ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES

Oman 2018 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ali Suleym Al Junaibi, Chairman & CEO of Al-Ghalbi International, on how to best implement Omanization, expanding abroad, and shifting one's mentality.

 Ali Suleym Al Junaibi
BIOGRAPHY
Ali Suleym Al Junaibi, Chairman and CEO of Al-Ghalbi International, studied law at the University of Beirut. Previous positions include Director of Health Services for the Governorate of Al-Wusta, Assistant to the Governor of Niswa, and Deputy for the Governor of Bidbid.

How has Al-Ghalbi International helped develop the Omani economy in the past years?

Since 1998, Oman's strategy has been to set up a program to develop local companies. It was set up to give local companies enough opportunities to have some business leads in oil and gas. Al-Ghalbi International started with this program in 1998 as one of the local community contractors with small jobs in cold cutting and then slowly developed to become one of the main contractors in the oil and gas pipeline maintenance and construction segment. Before, there were only three or four companies doing this job. However, in line with the strategy of His Majesty's decree, support and opportunities were given to these big companies to have good local competitors. In regard to developing the oil and gas sector in Oman, firstly we are on the ground, focused on reducing costs. The cost in Oman since 1980 has come down because there are many competitors. Oman's strategy to develop local companies is also moving forward and boosting in-country value (ICV).

How does Omanization impact Al-Ghalbi International, especially with this diversification that you are undergoing?

Being the leader of the Omanization Committee in oil and gas sector in Oman, it is one of our main responsibilities to consider all possible measures for Omanization without affecting our cost or quality. Omanization is difficult to implement, and many people are looking for jobs. Omani investors in local companies and businesses in general must think about whom they are helping. The additional costs for Omanization should be included in companies' cost structure. For Al-Ghalbi, Omanization is going well. We are above the required percentage and could establish an Omani SME company under our name that also fulfills the Omanization requirements. I train people from lower levels, such as helpers and drivers, and enroll them in free English courses. These courses open up doors for people who are certified but have poor language skills. We started with only 30 people but had around 80-100 within three months. It is important to help our staff, understand their needs, and know how to handle, lead, and talk by being close to them.

To what extent has the JSRS system been a positive tool for oil and gas companies?

Oman previously had several difficulties, especially registering foreign companies, but the government is constantly developing new and innovative systems like the Joint Supplier Registration System (JSRS). Now if a company is registered in one place, with all of its papers and documents filling the requirements, it will have one common window through which to access almost all contract, project, and tender opportunities.

What projects will Al-Ghalbi International be focusing on in 2017-2018?

With the crisis of falling prices in the oil and gas sector, we have to think about how to build new businesses and diversify. For example, we are looking to delve into logistics, information and communication technology, real estate, and some multi-workshops for oil and gas services. We have also invested in long-term projects in Abu Dhabi that will expand into other Emirates, Qatar, and other Middle Eastern countries within the near future. We are also working with the Sohar and Duqm refineries by means of joint venture strategies. Finally, we have signed multiple JVs with international companies for specialized projects in Duqm.

Where do you see the company in the next two years?

Unfortunately, business here in the GCC depends on government and oil and gas. If oil prices do not increase, many projects will be suspended or face difficulties to run as before. It will impact our business, if not directly then in our profits, development, or strategy. We need to basically shift from an importing mentality to producing locally and exporting. For the time being our business diversification strategies are working well, and we have been able to get more long-term contracts from major clients in the Sultanate and UAE.