TBY talks to Mariano Patanè, General Director of Caspian Marine Services, on the business environment, HR, and growth strategies.
TBY In your experience, how has Kazakhstan changed recently as a business environment?
MARIANO PATANÈ I came here with Saipem, and in three years with that company I obtained a lot of experience. This country is full of people who are easy to work with, and who accept constructive criticism. The government is very open to suggestions from all sectors, and that is also positive for the business environment here. I have also observed an increase in the number of English speakers. This is not a country that is closed to foreigners, far from it; it’s open to tourists and investors. People who invest here can make money, and it is easy to set up any kind of business you like.
How does the name of the company highlight its drive and operations?
We do not necessarily emphasize the marine aspect of the company. In the same period when we bought this company we got all the staff from another company that had worked in oil and gas services for more than 10 years. We like the name as it highlights the fact that we are working onshore and offshore in the oil and gas sector, which is where the future lies. We also have a close relationship with Caspian Offshore Construction, which is the first privately owned fully Kazakhstani company known for fast and sustainable development in the market of marine fleet operators in the North Caspian Sea. We provide brokerage services, and our relationship just goes from strength to strength.
What is the percentage of construction in your business volume compared to other services?
Construction represents 50% to 60% of our business. We are involved in industrial installation, especially welding and carpentry and electro-instrumental industry. Our company is also involved in projects for the upgrading of vessels and in all oil and gas infrastructure. We work with all the major companies involved in the oil and gas sector, such as but not limited to ENI, Saipem, Ersai, Tozzi Sud, Rosetti Marino, and Bonatti.
Considering that the bulk of your work is in construction, how do you make sure that your team has the right expertise?
I bring in expatriates at the end of their careers to benefit from their experience. I am in touch with different universities in Kazakhstan to find good engineers. I prefer foreign specialists, because when you are at the end of your career you are not protective of your knowledge and are ready to transfer it to the new generation. Once the new generation absorbs the knowledge, foreign specialists can go back to their countries and enjoy their lives, and then the local personnel is skilled and has the knowledge of 45 years of experience to work on any project. We have employed foreign project managers, a site supervisor, a HSE manager, and highly skilled specialists of middle positions for a workforce nationalization program that in a few years will give us the possibility to work solely with Kazakhstani manpower. I have been applying this strategy for only three years, but I believe it is the right way to be a major competitor in the oil and gas sector. After all, this is a dangerous business and we need the right knowledge.
How do you want to grow your business from this point on?
Caspian Marine Services is working right now as a service company assisting foreign companies that wish to start business in Kazakhstan and helping companies that are already present in the country. If you want to grow a company you must invest and if you look at the quality of the service that you provide and not only at the profit that you can get, for sure you will succeed. We have a department at our company that provides cars with drivers to oil and gas companies. We are strong for two reasons: we always invest in new staff and we periodically train our team. We believe that this is an important service in support of the oil and gas sector. We want to develop this business and develop the construction business. Additionally, we are looking at the international market in order to explore the possibility of bringing investors and technology into Kazakhstan. We boast quality, the best HSE practices, a training center, and the right service companies. We are also boosted by our subsidiary STAMGazStroy, which allows us to obtain services at a good price. We are also looking into milk production, as agriculture is a sector with lots of possibilities.
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