MARWAN ORABI

Northern Emirates | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Marwan Orabi, General Manager of Metallic Equipment, about the impact of the pandemic.

How have you managed the COVID-19 shock and the waves that came after?

Initially, we had many projects since we have been in the market for a long time. We used to get 50-60 projects per year depending on the activity in the country, and in 2019 we signed many projects that would take place in 2019 and 2020. In terms of continuity, we are used to being busy in spite of the pandemic. We did face problems and obstacles in terms of logistics, transportation, and movement due to regulations from the government. However, we were able to continue with most of our projects, and some are due for completion. In 2020, we were busy and did not reduce our manpower, staff, or engineers in light of our ongoing projects.

What specific characteristics of the company ensured it remained strong?

We survived because this company is strong and well known. We have had a successful marketing plan where we have approached the market in a distinct way and have built a great reputation with our customers. We have excellent staff, engineers, technicians, and systems. The company is qualified for integrated management systems and the required certificates needed to participate in big projects. Our projects used to be strategic projects that would continue, such as the metro stations for Expo. They have definite timelines and had to be completed on time, which we managed to do in spite of COVID-19.

What current projects do you have in the pipeline?

We have ongoing projects that will keep us busy up until June. In the meantime, we are seeking suitable projects so that our cash flow will not be affected in times when the main contractor may be experiencing financial difficulties. We are trying to win significant vertical projects for which we are qualified, including special designs. We have some projects planned and are targeting large jobs overseas. We have jobs for five-star hotels overseas that we hope to sign very soon, and this will ensure we do not have to only take on small projects to keep surviving.

How much more important is technology to your organization than before?

Technology is much more important in our operations than before. As a result of the pandemic, everyone is forced to go through technology for remote working or utilizing new software for communications, controlling, and engineering. Regarding production, there have not been much changes, and operations have remained the same. For our industry, the pandemic has not changed things much, and we always continue to improve our technology regardless of developments. We are improving all our software systems and are relying on BIM software for many projects and also calculation software.

How do you maintain your competitiveness in today's environment?

First, we have to maintain our quality standards and control systems in terms of our projects. We need to continue to improve our staff and technology so that we can participate and approach the market for projects that fit our production line. Large strategic projects can sustain our business while everything else is closed. In addition, overseas projects are an important source of business, as we have projects in Saudi, Kuwait, and two countries in Africa. Cost cutting is extremely important as well, and technology helps ensure this is possible.

What are the advantages of being based in the UAE?

The UAE is one of the best countries for investment because the country has many sectors; we have technology, media, banking, tourism, and great infrastructure. This means the UAE attracts everyone for business or leisure. This will only continue to grow, and the Emirates will be a strategic center for business in the region. We have great ports and airports that make it easy to attract people to come and invest here. Most of the African markets are trading with the UAE for consumer items and raw materials for projects. There are the required facilities, with a smart government. Everything is easy, without any excessive bureaucracy.

What are your priorities and goals for the next six months?

My main priority is to retain our best staff and workers so that we can complete our projects fully. We want to overcome any potential cashflow problems by winning new projects so we can continue to grow. The pandemic is about to end, and we are positive about things opening up. We have targets in Uganda and the Gulf area. We are extremely positive that we are starting to move in the right direction, as we have started getting more enquiries in the last few months. Our strategy is to attend to all enquiries. In construction, there are stages, with projects that are still in the tender stage or are job in hand; these are the projects that we are prioritizing. All this is possible as a result of the government's key support to us and the private sector. It has enabled us to keep going, make progress, and plan for the future.