27 February 2020

Table of Contents for Mat-Vantage





Interview-James Thomas (Topps Product INC.)

Topps Products’ aim is to create a brand identity in India

 

Known for its innovative technology in the development of integrated roof coatings and repair materials, Topps Products Inc is the latest multinational to have forayed into the Indian market.JAMES THOMAS, VP–SALES INTERNATIONAL, TOPPS PRODUCTS INC. in an interaction with VEENA KURUP talks about the unique products offered and on plans to strengthen his company’s Indian footprint.

 

Tell us about the factors that have led to Topps’ foray into the Indian roof coating market? Also give us an understanding about your other product offerings?  

We have a history of delivering real value and best roofing solutions in the industry to building owners and installers for over 25 years across the world. Customer demand is the primary factor that has brought us to India. We are increasingly getting enquiries about our products and services from customers across India, especially from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai. However, we have been keenly observing the Indian market and the customer demand scenario. As per our observations, we have found that a product performance gap exists in the market, and building owners, both commercial and residential, and contractors are frustrated that their waterproofing efforts are not being met.  Building owners are experiencing leaks again from the very same areas of their buildings 2 to 3 years after paying for a costly application to supposedly fix the problem.  And the trustworthy installer who takes his job seriously and with pride, feels disappointed having to offer these products to his customer, because there are no other alternatives in the market.  Our products are being preferred by such customers in addressing these concerns. Our products are engineered specifically as an alternative to acrylic, water-based and even bituminous coatings. Our coating solutions are fully solvent-based (water free) and have some of the highest known elongation properties in the industry.  This feature enables our coatings to expand and contract with the structure, due to the changing climatic conditions. Our seamless liquid membrane systems work together to restore, protect and enhance the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings. The roofing systems include a versatile group of surface preparation, reinforcement, roof repair and roof coating products which all work together to improve the performance of roofs. Some of our flagship products include Topps Seal (roof coating solution), ReFlex (wall coating), Polyprene (universal repair rubber cement), GutterGuard (solution to prevent gutter leaks), RivetGuard (seals and caulks fasteners and seams).  We also offer TRAFFIX, which is a quick solution for the patch repair of potholes.  Many have asked me, “Why do you offer this product as well?  It has nothing to do with roof repair?”  Well, we have noticed that the very same elements that allow our roof coatings to adhere to the roof so well, also allow Traffix to self-adhere very well.  It is a patch repair product that can be applied in wet weather or dry and stores indefinitely.  Whatever you do not use, just reseal the bag and save for the next potholes.  Basically, if municipalities do not have the funding yet to resurface an entire road, at least this can be used to get at the potholes so that vehicles do not get damaged and in some cases, people do not get hurt, because drivers are trying to maneuver away from the potholes.  It is simple to apply.  Just clean out the debris from the pothole, and based on the depth of the hole, add Traffix, tamp down with your foot or shovel, and walk to the next hole.  No need to allow to dry or heat.  Traffix is a self-adhesive product.

 

Being a new entrant how economically have you positioned your products and what are the strategies adopted to surpass the competition?

Our products are made in the USA, so, of course, there is a tax on the products upon entering India. When it comes to waterproofing, we offer solvent based materials which displaces water, so our coatings never crack or become brittle. We manufacture and offer our final coating solutions in three different grades that enable us to give more options in the price range. These grades also extend the customer choice for products in offering elongation features i.e. 1000 per cent, 900 per cent and 550 per cent, solvent-based, water free.  This is coupled with our Energy Star compliance of the coatings as well, which offers 88 per cent solar reflectivity, 86 per cent solar reflectivity and 83 per cent solar reflectivity, respectively.   So we have waterproofing first, as our main mission, and potential energy savings as an added value.  Our observations and success achieved in application areas have revealed that even the product offering the 550 per cent elongation feature offers more advantages than some products presently available in the market. But, under no circumstances will the company dilute its coating materials to compromise with the need to compete with lower priced products.  It is our durability, ease of application, and quality that are the foremost elements that have supported us in establishing our identity across the world.

