- Yusuf Nalwala, Managing Director, Al Ansari
Al Ansari Group has been able to diversify into different verticals in the construction arena such as civil contracting, water and wastewater management systems, electro-mechanical works, instrumentation, calibration, steel fabrication, landscaping, stone works and trading of high value engineering products. It has expanded operations into three different geographical areas. Today, the group boasts of over 4,000 employees and 10 group companies across Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and India. The company executes projects involving buildings works, electro-mechanical works, infrastructure projects, water and sewage water system, and carry out trading of several building material. Yusuf Nalwala, Managing Director, Al Ansari, shares more on the company´s projects, adopted strategies, challenges and the market in Oman.
What are your strategies to deliver high quality services in a timely manner?
As a company, we are gearing up to take on large scale projects and have recruited specialists from the industry. We have also established a detailed QA or QC policy that will control the materials used in the project as this is one area where we do not want to compromise in any way. We also have several in house on-field training sessions for our workers with a checklist in order to improve the workmanship on all our projects. Furthermore, we are in the final stage of implementing an ERP system, which will give us real time data on the project status.
Introduce us to the vital projects undertaken by the company to contribute to the development of local infrastructure.
In 2014, we completed several landmark projects. The Atana hotel at Khasab and the construction of the sewerage system for coastal Darsait, Aynt, WadiKabir and Hamriya Sub catchments stand out to be the prime ones among these. The company has also bagged ´Best Infrastructure Project´ of the year in 2014 award for this sewerage project. Further, the company has completed the construction of Sultan Taimur Bin Faisal Mosque at Mabella. The project covers a fully-developed area of 37,000 sq m with landscape area and car parking facility. The structure covers 4,300 sq m and is constructed on a raised podium.
Apart from this, notable recently completed projects by the company include VVIP Reception Building at Royal Flight Seeb, Sultan Qaboos Mosques at Bu Ali and Bu Hassan, Sultan Qaboos Mosques at Mahdha, Arrival Pavilion at Muscat, and Gateway at Buraimi. We have also constructed the sewerage network and sewage treatment plant in Barka. The scope of work in this project included EPC of six MLD sewage treatment plant for Wilayat of Barka, along with 2,000 cu m balancing tank or head works or biological treatment unit with MBR technology or 1,000 cu m TE reservoir or sludge dewatering system. The plant is designed with a fully automatic system with latest PLC and SCADA system.
Furthermore, we have been recently awarded the wastewater and sewerage pipeline project for the Bousher area and are carrying out Special Task Force Complex at Salalah and Police Station Complex at Jibal for the Royal Oman Police.
Elaborate on a landmark completed project along with the services that you have offered to it?
Of the two milestone projects we completed in 2014, Khasab Hotel Development Project is built in a reclaimed land, triangular shape, which is just out of water and bounded by water channel, giving it an exotic look. The hotel resort development supports the nation´s effort to boost tourism. This project is constructed on a land extending to about 582 acre, providing 110 keys and housing a combination of three, two, one BHK apartments. The project also has an exclusive club house accommodating various recreational amenities.
The second landmark project is a sewerage network one, which spans over Wadi Kabir, Darsait, Aint, Hamriya, and Ruwi with over 500 people involved in its construction. The sewerage system consist of 175 km of gravity sewer pipelines, 1,400 HDPE sewer manholes, 4,000 residential house connections, 5.6 km of rising main with pumping stations. This project had a massive impact on the local residents as their waste water is directly connected to the sewerage system and they do not need to depend on tankers. This also improves the environment by recycling the water.
Al Ansari is registered as an ´Excellent Grade´ company with the Tender Board of Oman and is also certified by the Quality Management Standard ISO 9001:2008. What are the key factors that have led you to this achievement?
This was a natural and organic process as we wanted to execute larger and more challenging projects. In order to qualify for these larger projects, we wanted to have a sound engineering team, large fleet of machinery and skilled workers. All these resources and management practices have enabled us to acquire the excellent grade status. We also realised that as a company, we can only excel if we have proper systems and quality practices in place. Our entire team was eager to implement this system, as it not only improves the checks and balances in the company but gives the clients assurance about the project being delivered on time.
What are the measures taken by the company to ensure complete safety and quality in its offerings or final products?
There can be no compromise when it comes to the safety of our employees as well as to surrounding communities. This is an integral part of our drive for operational excellence and it is the only way of executing projects at Al Ansari. The Atana Hotel Project site crossed 3 million safe man hours without any LTI. There were several initiatives such a use of chemical having ´Low-VOC (Lower Volatile Content)´, minimising its health hazards on the workers as well as occupants. The project was LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) certified where we complied to all LEED requirement with zero gaps. Our priority was local materials, suppliers and resources wherein minimum environmental damage would incur or loss of energy. Al Ansari received the award for Best Safety Initiative 2014 for the outstanding safety initiatives carried out for the Atana Hotal Project. At the Sewerage network project, the company crossed over 4 million safe man hours. This not only required sound technical and management skills, but also building an equation with the local community. This achievement is noteworthy because project related works are executed in a constrained residential area, with open trenches and main roads where there is heavy movement of human traffic and vehicles.
Any current challenges that you face in offering your services or executing projects in Oman? What are the solutions adopted by the company to overcome the same?
There are quite a few challenges in the construction industry at the moment. Clients have become a lot more cost conscious and aim at completing projects in shorter durations. This is largely driven by the fact that these projects earn revenue, and as a result, the liquidity damages clause comes a lot more into play in case of delays. That said, clients and contractors need to be a lot more realistic about the project completion dates.
Also, there is a lot of ongoing development across GCC. Saudi, Qatar and UAE are spending on large-scale projects, and hence, to attract the right talent pool to Oman has become a bigger challenge. Besides that, there is a lot of construction activity already going on in the subcontinent region, from where majority of the workforce is sourced, and hence, the workforce is not as keen to relocate.
Additionally, the scales of projects have increased and so has the complexity of each project. Hence, it is vital that the client representative and the design consultant are aware of the practical challenges involved in executing these projects.
The above constraints cannot be directly resolved by one company alone. It requires a mind shift change and co-operation from all parties involved. Going forward, we believe that the construction sector in Oman will be benefited if payment schedules can be consistently adhered to. This is paramount to safeguard the project´s timely completion as well as the larger interest of the economy. Moreover, a focus by the government on strong vocational and educational institutes that enables young Omanis to join the workforce will only broaden skill-sets and thereby qualitatively benefit the construction sector in Oman.
How would you comment on the growing needs of the infrastructure and construction developments in Oman?
While oil prices have dropped, the Oman Government has set aside a significant budget for the infrastructure projects. These projects include the national railway project, additional infrastructure at Duqm Port, residential township, sewage network in Muscat governorate, wastewater treatment plants in various Wilayats, convention center, thee and five star hotel projects, schools and education centres, and of course, building more airports and expanding the current ones. All of these projects will have a positive impact on the construction industry and in the long run benefit the economy of Oman, as it will create long term and sustainable employment opportunities. These economic conditions will positively impact our group. Al Ansari is well poised to take on a larger number of new projects, as we plan to upgrade our IT systems, processes and project execution platform. We are also expanding our senior management team with professionals who have sound engineering and project management expertise to support the company´s growth. We plan to significantly increase our labour force and invest in plant and machinery to increase our output.