LOCAL POWERHOUSE

Oman 2019 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

As the Omanization rate drives higher, key local companies such as Design Unit Engineering are stepping up and successfully filling the gaps.

Mustafa Behlim

How has growth in the healthcare market benefited the design and engineering industry?

Government hospitals and clinics are continuously expanding, and the private healthcare sector is also booming. In the last few years, the private healthcare sector has expanded rapidly. The existing international hospital management groups are opening new hospitals and clinics, and new healthcare groups are also entering Oman in a big way. Government hospitals provide free treatment to the Omani citizens, and usually have long waiting queues. Expats have limited access to government hospitals and clinics. It is also mandatory for companies to provide healthcare cover for their expat employees. All of this increases the demand for private hospitals and clinics in the country. Any new healthcare developments require a local design consultant on board—if not for the design, is for local authority approvals. This adds value to the design and engineering industry, making healthcare a huge sector for the design consultants to benefit from.

How will the introduction of real estate investment trusts (REITs) in Oman impact Design Unit Engineering?

The introduction of REITs will add possibilities for more large-scale developments in the country, which will benefit Design Unit Engineering. Currently, the expat population is allowed to buy property in limited areas. REITs will allow many people who are living here to start investing in real estate, which will lead to the launch of some quality real estate projects. The prospects of ownership will bring in newer developments and will create more work for Design Unit Engineering. We will be able to develop better designs and facilities, instead of just constructing standalone buildings with limited facilities.

Do you predict growth in mixed-use buildings in Oman?

I think mixed-use developments is the way to go. A successful example is Al Mouj, which has become a highly popular destination for both locals and expats. These developments are of good quality, giving the residence a sense of community. People also enjoy coming here to retire because of the safety, security, and the excellent quality of life, which increases the demand for good-quality, mixed-use developments. With all this in mind, I am sure there will be growth in mixed-use developments around Oman.

What benefits do SMEs receive from the Omani government?

The government incentivizes working with SMEs. For example, some large projects require a certain percentage of smaller, local Omani companies to be involved alongside multinational contractors. For public-sector megaprojects, the government insists that a certain percentage of sub-contracting work should go to local SMEs. Design Unit Engineering is an SME, and this has added value to its business. One of the main advantages is the ease of getting work permits. In addition, we are given an advantage to work with international consultants on large scale projects, and become architects on record.

What are your objectives at Design Unit Engineering for the coming 12 months?

On the management side, we seek to match our standards to those of international consultants so that we can compete with them as a 100% Omani company. We are an ISO 9001:2015-certified company, and have developed some strong processes in the organization, which have improved our quality standards. We look to add new services to our organization, and become a one-stop shop for our clients. We have also been moving toward sustainable designs, which adds a lot of value to our projects, and will continue doing so. Our vision is to continue setting higher standards in the market and raising the benchmark for local consultants in Oman.