However, we are not here to compete aggressively with the existent players. Our products can easily co-exist with the acrylic, bituminous and such other coating solutions available in the market. The company does not focus on driving away its competitors’ business. Our aim is to create a brand identity in the market. Building maintenance is a costly affair, and value for money is the utmost demand put forth by any customer. If the focus is to repair and restore a roof with a durable and sustainable structure, then Topps Products can be considered an apt solution for the purpose.  We are basically a rubber glove for a building.  Apart from coatings, we have also established our prominence in the repair materials market, especially with our product called Polyprene.  Topps Products entered primarily into the repair market first and then forayed into the coatings segment.  In the past, we manufactured acrylic, water-based coatings and bituminous coatings.  Then our customers returned to us and noticed that other coatings, to include our own, would fail before the universal caulk, Polyprene, did.  So they asked if we could manufacture a coating that was just as durable as Polyprene.  That is why in 1983, we first developed Topps Seal, and halted further manufacturing of bituminous and most of our acrylic, water-based coatings.  

The company’s decision on exploring any market or on introducing new products is purely based on the customers reaching out to us from that particular region, and pulling us in.  Our focus is solely on the customer.

 

What is the company’s approach on localisation while introducing products into new and developing markets like India?

Topps maintains a uniform quality for its products supplied anywhere in the world. The company has adopted this approach to deliver uniformity in its guarantee schemes for customers worldwide. This feature makes us stand out from the others in the market and helps in strengthening customers’ trust.   However, all our products are tested prior to its application for the projects in India. Recently, our product was opted by P&G for one of its projects – our Indian distributor Global Enersol executed the application procedure. Over the years, we have successfully delivered our products for projects in varied regions and even in contradictory climates. For instance, our products were used in projects at extreme cold regions like Iceland and Antarctica and also at high temperature areas like Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

 

Briefly give us an understanding about the key application areas for your products in India?

Our primary focus in India will be to serve commercial and industrial buildings. However, we will be also offering products for residential structures and even for road repairs. Topps is presently concentrating on strengthening its presence in the roof waterproofing coating market for commercial segments. Besides, like acrylic coatings, our products are also easily compatible for concrete structures and Topps is the leading brand to meet the demand from metal buildings. Our products offered for the residential structure are not coatings but repair materials, to seal cracks in walls and around sinks and toilets. For instance Polyprene, our solvent based rubber-cement material is completely water free.  I would like to pose a question to the readers.  If you want to stop water from leaking, why use water to stop water?

 

How efficient are your products in addressing the need for energy efficiency and sustainability?

Topps products are engineered to guarantee longer shelf life for the buildings, and energy efficiency is a second value that is offered.  Our coating is an Energy Star rated material.   For instance, our flagship product Topps Seal offers 87-88 per cent solar reflectivity. The product allows reduction of heat absorption on the roof and thereby enables creation of the ‘Cool Roof Effect’.

 

Tell us about the strategies planned by your company in expanding and strengthening the Indian operations? Are there any plans of setting up a manufacturing unit?

Presently, we would like to handle our business through distributors in India, as our operations are in its infant stages. Topps will soon start a training center in Mumbai. The initiative focuses on addressing the skill gap in the industry with the support of our distributor. The center will enable in creating trained applicators who can effectively assist the customer in the product selection and utilisation. We expect the center to be fully operational by February 2016 or earlier, but are currently offering training in a mobile fashion.  Simultaneously, we are also planning to set up a training center in New Delhi. The company is entertaining setting up a local manufacturing base in the future.  However, the present focus is on the relationships, networks and customer experience first.  We are very methodical and slow in our approach.  We believe in long term commitments and relationships. Our experience worldwide indicates a growing customer demand for Topps products due to its value based approach. Therefore, we are exploring repackaging activities in India.

 

Apart from India, which are the other markets targeted to expand your business?

We have so far sold and delivered our products to 35 countries around the world through our distributors and certified installers. Again, we only enter a market if pulled into it.  South Africa is one of the recent markets from where we have been receiving positive queries about our products and its technical abilities, and are being pulled in, faster than I have ever experienced before.




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