Head of Industrial Marketing APAC in Shanghai
A lifetime of learning and development is vital, says Julien Guiu. He’s eight months into his role as Head of Industrial Marketing APAC in Shanghai after spending two years in Leverkusen as General Manager Additive Manufacturing. In this wide-ranging interview, Julien tells us about the fast pace of digital culture within the APAC region, his job priorities and his experiences of returning to Shanghai, the place he affectionately calls home.
Julien, welcome to PUR! How have your first months been?
It’s been quite exciting and intense; learning a new business while also running our PUR strategy development process. I’ve been able to visit all our sub-regions while also meeting customers – this has been key to better understanding our PUR business. I’ve had great support from the entire PUR APAC team, which has been very welcoming. So far, so good!
What are your top three priorities in your new role?
Firstly, listening to team members and customers to thoroughly understand our APAC market and business. Then it’s about working closely with all our functions to define APAC strategy and the path forward in terms of industry focus and products. Lastly, I try to challenge our status quo and drive change in digital projects and our business models to make us the best PUR player to invest in.
How would you describe the main differences between the Coatings and Adhesives (CAS) and the Polyurethane (PUR) business? What about 3D printing?
CAS is a very diverse business driven by upgrades in technology and performance within market segments, from lower performance technologies to PU coatings or adhesives. It’s a collection of very profitable niches with a strong application development need. PUR, on the other hand, is at a different scale in terms of volumes, and it’s less diversified from an application point of view. However, it’s really connected to megatrends such as energy efficiency or comfort and living. It’s very exciting to make a real contribution to some key industry shifts.
As for the 3D printing business that I led before, this is an entirely different animal, and it’s still in its infancy. We had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a very exciting process at Covestro, which I am convinced will pay off handsomely.
What has your experience of living in the APAC region been like so far?
It’s good to be back home! I first moved to China in December 2006, my wife is Chinese, and I have spent almost ten years working in China and in the APAC region. I really love the energy and the drive of this place.
What are the top trends affecting your industry at the moment and how is Covestro geared to address these?
This region is still the engine of world growth, so the way our industry evolves here will have a profound impact on Covestro. There’s much about segment growth or the policy transformation in China I could talk about, but I want to highlight the fast pace acceptance of digital culture here.
When I left China for Germany at the end of 2015, it was still mainly a cash economy. But when I came back less than two years later, the entire economy had switched to smartphones using WeChat or Alipay. That same type of digital transformation is taking every industry by storm and will also completely change the landscape of the chemical industry in the next five to ten years.
I feel Covestro has clearly identified this shift. And while no one knows what the next ten years will bring, we have launched initiatives in all the key areas, including technical services, digital research and development, the customer journey and e-platforms. It is very exciting to witness this change.
What would you say are key product differentiators of a company like Covestro?
I could talk about our innovative products, our market share, our leadership and so on. But for me, our real differentiator is our culture – curious, colorful and courageous. It’s our culture that allows us to develop faster and better than our competition.
And finally, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Well, my five-year-old son tends to wake up earlier every day. But more generally, it’s about learning something new. Whether that’s at work listening to colleagues or clients, or at home learning a new Thai boxing combo or discovering a new wine!