TBY talks to Mehdi Borhani, Chairman of Gulf Muscat United, on innovation, cost-efficient building materials, and exporting to Africa.

Mehdi Borhani
Mehdi Borhani is an entrepreneur who began to engage in business ventures in his early 20s by establishing many trade and industrial companies in different countries. He moved to Oman in 2009 and incorporated GMU before becoming the major shareholder of DURAT in 2013, one of the leading construction companies in the Sultanate. As an entrepreneur he occasionally comes up with new ideas and recently launched the cutting edge project known as iTower.

How will your recently launched iTower project change the business landscape in the city and help SMEs and corporations increase their business activity?

Muscat does not have enough available quality office space, and these offices are generally based on rental agreements. We have created a project whereby investors and companies can purchase office space on an easy payment plan. We have huge demand for office space because Oman is increasingly seen as an opportunity for investment and many companies are coming here. These businesses need office space and, for this reason, we started the iTower 1 project and expect to follow up with the iTower 2 and iTower 3. We will start the construction of the second iTower in September, and the first iTower is on target to be completed in May 2018. The iTower 2 is a bigger project, built on a plot double the size of the first project.

The iTower is said to be the smartest and most energy efficient business hub in Muscat. What are some specifications that give it this title?

We call this tower the smartest building in the Sultanate. It has a power-saving AC system, which is fully automated. We also used cost-effective and specialized light building materials that are energy efficient and insulating. We are using a special glass and aluminum and we employed smart designs to save energy. We have a smart system, which means the air conditioning system, for example, can be monitored and controlled from smartphones. We will also install a fully automated voice-activated system, which turns the lights on when people arrive in the morning, for example, and the automated system also adjusts the air conditioning during quiet times, such as lunch time when people are out of the office.

What are some other residential and commercial property developments taking place at Gulf Muscat United?

We have two companies here: one is for development and the other is a construction company. In construction, we have built projects for clients including a hotel, hospital, and a small shopping center in Muscat. We currently have around 20 projects on hand around the country and employ 1,500 people. We are involved in different types of construction projects, including schools, commercial developments, hotels, and government buildings. We are currently building our sixth accommodation project for the police, which is a residential project designed to be occupied by members of the police force. We also have the al Azaiba project, which is situated on 4,000sqm of land. As part of our 2020 development plan, we conducted an in-depth study into the real estate market and looked at areas where we can expect high growth until 2020.

How does your company help contribute to the export potential of Oman in various sectors?

There is a shortage of cement factories in Oman and around 2 million tons of cement is imported annually for construction. Our plan is to build three cement manufacturing facilities in Oman. One is in Duqm, which will be constructed on 2,000sqm of land and is already under construction. It is expected to produce 1,000 tons of cement a day starting in February/March 2017. We have another project in the Salalah Free Zone and one in Muscat. We also have a future plan for Sohar. For cement production, we expect to reach 3,000 tons per day within two years to satisfy local demand. We are still exporting cement to Somalia, Tanzania, and Kenya, but we are doing that as a trader, not a producer. We are purchasing cement from the UAE and selling it to Africa.