Oct. 24, 2018


Ali Al-Khalifa

Qatar

Ali Al-Khalifa

CEO, ASTAD

“We look forward to winning more projects in the aviation sector.”

BIO

Ali Al-Khalifa is a leading executive at the forefront of the project management business in the Middle East. He has a proven track record of delivering complex mega-projects with international partners across a broad range of sectors. He developed ASTAD’s dynamic and visionary approach to corporate management, which has resulted in the company becoming one of the largest project management consultancies in the region. He studied mechanical engineering in the United States, followed by an MBA, before embarking on a career spanning almost two decades working in Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and China. In 2017 he ranked number one in Construction Week Magazine’s annual Power 100 list.

What flagship projects has ASTAD developed in Qatar?

ASTAD has completed more than 250 projects, though there are some projects we really take an honor in having been a part of, such as the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, Qatar National Convention Center, and the Lusail Sports Arena. This arena was due for completion for the 2015 World Handball Championship, and despite the tight schedule, it was completed in two years. In 2017, we also worked on three iconic projects: Qatar National Library, Sidra Medicine, and North Western University. We currently have an active project portfolio which includes the National Museum of Qatar, Qatar Foundation Stadium, and several rail projects.

How is your international portfolio developing?

We recently completed our five-year business strategy with the support of McKinsey and identified strategic partnerships as the way forward with operations abroad. We signed an agreement with a theme park consultancy firm in the US and have done the same with several real estate and construction stakeholders in Korea, Oman, Kuwait, Tunisia, France, Turkey, and the UK as well as in Russia, which will allow us to enter East Europe. As ASTAD grows internationally, we want to strengthen our collaboration with the existing market operators that share the same values. We are investing a lot of time in research and market analysis before collaborating with firms worldwide. We currently have offices and projects in Oman, Kuwait, UK, Sudan, Somalia and Burkina Faso. We help suitable and carefully selected international partners enter the Qatari market, which has led us to work with leading firms that have worked with the likes of Disney on projects in Qatar.

How has the blockade affected the operations of ASTAD?

Certain companies in Qatar were dependent on specific suppliers and as a result of the blockade, they had to search for different suppliers quickly, which was not a difficult task. The case for ASTAD was different, as we had already put a strategy in place to penetrate other markets. We accelerated this strategy, and today we find ourselves operating in countries with great potential for our business in East Europe and Africa, for example. For some other countries, operations are managed from Doha and executed through a local partner. Alternative faster, cheaper and higher quality suppliers were sourced and operations in Qatar, if anything, are now progressing more positively.

How can any party involved in a construction project benefit from SANAD?

SANAD is a solution developed by ASTAD to support the contractual procedures within this region's construction industry. SANAD is the result of a wealth of experience gained by ASTAD after working on so many complex projects in numerous sectors. It lays out the best ways of communication and cooperation between the contractor, consultants, and the client in a project. We used internationally known models as a reference and combined that with our expertise in Qatar. We have received positive feedback from contractors and clients in countries including Kuwait and Oman, and market operators now use SANAD locally in Qatar, which is why we now have a version in Arabic. Soon, we will also have it in French to serve as an asset in our international operations. We see SANAD as our social contribution to the construction industry. We took the steps to put together market expertise and share it with the industry at zero cost. The only thing we ask is that the users give us feedback within a year. We have won several awards for SANAD, including an award for social responsibility in engineering in Oman and recognition in Qatar.

What is the added value of having a local project management company like ASTAD for operations in Qatar?

We have more than 800 employees from 62 nationalities and have extensive experience in sectors such as aviation, sports, transportation, residential, education, hospitality, infrastructure, culture, and commercial. We have over 250 projects with a decade of experience within this industry locally, and we work internationally so we are well aware and well versed in the differences between operating within or outside of Qatar. ASTAD has the right mix of skills and a deep understanding of Qatar's construction industry in terms of what the authorities need, what might be acceptable in Qatar, and what will not work in Qatar. We understand contractors and deal with them accordingly. This is one of the reasons we established SANAD, because countries like Qatar do not make money from liquidated damages. Oil is a major source of income for Qatar, and we seek to invest this resource in the most efficient way possible to guarantee our future generations' wellbeing. All parties in a construction project need to fully understand how a project fits into the future of the country, adding value and reducing the risks and the difficulties involved.

What is the outlook for ASTAD in 2019?

Thus far in 2018 we have won several major projects in more than six countries, which will keep us busy in the upcoming year. In the past, we worked to develop solutions for rail construction, and today ASTAD is part of all rail-related projects. ASTAD aims to work in rail in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and across the Silk Road. Additionally, we look forward to winning more projects in the aviation sector. We see aviation as a strategic sector for our business and, in this regard, Africa is a region with huge potential. Regionally, Oman and Qatar also present great business opportunities. There will be another airport in the country, so aviation is a sector that we will focus more on in 2019, while keeping in mind that infrastructure will remain our core business.

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