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Oman 2015 | ENERGY & UTILITIES | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ahmed Al-Ghafri, CEO of GEO-Resources, on the importance of environmental assessments and the broad range of services his company offers.

Ahmed Al-Ghafri
BIOGRAPHY
Ahmed Al-Ghafri was educated in Iran and the US, and can boast of a career of over 26 years spanning the public and private sectors. A Geologist and Marine Scientist, Al-Ghafri worked in the formative years of the Oman Mining Company before moving to the public sector, culminating as the Director General of the Directorate General of Water Resources Assessment in the Ministry of Water Resources. Al-Ghafri has also served as the Controller General of the Water Resources Department in Nizwa, as well as Section Head of Water and Waste Pollution in the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment. He founded GEO-Resources Consulting in 1999.

Could you elaborate on your current operations and the ways in which you are planning to expand their scope in the near future?

GEO-Resources was established in July 1999 as a wholly Omani company. Since then, the objective has been to build a company that supports the development of Oman's infrastructure and economy and allows it to be part of development activities in Oman. I think it is fundamentally important that people cannot get a piece of land to build on until they get environmental approval. That is radical and it indicates the great emphasis that Oman has placed on the importance of environmental protection. Our role is not to get environmental approvals for companies. It is as much about educating the client as presenting their projects to the government. We provide our services to many clients in Oman, from the oil sector to tourism and industry, from Muscat to Salalah and Duqm. In that sense, we have covered all parts of Oman. We do a lot of environmental work to support various development projects. We also cover the water resources in Oman; we do a lot of hydro-geological work and support the ongoing water sustainability programs. GEO-Resources also covers surveying activities, from geology to land surveying and seismic studies for oil companies. We also are involved in the mining sector through our geological work. We also cover investigations and run evaluations for some projects. We have a very long list of clients. GEO-Resources works with the government, as well as the oil and gas sector through Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), Oxy, Petrogas, and all the main players in this segment of the economy; we also work in the tourism sector, analyzing the environmental impact of new structures.

How is the company positioned to develop new capabilities?

Technology is crucial. Other companies have come to the market since we have been established, but we have maintained our position among the leading companies in Oman by providing the services that are needed to make a client satisfied with our work and desire a long-term collaboration and relationship together. Working with clients on a long-term basis has been our strategy since the very beginning. There are a couple of other aspects that underpin this business model. One is that we try not to step on other people's feet. For example, a natural extension of the services we offer is engineering, but we don't do that because, if we did, we would be in opposition to the engineers who are our clients. The other aspect is employment and training a core of Omanis. A great priority is the training, both at a university level and for our own staff. That is the future of the company. We employ about 40 people and the company meets Omanization requirements. Whenever a competent Omani becomes available to us, we employ him or her.

What are the main challenges your business faces in Oman?

The challenge is always to maintain the quality of services that we provide to our clients. That is something we are continuously working on. That means making ongoing improvements in order to see the right quality delivered. There are some other challenges as well. One of them is to make sure that Omanis within the company are gaining the knowledge required and are able to deliver and maintain their existence in the company. We also have our own in-house system improvements that allow us to meet those challenges. Part of the challenge for us is to maintain the level of growth so there is a chance for our senior Omanis to progress. You can't do that with a very small company, but, as the company grows, there is a greater need for field and operations managers to become general managers.