FACILITY FACTOR

Kazakhstan 2014 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Bahitbek Katen, Chairman of Aristan Group, on the milestones of the company, barriers to growth, and addressing the human resources issue.

Bahitbek Katen
BIOGRAPHY
Bahitbek Katen began his career in 2003. For more than 10 years, he has been engaged in construction, development, and real estate management. He has worked in leading Kazakhstan and foreign companies, such as Colliers, MAG Group, NAI Global, and since 2006 has been the Chairman of the Aristan Group.

What have been the key milestones and developments for Aristan group over the past two years?

We continue to work on strengthening the position of our companies in all the fields that we cover, such as construction, property, and our facility-management business. We established and opened a property evaluation firm, which is today actively working under the consulting group. As for the construction business, we initiated our own heavy-industrial construction division, which participated in one of the largest construction projects in Kazakhstan, a new Kazakhmys plant in the Northern Pavlodar region. We assisted in raising the metal structure, and in building the facility's campus for the project. The general contractor was Alsim Alarko, and we were coopted as a subcontracting company. We continued our work on residential buildings in Almaty, in the Aktau region, and also carried out general construction projects all over Kazakhstan and the Caspian bloc. As for property management, our company has been doing very well, opening two more business centers, and a property management center over the past year. We are also providing cleaning and facility-management services to shopping malls. We are continuing with smaller projects as well, and in the property evaluation business we work closer with the banks and property owners.

Kazakhstan ranked an impressive 49th overall on the World Bank's 2013 Doing Business rankings, but only 155th when assessed on its construction permit system. To what degree do you see this as a barrier to growth in the sector?

We do still have problems with construction permits, which first have to pass through complicated procedural systems for obtaining the technical utilities permits, the construction site approval from the municipal architecture department, as well as a permit from the constructing control departments. Progress has been made, with the elimination of specific construction permits in 2013. It is a major step that saves around two months in obtaining a construction permit. The government is determined to eliminate barriers, and is decreasing the number of licenses required for construction projects. Additionally, both local and international companies can function as a general contractor and acquire permits for an international design company. It is important and necessary that the government urges these international companies to work with local companies, so that construction projects become localized. That is where we step in as a local partner. With an English-speaking staff and an outstanding team, we are ready to work as true local partners to provide solutions and continue what we have already been doing for several years.

How is the private construction sector working with educational institutes to address this skills shortage?

I think that every mid-level company is working on the issue. We are negotiating with the National Academy of Architecture and Construction, and we would like to have our own program, starting with classes for project management in construction. We are interested in producing high-level designers. I think the approach of state educational institutions are highly theoretical and outdated, and an unfortunate inheritance of the Soviet system. We are also partnering with international companies. In 2014, we participated in an expo with Gansam from South Korea—one of the top-30 international architectural design companies. Such partnerships are beneficial for our team. We witnessed the methodology it employs in running the business; its project management is completely different. Also, its deliverables production approach and design quality are completely different; it is very customer-oriented. I have seen what it does, and I can clearly say that unfortunately neither we as a sector, nor Kazakhstan's largest design institutions, have the necessary vision for development on such a scale just yet.