FOCUSING ON STRENGTHS

Oman 2020 | DUQM | INTERVIEW

By focusing more on innovation in the future, Al Tasnim Group expects to increase productivity, which is invaluable in a labor-intensive business such as construction.

Devaki Khimji
BIOGRAPHY

Devaki Khimji has served as managing director and partner of India Circus Pvt. Ltd, a company dedicated to online retail of lifestyle products in India. Her business acumen and foresight were essential to India Circus' launch and financial growth. She guided the brand through the market with her management skills garnered in previous endeavors. She has also embarked on various successful entrepreneurial ventures and acquired an indispensable understanding of the global market, including the domain of electronic-commerce. With strong management skills, both traditional and technologically specific, Khmiji's experience and proficiency have channeled her businesses and aspirations in the right direction.

How are the current macroeconomic conditions affecting the construction sector and your business strategy?
Although the economy may not currently be ideal, we will remain proactive despite the challenges. We have several consultants on our team to help us perform better and navigate our way in this age of digital transformation. The market is currently cost conscious, and we must bid for tenders at lower prices. We are using it as an opportunity to improve, so that in 2020 we will devote more of a focus innovation, especially through methods of construction to raise productivity, which is a great challenge for a labor-intensive business such as ours. One way we are harnessing innovation, for example, is using prefabricated POD assets. We are also interested in block-laying robots that can reduce our dependence on labor. We will be able to contribute to the Omani economy only if we survive, which will be possible only with digitalization and increasing efficiency.

What is the best way to create a sustainable contracting sector?
As a company, we give work to 150 different SMEs across the country. When we do not perform a part of the work ourselves, we always prefer outsourcing to SMEs, rather than large companies. Our payments to SMEs form as much as 10% of our turnover. There are three SMEs that I mentored, and the office of one of them, Salalah Commercial, is in our building. Aside from giving them work, we help them with their procedures, teach them how to do business, share our expertise with them, and help them receive orders from sources other than our company and go outside their comfort zone. Because we shared our knowledge of procedures in this line of work with them from the first day, they are now more successful than their peers.

What technological upgrades will have the greatest impact on your industry in the medium to long term, both in terms of efficiency and revenue?
We are in the construction industry, and the only way to generate revenue is by winning more tenders and starting more projects. The next most important thing is the execution of a project with maximum quality and cost effectiveness. New technologies, robotics, and digitalization can help us both in the enhancement of quality and reductions of costs. If we win a 20-month project and finish it in 15 months, it will translate into profits for us.

Can technologies adopted for cost-reduction purposes ultimately be presented as standalone divisions of your business?
There are only two industries that we want to be in—construction and mining—and we want to be a one-stop shop in the area of construction. We want to cover the entire supply chain and be able to construct a building without having to go to anyone else. Admittedly, there are items that we do not manufacture in-house such as lights or tiles, though we can find suppliers for such things while still staying accountable for the final quality. Despite our focus on construction and mining, we have facilities dedicated to glass processing, aluminum, carpentry, and POD manufacturing.

What are some of your strategic priorities for early 2020?
The most important priorities for 1H2020 are perfecting our processes and making sure our operations are well-adjusted to the present economic landscape. I do not want to make any value judgements about the current situation; I just want to make sure we are well-adjusted to the current economic environment. We truly care about employment and take pride in employing a large group of people. We prefer to stay in this country and have a great success story rather than expanding outside and failing. We will remain focused on our line of work.