A senior official at DuPont said that its buildings innovation segment expects double-digit growth in 2009.
"This year, we expect to grow between 12 and 15 per cent since we are introducing many new products in this region," said Tony Azzam, Business Manager, Building Innovations for Turkey, Middle East, Africa and Pakistan at DuPont. "But not like 2008, which was a record year when we hit $30 million (Dh110m) in revenues."
The company is also investing in resources in this region. "Five years ago, we were just seven people in this office. Today we have grown to 22 people," said Azzam.
The end-user consists of architects, specifiers and consultants, he adds. "Once they specify the product, we make sure that contractors do not change them. Yes, there was a time that we faced competition from imitations in the market," he said.
"We managed to change perceptions. Once people tried other products, they realised that imitations don't make good business sense and came back in the end."
The commercial segment constitutes around 80 percent of its market and that includes hotels, hospitals, schools and compounds.
Additionally, DuPont had stated recently that it "expects to continue an appropriate level of spending for high-growth, high-margin businesses, including seed products and photovoltaics" in the coming year.
"Sustainability is in our vision," said Azzam. "For example, we have been in the photo-voltaics segment for the past 25 years. This region needs photovoltaics and we are in the discussion stages on getting business within the Masdar City project."
The demand is not yet visible in Dubai, he told Emirates Business. "There has not yet been a request for or interest in photovoltaic cells in Dubai. But we have to start somewhere and so we decided to start with Abu Dhabi. We have a presence there and it makes sense to communicate with Masdar through that office," said Azzam. "The entire Middle East needs photovoltaic cells. Maybe Dubai will be next and Saudi Arabia will follow next."
Business has been affected due to the current slowdown or cancellation of projects, he agreed. "Our distributors brought the materials and now they are sitting on it. No one knows when the market will recover. But I would say another year," he said.
"Our current strategy is to work smarter and harder. We cannot run away now because there is a slowdown. We have a commitment to the region and we want to be here when the economy turns around. We are expanding our office in Saudi Arabia. Again, there is a lot to do here compared to Europe and US."
His division recently won a large contract with the King Abdullah University in Jeddah and several towers in UAE, but Azzam did not divulge the value of the contracts individually.
"We are also spending time in looking for new agents. Our presence here is not as big as in Europe and US but we are expanding and we plan to open more offices. We also plan to open an additional warehouse in Jebel Ali.
"I have been in this region for the past 15 years. From a one-man show, it is interesting to see the commitment showed by our parent group in this area."