We chat with Mr. Ahmad al naser…
Emirates 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 DSE and will now manage DSE across MENA, South Asia and Europe, developing strong working relationships with existing and potential business partners and and identifying opportunities for expansion.
EP: 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. My priorities will be to ensure the growth of our business, maintaining the quality of our work and reputation while meeting our targets and increasing the share value for our shareholders.
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 apply innovative solutions, which would give us an edge over our competitors.
EP: What is Drake & Scull working on at the present time in the Gulf Region
AN: DSE’s current project backlog in the GCC region stands at nearly AED 4.4 billion. We are involved in projects spanning various sectors, including commercial, education, healthcare, hospitality, residential, mixed use, district and central cooling, data centres, power plants, infrastructure, renewable energy, aviation, government and retail sectors. Some of our major ongoing projects include the Jabal Omar development in Mecca, King Fahad Medical City (KSA), The Mall of Qatar and Dohaland in Qatar, Louvre Museum, Habtoor City (UAE), College of Arts and Business (Kuwait), and the New Muscat Airport (Oman) to name a few.
EP: What would you say is the company’s main competitive advantage?
AN: 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, operate independently, yet have the flexibility to integrate their services, depending on the needs of the projects. Since we are sister companies, we operate and work in sync, avoiding the hassles that are usually faced when multiple teams from different companies work on projects.
Another advantage is our tremendous experience gained over 130+ years, working on a wide variety of projects spanning various countries and sectors. Our workforce is extremely skilled and experienced, having delivered more than 400 projects in the last five decades, across MENA, Europe and Asia.
Our wide footprint also gives us the ability to shift our resources (material, human and financial) and scale our presence, to suit the requirements of a particular project. Our familiarity with local conditions, regulations and cultural sensitivities allows us to deliver high cost efficiencies on projects.
EP: How important is sustainability and the environment to DSE?
AN: We are very aware of the fact that the majority of our markets have very delicate and fragile ecosystems, which must be sustained and nurtured. We have a dedicated QHSE policy which lays out the guidelines
to ensure minimum wastage and maximum utilisation of resources on site. We recycle unused materials and use them on our ongoing projects. We are implementing a sophisticated ERP system that will eventually lead to a ‘Zero’ paper environment.
Besides this, we are also encouraging the adoption of Building Information Modelling in our industry, which helps to identify energy usage patterns and cooling efficiency in large-scale buildings. We have worked on several LEED projects in the region, ranging from LEED Silver to LEED platinum, which helps to reduce a building’s carbon footprint.
EP: What are the company’s main challenges over the next five years?
AN: The complexity of dealing with multiple markets presents interesting and unique challenges. Overall though, our aim remains the same. 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 and to 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.
There is also a general wariness to avoid the pitfalls of an overheating market, and to have the wisdom to rein in costs and wasteful practices that re-emerge during a boom time in the industry.
EP: 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 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, as well as being partners with global telecom giant Huawei in offering data centre development in the region. 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.
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.