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40 www. bus- ex. com December 09 Investment in technology and marketing initiatives has helped SmartStone to become South Africa's leading supplier of cast stone products. It is now looking to expand operations internationally, as Ruari McCallion learned from James Metcalf Rocsko lid

SmartStone December 09 www. bus- ex. com 41 T he early years of this decade saw a boom in the construction industry in South Africa. During this time SmartStone rode the wave to generate phenomenal growth for itself and its licensees. But it's a bit harder to grow turnover and to sustain performance when things turn down. At the heart of the company's growth were people who were up to the challenge. " We bought the SmartStone licencing company in 2002," says James Metcalf, managing director. " We were a licensee- it's similar to a franchisee- from the mid- 1990s and we became the biggest licensee by far in that time. " When we acquired the business we immediately set about building the brand through classic marketing initiatives and the development of new products. SmartStone and its licensees enjoyed phenomenal growth until 2006/ 7." Numerous competitors had also entered the market by then and, of course, the construction market began to turn down. But SmartStone, which is based in Midrand, has weathered the hard times well. Its market emphasis naturally rebalanced between residential and commercial markets. " A large part of our market has traditionally been residential- homeowners renovating or building new homes. That's quieter at the moment but we're still getting some pretty nice projects," says Metcalf. " About 40 to 50 per cent of our production is for driveways, parking and roadways. The balance comprises larger flagstones, which are used for patios, piazzas and the like, tiles and landscaping products." SmartStone makes cast stone products, which are manufactured from a mixture of ' wet' concrete, high quality oxides ( colour pigments) supplied by Cathay Pigments and other raw materials that are cast in moulds to create products with the same appearance as natural stone. The range of products is very wide; products are used as cobble paving, flagstone paving, tiles, wall cladding and landscaping products. The products are protected by copyright but SmartStone has also invested in process technology and efficiencies in order to stay ahead of the game. " Even while we were just a licensee, we brought a level of professionalism to the industry," Metcalf explains. " We set ourselves up to first world standards and we have invested in one of the most advanced automatic wet- cast concrete machines in the world." SmartStone has a total