The Lucrative Business Taking Workplace Aesthetics to New Heights
Fiberglass has become nearly ubiquitous over the past century as the strong, lightweight material finds use in the manufacture of everything from boats to buildings and pipes. Though a bit late to the scene, businesses in Addis Ababa are catching on to the profitability and demand involved with fiberglass. From importers and processors to schools that teach their students how to fashion versatile material into marketable products, there is a new wave of activity in the fiberglass line of business. In addition to the lucrative profit margins, fiberglass offers fresh aesthetics to homes and offices, writes EBR’s Eden Teshome.
There was a great deal of research done in the 1930s on the development of fiber-reinforced plastic for industrial use. The aviation industry, in particular, was keen to see the development of a lightweight but durable material that could be used to build or replace heavier parts of airplanes. A researcher at Owens-Illinois stumbled upon such a material in 1932, when he accidentally fired a jet of compressed air into a stream of flowing molten glass, causing fibers to develop.
Several years of research later, fiberglass, as we know it today, was given birth. It was first used to replace the molded plywood used in aircraft radomes during World War II. The use of fiberglass in the construction of sports cars and boats following the end of the war marked the start of its civilian application.
Fiberglass has since found uses in everything from telecommunications and transport to sports equipment and MRI scanners. It is commonly used in protective equipment, such as helmets, due to its strength and lightweight nature.
Local businesses have also taken heed of fiberglass adaptability. Cherinet Tilahun is the founder and CEO of Antenna Manufacturing & Business Consultancy Plc. The company is involved in the manufacture and import of machinery, such as those used to produce detergents, juice, and grinded salt, as well as printing machines. Cherinet and his colleagues base their operations near the Saris area, across from Dama Hotel of Akaki Kality District. The firm also supplies raw fiberglass materials as well as finished products, all the while offering training and consultation services to individuals who want to get into the fiberglass market.
A drive to present new and unique business ideas, areas of application, and goods were behind Cherinet’s decision to start his fiberglass production and training business.
“Having conducted some market research on the demand, how to access the materials used for manufacturing, and how easy it is to produce the items, I decided to join the business thinking also about the many job opportunities I could create,” Cherinet told EBR.
The fiberglass is imported from overseas markets (often China). Cherinet started off with ETB 20,000 budget to fashion small items such as flower vases, shower trays, and hand basins from fiberglass. The market has been kind to him and he is making efforts to broaden the company’s product portfolio.
“It’s safe to say that demand in Addis Ababa is high and supply does not match it,” said a hopeful Cherinet.
He is not the only one in high spirits.
Nahom Eskindir, a former digital marketer at Synergy Professional, completed the training course offered by Antenna Manufacturing before embarking on his own fiberglass production business. He has been running the business with his brother for around four months now, fashioning fiberglass products on a piece of land they inherited from their parents. The products they offer include shower trays and flower pots, while most of their clients are building supply retailers.
Nahom and his brother offer a shower tray for around ETB 900, while the price range for flower pots can swing between ETB 3,200 and ETB 5,000 depending on the design.
“They might be a little more expensive than regular clay pots and plastic pots, but they are preferable for their strength and their resistance to rust. If you have the creativity to create unique designs, there are clients who are eager to spend,” said Nahom.
Getachew Muluye is another Antenna Manufacturing trainee with high hopes for the future of fiberglass. He graduated with a marketing degree from Axum University in 2009 and has since found stable employment with Berhan Bank. He learned about Antenna’s training program through a friend who had already enrolled. He decided to give it a go, paying ETB 5,000 for a three-day session. It worked out, and Getachew began working part-time to produce fiberglass flower pots after getting off his shift at the bank. His clients, too, are building supplies retailers.
“I only work at the bank because I need the loans that the bank offers to its employees. Eventually, I intend to devote all of my resources to the fiberglass business because it is so lucrative,” Getachew told EBR.
Fiberglass is unique in several aspects, among them is the fact that it is corrosion-resistant and both strong and light. In the event of a break or accident, it may also be quickly repaired. Perhaps its best attribute is its adaptability to intricate shaping. This explains why fiberglass is utilized so commonly in products such as bathtubs, yachts, aircraft, roofing, and other items. The worldwide glass fiber market has bright potential in a number of end-use sectors, including wind energy, consumer products, pipe and tanks, construction, aerospace, marine, transportation, and electrical and electronics.
Global demand for fiberglass was over USD 7.86 billion in 2018; by 2027, it is expected to reach USD 11.92 billion. Since fiberglass is lightweight and improves fuel efficiency, the automotive industry has a high need for it. This desire is anticipated to fuel expansion in the fiberglass market over the course of the projected period. The size of the global fiberglass market is anticipated to cross 7,800 Kilo Tons by 2027. The market for carbon fiber, a viable fiberglass substitute, is anticipated to have an impact on fiberglass market growth in the next few years. The automotive industry dominated the usage of fiberglass internationally with more than 25 Pct of the total consumption, including pipes and tanks, wind energy, aerospace and military, sports and recreation, and marine.
Fiberglass is commonly employed in the interior, exterior, and powertrain segments of the automotive industry in elements such as exhaust systems, fenders, floor panels, and headliners. Fiberglass is utilized in the construction industry in many different products, including mesh fabrics that stop internal wall gaps, self-adhesive drywall tapes, floor covering, and waterproofing frit. Recent years have seen a significant increase in modern architecture, which has led to the development of modern materials that improve art without compromising the stability and strength of the built structures.
“Although their selling prices vary depending on the products, we always make a profit of 30–40 Pct, regardless of the price of the raw materials required to make the products,” said Cherinet.EBR
11th Year • Nov 2022 • No. 112