As we reflect on a successful year of collaboration between Italmatch Chemicals Group and Aubin Group, we’re looking ahead to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead - particularly our continuing commitment to the Middle East region.
In this blog post, we met with Italmatch’s Regional Sales Manager for the Middle East, Omar Raafat, and asked him to share more on his career to date, the exciting developments that lie ahead for Italmatch, and more…
How would you summarise your career background and what has led you to where you are today?
“I come from quite a technical background as I studied engineering, but I knew I didn't want to have a purely technical path. I decided to couple my degree with a minor in business, as well as an engineering design degree which focused on industry applications, and bridging the gap between university and the real world which became very useful.
“Over the last 15 years, I have been dedicated to technical sales in the oil and gas sector, undertaking various positions in different regions. Initially, my sales career was predominantly field-based and I spent the initial decade working with service companies. Subsequently, I sought to elevate my role within the value chain, leading me to transition to a sales-focused position at one of the world’s largest chemical manufacturing companies.
“I was then presented with a chance to join Aubin, which caught my interest due to its smaller size compared to larger organisations. This presented an opportunity to broaden my skills beyond sales, allowing me to delve into areas such as supply chain, finance, strategy development, product launches, and daily sales operations. Despite my primary role being in sales, the prospect of gaining a diverse set of skills made this opportunity particularly exciting for me.”
How has your role evolved since you joined Aubin?
“I joined Aubin as a sales manager on March 1 2020 - weeks before the world turned upside down - so a lot of my first year in the company was centred around adapting to the COVID era and dealing with all the unexpected challenges that came up. It was very fulfilling, interesting and dynamic; part of the reason why I like working in sales is that there's always challenges to overcome.
“Our director at the time was working in Dubai as the top figure looking after Aubin’s operations in the region, and I was responsible for his sales. However, he repatriated back to the UK early on in the pandemic, so I had the opportunity to take on that role as well. I was then looking after sales as the general manager of the company, which involved managing our third party manufacturers, operations and sales teams, as well as being the key point of contact with our management team in the UK.
“I stayed in this role until Aubin was acquired by Italmatch, then I moved into the role of regional sales manager. As we’re now a much larger company with various different divisions and larger support functions, my role covers a lot more now; I'm responsible for the sales of not just the legacy product lines, but also the Italmatch oil and gas solutions across the Middle East, Africa and Asia region.”
What is your key area of specialty and what are you bringing to Italmatch?
“Since I work in sales, I don’t have a singular specialty in terms of the products, but I think my main skill set would be relationship building as that forms such a large part of sales. I've had such a diverse career and life, working in various areas and regions, so I have a good understanding of different cultures and their unique ways of doing business. I believe this offers a well rounded approach to understanding people and how to manage the challenges that come across, whether they be technical or commercial.
“One of my personal metrics of success is knowing that I'm dealing with a partner, rather than just being viewed as a supplier of a product. When one of my business partners or customers has an issue, it feels like a personal victory if they call me for support in resolving that challenge.”
What does a typical day look like for you now?
“I usually plan my day the night before and dedicate the first part of my day to responding to emails. In my role, it’s important to have constant communication with customers across various levels - from operations and procurement teams, to the end user. We’re always looking for opportunities to develop new business, while addressing any of our clients’ concerns and identifying solutions.
“I also try to spend some time learning more about the products and what we have to offer, as it’s important that I’m keeping up with new developments internally and able to communicate them with our customers. We now have access to much more knowledge, resources and facilities since the acquisition, so there's an abundance of opportunities.”
Why are you so passionate about your work and what do you enjoy most?
“I think it's the satisfaction that comes from seeing results. Working towards targets in a highly competitive environment is the core of a sales role and you have to take a dynamic approach in order to achieve those targets since there's so much that needs to be done.
“What I enjoy the most is continuously communicating with people from all over the world, and the fulfilment that comes from managing to resolve an issue and knowing that you've made someone else's life easier.”
What are the benefits for Aubin by being acquired by Italmatch? What sort of opportunities does this open up 12 months on?
“We now have access to much more resources in terms of manufacturing facilities, technical support, research and development, funds and coverage in different regions. Being acquired by Italmatch has also allowed us the opportunity to tap into new markets and business development initiatives, as we’ve now got colleagues on the ground in more countries.
“On a personal level, there's also more access to various opportunities for development within the organisation, both in terms of coverage, product lines, and managing people.”
How does the link with Italmatch benefit Aubin’s customers?
“Our research and development team, as well as our technical team, are actively pursuing opportunities for cross-industry synergies. This involves exploring applications of products, such as those used in lubricants or the water industry, and determining how we can repurpose or integrate them into the oil and gas sector. As part of my sales role, I play a crucial function in facilitating the exchange of information between our end users (the market) and our R&D team. This reciprocal communication ensures that our efforts in development align with the genuine needs of our customers.
“Another benefit to our customers is that we now operate manufacturing facilities in close proximity to the regions where our products are sold. Our manufacturing facilities in China strategically support Asia and the Middle East region, while those in Italy are well positioned to serve the Northern Africa region. This geographical proximity offers numerous advantages to our customers, instilling confidence in our capabilities and reinforcing our position as a key long term business partner.”
What do you see in Italmatch’s future for the next 3 - 5 years?
“We’ve been very committed to expanding our business in the Middle East. Currently, we are undertaking a major project in Saudi Arabia that will cater to all divisions within Italmatch. This initiative will create numerous opportunities for cross-industry knowledge sharing and collaboration among our colleagues in various divisions, as we will be manufacturing the majority of our products here.
“This will completely shift the dynamic not just for us, but for the whole competitive landscape in this area. The Middle East is a very appealing region at the moment, as it’s moving away from being solely focused on importation and instead tapping into all the resources, expertise and ambition.
“On a global scale, our focus on innovative ESG offerings give me great confidence in our long term plans. Examples include our P&A chemistries enabling our customers to decommission assets in a safer manner, and the development of green scale inhibitors. Undoubtedly, it’s an exciting time to be part of the company and based in the Middle East.”
Why do you think people choose Italmatch?
“I think we've done a remarkable job building credibility with our customers. We have innovative products and technologies, but the support we give alongside those products is above and beyond. We always make sure we listen to our customers and adapt as required; whenever there's a challenge, we try our best to work with our customers to find a suitable solution.
“Obviously, we have a lot of competitors but the only way to differentiate is to ensure that you're delivering value to your customers. At Italmatch, that value comes in the form of effective communication and ensuring that we're not just selling the products but building a strong partnership with our customers.”
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