The Business Year

Alejandro Basterra

MEXICO - Industry

Alejandro Basterra

Country Managing Director, Altana

Bio

Alejandro Basterra is an industrial engineer from the Universidad Panamericana, with an MBA from the University of Virginia in the US. He has 20 years of experience working in global companies in the areas of operations, sales, and marketing. He is currently the CEO of Altana Mexico, a German company that produces specialty chemicals. Before, he was marketing and sales manager at DuPont for Mexico, Central America, and Colombia for seven years. He also worked for General Electric in the supply chain area. Additionally, he is a black belt in Six Sigma and a certified coach by John Maxwell Team.

In line with global initiatives to develop more sustainable products, Altana has been developing bio-sustainable additives for different industries as well as making them water based rather than solvent based.

What role does Mexico have on Altana’s international strategy now that it is part of a multinational company?

Mexico is in the top 10 countries on a global scale for Altana in terms of sales. We have grown by more double digits in the last 15-plus years. Mexico is an important market for Altana on a global level, not just because of the growth, but also because we conduct many tests of new products here. We often even sell products that are new for Altana internationally, which means the first sales happen in Mexico. Sometimes, we are the spearhead market for Altana for certain products or applications in some industries. Here, we try out products that are developed in Germany.

What new solutions have you recently launched?

First, in the last few years, there have been many new regulations passed for the chemical industry that have put great pressure on companies to develop alternatives that comply with the regulations. Mexico is behind the US and Europe in terms of regulations, though normally we adopt products from the US or from Europe even before the old ones are banned by local regulations. We are developing many products that comply with the new global regulations. In addition, we are also developing bio-sustainable additives for different industries. For example, we are developing wax-based products that are bio-based. There is a great deal of work being done in terms of developing sustainable products with our raw material suppliers. There is also a third strong line of development of new products on a global level, which is to make products water based instead of solvent based. A large percentage of the chemical industry uses hydrocarbons as a raw material, and this initiative is focused on reducing the use of this source in terms of the production of raw materials and even final products. This is an enormous technological challenge that many companies globally are trying to solve.
How is the company performing this year in Mexico in comparison to 2020 and 2019?
Up until October 2021, we were growing at a rate of around 50% compared to the prior year. It is a positive number, although somewhat ambiguous due to the sales drop due to the pandemic. So the figure that interests me more is growth in comparison to 2019. This is the good one. We can forget about 2020, because comparatively it does not mean much, but compared to 2019 we have grown about 30%. This is a great achievement considering the global chemical raw material supply issues experienced throughout 2021.

Which sectors are you covering in Mexico?

The main sector that we cover is the coatings sector, namely everything related to paints, and we divide it into a number of segments. The main, or most common, one is architectonic or decorative coatings. This includes all the paint products used on buildings and houses, inside and out. This is one of the most important segments of the coatings industry. The other important sector is the automotive sector, which we divide in two: original automotive coatings and the repainted automotive ones, which are used in car repairs. Original automotive is doing poorly, as car production both globally and in Mexico have declined in the past few years. The technology to produce all of these different coatings are very different, as automotive coatings require a much superior technology compared to that of decorative coatings. Those are the most important segments within the coatings segment, which is important for us. We have other important segments in Mexico, such as plastics. Mexico is one of the countries that imports the most machinery, extruders, and injectors of plastic. There are different segments within the plastics industry that we serve, such as thermoplastics, which is heavily involved in the automotive industry. We also have customers in the PVC and thermosets segments, and we are also involved in the development of plastics recycling.

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