We chat with Mr. Ahmad al naser…
Saudi Projects: What is your background and brief as MD of Drake & Scull?
Ahmad Al Naser: I started my DSI career as a Project Manager on the Trader’s Hotel in 2002, and then served as Acting Area General Manager for Drake & Scull Kuwait, before managing the Zayed University project. I then took over as Area General Manager for Abu Dhabi in late 2005, and introduced DSE into new markets like KSA and India in a phase in which DSE picked up several high profile projects like Park Rotana, ADNEC Phase 2, Yas Island Hotel, Presidential Palace, ITCC, KAUST, Kuwait State Audit Bureau, and the World Crest Towers in India. During this time, I was promoted to the position of Regional Director for Drake & Scull Engineering, responsible for both generating business as well as ensuring delivery of projects in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, KSA and India.
This year, I took over as the Managing Director for Drake & Scull Engineering and will now manage DSE across MENA, South Asia and Europe, and will develop strong working relationships with existing and potential business partners, identify opportunities for expansion.
SP: What is your biggest challenge as M&D of Drake & Scull?
AN: The biggest challenge for me is that my scope of responsibility has now expanded to all DSE markets. I take this responsibility quite seriously, and there are 15,000 employees who I have to take care of and keep them happy and motivated to excel. From a purely contracting perspective, I think one of the main challenges is the competitive pricing for job tenders as the market is currently very demanding. The only way for us to meet our targets is to improve our productivity and applying innovative solutions which would give us an edge over our competitors.
SP: What is Drake & Scull working on at the present time in KSA?
AN: DSE’s current project backlog in the GCC region stands at nearly AED 4.4 billion. Saudi Arabia is by far our biggest market for all our businesses. Speaking for Drake & Scull Engineering, we have around AED 2.6 billion worth of projects ongoing in KSA and we are hopeful of picking up more projects as we head into the final quarter of 2014. Some of the major projects we’re currently undertaking in KSA include the Jabal Omar development, the King Saud University, King Fahad Medical City, Dammam University hospital, the District Cooling plant at the Information Technology Communications Complex (ITCC), among others.
Our sister concern, Drake & Scull Construction is also involved in mega projects like KAPSARC, Lamar Towers, Jabal Omar and the Al Rajhi Bank Data centre. We expect KSA to continue to remain our biggest and most important market for the near future.
SP: What would you say is the company’s main competitive advantage in KSA?
NA: Our biggest advantage is that we offer our clients a one-stop-shop for complete project execution and delivery, from the pre-design stage to post-delivery operations and maintenance. All our businesses, be it Drake & Scull Engineering, Drake & Scull Construction, Drake & Scull Oil and Gas, Drake & Scull Rail, Passavant Energy & Environment and Drake & Scull Development, have dedicated offices, personnel and equipment in KSA, which gives us a substantial advantage over our competitors.
Another benefit is our tremendous Saudi experience gained over the last four decades, working on a wide variety of projects spanning various countries and sectors. We enjoy a strong understanding of the Saudi market, its sensitivities and culture. We have proven our capabilities on challenging and prestigious projects like ITCC, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Princess Noura University, the King Khaled Hospital, the Upstream Professional Development Centre (UPDC), and many more projects.
In addition, our civil businesses enjoy a Class 1 certification, permitting us to work on large scale projects, and our management models are ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2005 and OHSAS 18001:2007certified. We also have the capability to deliver LEED Silver, LEED gold and LEED platinum projects in KSA.
SP: Is business good at the moment and where do you see growth coming from?
NA: As far as picking up projects are concerned, we continue to win over new clients due to our experience and track record of delivering projects on time and within budgets. We are pleased with our current position in the KSA market, where we’ve been consolidating our presence in all our business streamlines.
Our backlog is at an all-time high and we have a decent portfolio of ongoing projects, whilst our workforce is rapidly expanding. So I remain optimistic about our prospects for the near future.
While we’ll consolidate our position in the Engineering (MEP) business, I personally see DSE achieving a leadership role in the rail business in KSA, in collaboration with Drake & Scull Rail.
SP: What are the company’s main challenges over the next five years in KSA?
AN: The complexity of dealing with multiple markets presents interesting and unique challenges. We have to continue to expand our backlog and to ensure reasonable profits on our projects. This will be very crucial for DSE to continue positioning itself as the prime contractor in the region by delivering projects on time, within budget, and to DSE quality standards.
Another challenge for us will be to lay the groundwork and expand to accommodate the upcoming boom in the industry. There will be a lot more competition as more firms move here to reap the benefits of the rapid growth in projects, which will also put pressure on the overall costs, as well as demand for human capital.
SP: Are there any products or services that you would particularly like to highlight?
AN: Once again, I would like reiterate DSI’s unique ability to offer integrated engineering services to the client, which is a tremendous advantage as it gives them a single point of contact to address any and all project needs. It’s an advantage few companies can offer in our markets.
We are also very active in renewable energy, with our experience in solar energy and waste to energy conversion plants. Besides this, we are partners with global telecom giant Huawei in offering data centres development in the region. The Internet usage pattern in the MENA region is rapidly growing, and as more content in localised, data centres offer high levels of data security and speed in delivery, and our solutions is mobile and scalable.
Finally, I would like to focus on the rail sector. We have a rich history of delivering rail stations, networks and rail communications systems in Asia and the UK, and we offer the same knowledge and talent here in the Middle East. We have worked on projects like the Jubilee Line Extension, Channel Tunnel Rail Link, St. Pancras Station redevelopment in the UK.
Our traditional MEP expertise, combined with our rail knowhow, gives us a winning combination to help deliver the public transport infrastructure that local governments are investing in right now.