Q: How did you get started in this business?
Lockout / Tagout or commonly known as LOTO (acronym) is a critical range of products which prevents un-authorized or accidental startup of machinery and equipment in any industrial facility. The consequences of not implementing a LOTO program in the workplace can be tragic resulting in hundreds of injuries and fatalities every year globally.
Some well documented tragic accidents which have resulted in loss of hundreds of lives and damage to property in billions due to lack of OR improper implementation of LOTO are:
- Piper Alpha UK 1988 Platform blowout in the North Sea resulted in the deaths of One hundred andsixty seven men in the world’s worst offshore oil disaster. (One of the reasons was lack of implementation of a proper LOTO program).
- Phillips Refinery USA 1989 disaster was another incident where 23 people lost their lives.
In 2009 during my stint as a Director of a trading company in Dubai specializing in mobilising mechanical, safety and other products for Oil & gas projects & the Marine industry, we received an enquiry for a LOTO kit from an African customer. The kit was purchased from a distributor of a popular American brand and contained a few plastic padlocks, Tags and small plastic devices. This piqued my interest as I had never heard of or seen Lockout / Tagout products across my entire career of 18 years in the business.
There was only one local company distributing this product in UAE in 2009 and I saw an opportunity to gain market share by adding LOTO to our range of products. Web exposure in my previous company assisted in increasing our visibility to customers and in April 2011, I established LOTO Safety Products DMCC to specialize in Lockout Tagout products due to growing demand and low competition.
Arc Flash Protection PPE and related Electrical Safety products were added to our portfolio in the same year as both product lines had synergy and are intertwined.
LOTO Safety created a niche as a specialist in UAE & GCC as one of the few companies providing integrated solutions in LOTO and Electrical Safety which was also a relatively new concept at that time in the GCC.
Q: Can you describe your customers / what type of customers do you have?
LOTO Safety primarily caters to the Oil & Gas sector, Electrical Equipment manufacturers & Service providers, Utilities, Heavy and Light Industry, Air & Sea Ports, Facilities Management, Trade houses, etc. practically anyone who generates or uses electricity on an industrial scale. ABB, GE (General Electric), Alstom, Dubai Airports, DP World, Burj Khalifa, Borouge, Takreer Refinery (ADNOC group), Dubai & Emirates Aluminium (EGA Group), Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, KONE, Cummins and SERCO are some global and local companies we cater to.
Q: What are some of your “keys to success” in building your customer base?
Our success is attributed to providing end-to-end solutions for our products which has helped us gain substantial market share and client goodwill. Safety is a serious business and we have always believed and practiced the Right-To-Know. We freely impart knowledge and resources to all our customers without obligation to buy.
Interaction with customers, understanding their problems and providing solutions meeting their objectives led to the development of a Safety Padlock which was launched in 2012 and has become an industry standard in UAE and other countries. LOTO-LOK® 3PTP Plastic Safety padlock is approved by several entities across a wide industry segment as a preferred product to multinational competitor brands. The padlock has been patented in USA, EU, KSA & UAE. In one sentence the “Keys to our success” is “listening to our customers and developing competitively priced products which adds value to their safety program”.
Q: Is there anything about your business that you feel makes it special?
LOTO Safety is a David amongst Goliaths in the trade. Our products are respected and accepted as more feature rich and value for money than the competition. Our safety padlock has now become industry standard and the competition is asked to provide the same specifications as our brand.
One particular incident that made us realize the brand value of our products in 2014 when a Malaysian company drilling for oil in the Sarawak area specified our brand and flew a person to Dubai to purchase the product and bring it back the next day due to urgency. They refused to accept competitor brands available in Malaysia and instead chose to spend excessively to buy our product.
Our product had been used by their company on a project in UAE and they refused to accept alternate brands citing Quality as the main reason. This was a special moment for all of us and made us proud of the effort we had invested in the quality and features of our products.
Q: Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? In the next ten years?
Our vision is to be a global player in Lockout / Tagout products. This will be achieved through designing a range of multi-use feature rich products which will simplify ordering and reduce downtime for the user, resulting in considerable cost savings without compromising safety.
3 products are slated for launch in 2017 which should add to our portfolio and create a larger share of the business. By 2020 our products will be reaching users in over 100 countries. Our objective is to be a prequalified vendor globally in all major projects based on the value and features we provide in each product at competitive price points.
The objective is to scale the business to corporate levels from a micro SME by 2020 or earlier.