French firm Saverglass shows a lot of bottle in RAK

The Life: Ludovic de Gromard, the deputy project manager of Saverglass factory in Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority free zone, talks about his company's first manufacturing unit outside France.

Ludovic de Gromard, the deputy project manager of Saverglass, says the target is to make 350 tonnes of glass bottles a day. Satish Kumar / The National
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Ludovic de Gromard, the deputy project manager of Saverglass in Ras Al Khaimah, is busy setting up a factory to manufacture luxury glass bottles for the beverage sector and the perfume industry.

Founded in 1897, the French company is setting up its first factory abroad in the RAK Investment Authority (Rakia) free zone.

Here, Mr De Gromard talks about the €75 million (Dh360.8m) project.

Why come to the UAE to set up a manufacturing centre?

It is easy to sell to South Africa, Asia and South America from here as the transport costs are cheaper. We are looking to expand in these markets. Also, the natural gas, construction and labour costs are lower here than in France. Also, we export 45 per cent of the products worldwide and so have a risk of [fluctuations in] euro-dollar conversion. Here the figures will be in dirhams pegged to the dollar. It's a natural way to hedge the conversion [fluctuations]. Also, here we could set up the plant in one year, which could not be done in France.

The project will employ 180 people at its 100,000 square metre factory. How will you train them?

We are recruiting staff from India and the Philippines, all of whom have worked in glass manufacturing before. From October until December, we will have group training on the machines and from January for six months we will have one-on-one, hands-on training. A hundred of our employees from our four French manufacturing plants will come over here for that.

How will you overcome the language barriers?

We are giving English lessons, including specific English vocabulary for the industry, to our French employees. They will be given training in France and in RAK, about the UAE, the Middle East, the local culture, the religion [and] the habits: what has to be done and what cannot be done.

Intercultural management trainings will also be organised with a special focus on the culture of our new collaborators, mainly from India and the Philippines. For our Asian recruits, one criteria was to speak good English.

Why choose RAK over other emirates?

In RAK, we are not one out of hundreds of companies. We are considered one of the important ones and the relationship with Rakia is much appreciated.

Are you going to employ Emiratis?

We will employ local individuals in the administrative positions but we are not sure how many.

What would be the factory's capacity?

The target is 350 tonnes of glass bottles a day and 90,000 tonnes for the first year.

What is Saverglass's turnover?

It was €335m last year and we employ 2,500 people worldwide. Around 95 per cent of our turnover is from sales of beverage bottles, which includes high-end olive oil bottles, and the rest from perfume bottles. We have 64 per cent of the worldwide market share in luxury bottles. Our major markets are Europe and the United States.

When would the factory start operations?

The first bottle will [roll out] at 8am on January 7.

* Sananda Sahoo

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