From Dubai to the emerging countries
KSME currently has 16 employees from ten different countries. "We are a real multi-cultural team," says CFO Alexander Franke. As far as languages are concerned, it's usually "a wild mix" in the office, he points out. The Managing Director, Olaf Rietveld, is Dutch, while other colleagues come from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, France, Lebanon, and Sudan. The official office language is English. As a German, Franke already contributes some K+S experience. He started in 2017 in the then InnoLab in the potash area and dealt with new business ideas there, including topics such as vertical and urban farming. This experience is now benefiting him in the Arab region because the agricultural business here runs completely differently than in Central Europe. "Water and arable land are very scarce, so food is usually produced differently here than in Germany," says Franke. Fertilizers also play an important role in the local agricultural economy.
Olaf Rietveld has been the Managing Director of KSME since 2022. He came from the company Ductor in the Netherlands. In addition to his role as Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Alexander Franke is also responsible for Business Development. Two employees have been with the company since day one: Richard Smith (Senior Market Manager) and Denver Martins (Head of Logistic and Supply Chain). "We are very grateful to both of them for their great commitment and experience. The entire team benefits from this," praises Rietveld.
Completely focused on growth
"This year, we also want to grow strongly," says Rietveld, describing the target for the young sales company. KSME is now responsible for 29 countries. These no longer only include the Emirates on the Arabian Peninsula, but also other emerging and fast-growing countries. In Africa, this is primarily Kenya, and in southeastern Europe, Turkey. But South Asian countries, such as the important market of India, are also part of the sales area. "Turkey is very exciting for us, offers a lot of potential," emphasizes Rietveld. "Basically, we want to implement our downstream concept, which has already been developing very successfully in India and Kenya, in other countries as well." This concept envisages that K+S products from Germany will no longer be sold to wholesalers in the respective sales country, as was previously the case, but that K+S will market them directly to the local farmer. With an additional range of field trials and training, the farmer is offered as much as possible from a single source and the K+S brand is established locally.
In the downstream business, he said, staff is crucial. "You can only win customers and build market share in the countries of Arabia, Africa and Asia with a local presence and a lot of personal commitment. You can't do that from your desk by phone and e-mail," Rietveld is certain. Besides expert personnel from the target countries, KSME intends to continue relying on expats from Germany in the future, particularly in logistics, sales, and finance.
Great potential on the African continent
Concerning the regions, he says Africa as a continent has the greatest potential for fertilizers. In the countries of the Middle East, Franke sees great market potential for water-soluble fertilizers in particular. "We even do business in crisis countries such as Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria," he says.
With application advice, KSME creates added value alongside the sale of fertilizers, which many customers greatly appreciate. " Moreover, as a German brand, K+S is very popular. Our products represent high quality, and our company is perceived as very reliable, which are big plus points when it comes to customer acquisition," Franke emphasizes.
An important part of the K+S products distributed by KSME is the water-soluble assortment from the Solu family. The company also offers merchandise from other producers to a certain extent. "This is necessary because we want to offer farmers all the nutrients important to them from a single source. We therefore buy in products with nitrogen and phosphate components," explains Rietveld.
The success of the downstream concept in the important Indian market makes the management confident that it is also suitable as a blueprint for other countries. Rietveld: "In India, we aim to almost triple our volumes this year compared to 2021, to 18,000 tonnes." In East Africa in particular, this concept is currently being driven forward with the aim of achieving a market share of 15 percent in Kenya as early as 2025. Neighboring countries such as Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Burundi have also started to explore the downstream concept. In Uganda, the first country on the African continent in which K+S invested a few years ago, it is also being successfully promoted through the investment in the agricultural company Grainpulse.
"We are clearly focused on growth and have a long-term plan for how we want to move forward in the individual countries," says Rietveld, describing KSME's strategy for the years ahead. "The future sales potential of our K+S products is huge!"