KUWAIT - Real Estate & Construction
Chairperson, Gulf Consult
Najla Alghanim joined Gulf Consult in 2000 as an Associate Director, and worked on several major projects in both design and supervision. Prior to joining Gulf Consult, she interned at Banque Worms and BFI in Paris and Geneva and later worked as a Relationship Officer in the Corporate Finance Department of the National Bank of Kuwait. These experiences have enabled her to bring a wealth of experience in executive management and business development to Gulf Consult. She holds a BSc degree in business administration from the University of Arizona in Tucson and a BSc in Civil Engineering from San Jose State University.
I believe the first milestone was the establishment of the company in the 1960s when Kuwait was initially developing its oil industry under the progressive leadership of HH Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah. At that time, however, most of the engineers or architects working in Kuwait were from abroad. The foundation of our company by a Kuwaiti national represented a major milestone. Although we grew consistently after this, the second milestone was the post-Gulf War period when numerous foreign employees were unable to return because of the sides their countries had taken during the war. Eventually, we had to start from scratch and rebuild the firm with whatever resources were available at that time. Our third milestone was when my father passed away and we were under pressure to continue seamlessly without him. In family-owned businesses, it is always a challenge to move from one generation to another and to hold on to the original business. The biggest challenge facing us is to update our business to keep up with emerging ideas and technologies and to introduce new ways of doing things, as many of our employees have been with us for a long time. Aside from expanding to new markets or diversifying our lines of business, we are currently recruiting recent graduates with innovative concepts who can change the work environment.
Whether we are talking about buildings or infrastructure, our projects typically have a long life cycle. Depending on the size of the project, the design phase can usually take two to four years while construction normally takes two to seven years. We are working on a number of different types of projects ranging from commercial units and offices to educational institutions and infrastructure. I always feel proud when we work on infrastructure projects that are vital to our country’s economy. For example, we are involved in numerous road projects in Kuwait such as Cairo Street and the South Regional Road, also known as South Surra Road. This latter project will provide a direct connection to Jaber Hospital. These projects will eventually relieve pressure on Kuwait’s congested road network. One of our most important projects is the new Mubarak Al-Kabeer port for which we partnered up with a British firm and Pace Architects to design the buildings. The potential economic consequences of this project are vast, as the majority of Kuwait ports run below capacity, which, in return, affect Kuwait’s trade volumes. We are also working on the Kuwait Cancer Center as well as on numerous other hospitals for both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Works. For example we recently completed the Jaber Hospital project and are looking to tender the Kuwait Police Hospital by the end of the year. In addition, we are currently involved in the expansion of the Scientific Center. Moreover, another project we are looking to become involved in is the design of irrigation networks for treated sewage water, which is important for landscaping and agriculture and prevents treated water from being dumped into the sea as this could cause an environmental problem in Kuwait Bay. Another sanitation project we are hoping to work on is a large treatment plant which was tendered through the Partnerships Technical Bureau (PTB). Outside of Kuwait, we have also started to take on projects in Sudan and Bahrain through the Kuwait Fund for Development. However, in all circumstances, wherever our operations expand to, we seek to provide a value-added service to local communities and to associate with local companies in order to share knowledge and transfer our experience.
We worked with the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) on a number of master plans for an 18sqm economic zone. KDIPA could be a major potential partner going forward if we can develop these plots and sell to direct investors. The great thing about KDIPA is that it turned from a foreign investment into a direct investment authority. Accordingly, these lands could also be developed by Kuwaiti companies, which is important because Kuwaiti firms are liquid but lack domestic investment opportunities due to the lack of land. Additionally, we see the Public Authority for Housing as a large potential client given that they have a relatively new minister who has experience in the private sector. However, we primarily work with the government, most importantly the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defense, and companies such as KNPC, KOC, and KOTC. We also are pleased to have the opportunity to work with KFAS, which is a great organization that was established by the government to promote science. Increasingly we are gaining clients from the private sector as well. Although we have not established a lot of relationships with big real estate companies, we did work with Tamdeen Real Estate Company as a client for one project
With the PTB having tendered their projects and consequently brought new capital into the market, I am really optimistic about the coming year. The private sector will have another avenue for investing their money in Kuwait instead of taking it outside of the country. In fact, Kuwait has defied the low oil price environment and I do not see any slowdown in construction over coming years. Moreover, once KDIPA starts developing free trade zones, trade volumes are likely to skyrocket. On the other side the Touristic Enterprises Company (TEC) will be developing over 50 locations in Kuwait which will have an unparalleled impact on Kuwait’s recreational sector. Infrastructure will also continue to represent a large part of the construction sector, as it continuously needs to be upgraded in response to the growth in population.
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