like granite but does not cost as much as granite. Normal granite costs 15,000 shillings, or $120 per square meter. But now, for only $15 per square meter, you can get a similar finish on the exterior or interior. It is a new product and a new concept and we are pushing it. When we launched Ruff N Tuff initially 10 years ago, we were selling a very small quantity. But now, the product has picked up and people are using both interior and exterior. We are one of the largest producers of textured finishes. As soon as we create the awareness, we get more painters, contractors, developers, and they see more projects and the confidence grows in the product each year.

You launched the app recently as part of your digitization drive. How effective has it been since you launched and what are some exciting features of the app?

The customers used to complain that we did not have shade cards which are generally very expensive tools to provide to every single customer or professional. So, we decided to create a shade card on mobile. There might be a small variation, but family can sit together and get an idea of which color combination they want and then come and select the right choice.

Now, customers and professionals are very happy. All our contractors, professionals, architects know that when they would like to choose a color, they can just go to the Crown Colour App.

What is your international reach? What is your strategy for expanding outside of Kenya?

We have our own establishment, office, and factory in Uganda. In Tanzania we have a new factory. We invested quite heavily – over $5 million – in Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda to set up new plants. Paint is practically not possible to export to these countries because they are so big. We export to Congo, Sudan and Uganda because there is a gateway there.

Latest develpment is that we are growing the market but most of the customers generally come in and buy from a dealer, so sometimes we do not know where the goods are going. Overall, our strategy is to grow market share in all the regions the way we have been strong in the market share in Kenya. In Tanzania, we are almost the number three player.

In Rwanda, as a trusted brand or corporate brand, we are number one. In Uganda, we are number two. We have a different market share in each. We are likely to gain every year 1% to 2% more market shares and to do respectable numbers for number two brands. For our number two brand today our market share is 12% to 13% and a respectable number to be number two should be 20%. We cannot just jump to the number one spot. It will take some time. So, we need to be continuously hammering our quality of product, services, value propositions, winning the customer confidence, and then take the market share to the next level.

What current projects are you working on?

Latest news is that our company is expanding its capacity in Kenya because we have seen that there is a growing demand. We invested seven years ago in a plant in Kisumu to enhance capacity to cater to our Western regions which is our second largest market after Nairobi. Now, we are looking at how to increase the capacity in our current plant.

We are in the continuous process of evaluating and analyzing our capacity and trying to look for the right strategy for expanding our product range and expanding our production capacity to meet future demand.

What are you developing to stay environmentally friendly?

We are working at sustainability. In particular, we had converted our entire requirement to solar energy to make sure that we uphold the green initiative. We have also put a water harvesting plant so we can recycle our water.

We have an effluent treatment plant to make sure that all the vestiges do not have any environmental hazards. We have never defaulted on regulatory rules and regulations. We are very well aware that as a listed company, we understand our responsibilities, so we have all the best certifications for the organization including ISO 9000, 14000, and 18000. Environmental safety and safety of people is one of the key priorities for Crown Paints.

What is your inspiration? What drives you to do what you do?

My philosophy is very simple. Either you grow, or you go. Any work you do, you have to grow. In business, you have to work with the team, you have to mentor people, and you have to have the right type of connectivity with your team and be able to convey the right message to your team. You have to get along with the team. You cannot win the game alone.

I follow the best practices of the management, compassionate leadership, how we can get the team to work with you rather than you work separately and they work separately which results in a lot of misalignment.

You should be a good listener as a leader, talk to the people, listen to them, solve the problems. Leadership is not like dictatorship. You have to convince people to get along with the team, work with you, and make sure that they take your strategy to heart. When the CEO sets the target, it should not be the CEO’s target, it should be the target of the entire organization. That is what is driving us, and then my passion becomes their passion. When two passions work together, we win the game.



ADDRESS: P.O. BOX 78848 – 00507, Likoni Road, Industrial Area, Nairobi, Kenya

PHONE: (+254) 0202 165 703/5/6, 0203 2751

CALL CENTER: 0709 887 000



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