Rashid Hassan Riyadh
The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Saudi Arabia would help to build “multiple new bridges of cooperation” between the two countries, a top industrialist has predicted.
Mahdy S. Katbe, president and CEO of Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries, one of the first Japanese consumer-goods investments in the Kingdom, told Arab News: “This visit will serve to advance a strong and long-standing partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia in diverse fields and industries.
“We strongly believe it will further solidify the strong bond between the two countries and support growth and development of multiple new bridges of cooperation.”
Established more than 25 years ago, Unicharm’s products have grown to become household names, providing “gentle care for life” to families in Saudi Arabia and countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
“BabyJoy, our flagship baby care product, has become the preferred choice for Saudi mothers for their babies. We also produce Sofy feminine napkins and Lifree adult diapers, with Lifree also commanding the leading share in the Saudi market,” Katbe said.
The business leader added that his company was “very proud” of its 27-year record of successful partnership between Saudi Arabia and Japan. “Our business strategies, practices and values have been in line with Saudi Vision 2030. Since inception, we have been at home with the six key pillars of the Vision 2030.”
Katbe pointed out that one of the Saudi reform plan’s main pillars was investment, which to date had reached in excess of SR1.5 billion. On technology transfer, he said state-of-the-art technology from Japan linked with established local research and development resources, had resulted in the BabyJoy baby diaper becoming a leading brand in the Kingdom.
As part of the Saudization pillar, Unicharm had set targets with ongoing programs to recruit and train Saudi human resources, and more than 700 men and women from the Kingdom had been appointed to various positions, making up 30 percent of the firm’s total workforce, he said.
With active support for the participation and empowerment of women, Katbe noted that more than 300 Saudi women actively contributed toward proven value-added functions in manufacturing, sales, marketing, research and development, market research and sales development.
Another important pillar of Vision 2030 was export growth, and the chief executive highlighted that Unicharm represented 0.3 percent of total Saudi non-oil exports. He added that the business was also actively engaged in actions and commitments related to the sixth key pillar of social responsibility.
“We support numerous public social welfare initiatives including active engagement in training and human resource development,” said Katbe.
In 2014, Unicharm Corporation, Japan, won the Nikkei Social Initiative Award in the corporate category. The award is given to businesses that successfully implement initiatives to overcome social issues or difficulties in the workplace. “The award was in appreciation of our efforts to establish a factory operated by Saudi women,” he added.
Katbe stressed that the sustained growth and achievements of Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries could not have been realized without the support and effective policies of the Saudi government led by King Salman.
He said that during 2020, Unicharm aimed to continue its journey of long-term partnership with Saudi Arabia supported from Japan by Unicharm Corporation and its president and CEO, Takahisa Takahara.
According to Katbe, the linkup was one of many long-term successful partnerships between Japan and Saudi Arabia. “We strongly believe that many of the 21st-century technologies will, without any doubt, come from Japan. Those will encompass traditional industries and equally high-tech industries including artificial intelligence.”