IMAD KOKASH

Ras Al Khaimah 2018 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Imad Kokash, General Manager of Kludi RAK, about the UAE's construction sector, demand from the export market, and the ease of doing business overall.

How has the construction sector performed over the past year and what are your expectations going forward?

As a faucets manufacturer, where we are directly linked with the construction sector, we witnessed significant growth in 2017 throughout the UAE, compared to 2016 and previous years, where the construction market suffered a major blow due to the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 and major projects were put on hold. From 2011 we started noticing an improvement and many of the projects which were on hold were restarted. We have many more projects related to Expo 2020 that are due to be launched. There should be steady growth in the construction sector across the residential, commercial, hospitality, healthcare, and infrastructure segments. Going forward in 2018 we will see that the number of big-ticket construction projects moving through the pipeline will help sustain elevated growth rates. Similar to previous years, the UAE continues to top the charts when it comes to the construction industry. Investors are overall optimistic and have noted the ease of investing in big projects here.

What role will Ras Al Khaimah play in the construction sector of the UAE?

The construction industry is a key sector in Ras Al Khaimah, which is driven by housing, hospitality and infrastructure schemes within the Emirate, and also by its role in providing raw materials and manufactured components and many high-quality building items for megaprojects throughout the UAE and beyond. In many ways Ras Al Khaimah's construction sector is the backbone of the local economy here, with a number of major infrastructure projects enabling development across a range of sectors. The government is investing heavily to establish the Emirate as an international destination for tourism, which is driving significant development. A renewed focus on developing the tourism and industrial sectors has created a construction boom in Ras Al Khaimah and led to the development of a host of industrial, residential, commercial, and retail spaces. To support this growth, the government has at the same time invested in basic electricity, water, and sewer networks which in turn provides more opportunities thanks to solid infrastructure.

What challenges is the industrial sector facing?

In our business, the main challenge is the extra demand from the export market. It was not in our calculations and we were not ready for it. On a positive note, this higher demand highlights how the end users trust the “Made in RAK” brand and Emirati production in general. Now, we need to leverage this higher demand and aim for more production lines and open more markets, boosting the kind of exposure we have internationally. There are high-quality products in Ras Al Khaimah, and we know there is a high demand out there from markets in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt. However, it is important to retain a balance, and prioritize both local and regional markets in the GCC, Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent.

How do you qualify the ease of doing business when engaging with engineers and architects?

It is not easy. There is a lot of competition among suppliers to the construction sector, and there are a lot of brands competing too. Regarding engineers and architects, you need to engage with them from the very beginning, from the first stage of specification. After that, it will require an intensive follow-up. You need to build a good relation but also defend your product constantly. Thankfully, in the UAE we have good and well-informed consultants that recognize hard work and they appreciate the relationships established for future projects moving forward. Nonetheless, you need to attend as many exhibitions and events as possible in order to keep brand awareness high. Finally, architects and consultants focus on the design and the aesthetic function while the developers and construction companies are seeking the best match for the specification but with the best prices. At the end of the day, it is a long process from the specification till the supply. Certain projects can take up to three years.