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Al Ahlia: A spark of recognition

A heavy hitter in the Kuwait world of Electro-Mechanical Services, Al-Ahlia Integrated General Trading & Contracting enjoys an enviable reputation thanks to recognition from respected partners and clients. Endeavour Magazine asked Shawkat Ghamrawi, President of the organisation, to explain the company’s continued success and to any exciting upcoming projects.

The portfolio of services offered by Al-Ahlia Integrated General Trading & Contracting (AAIGTC) is as diverse as the services themselves are complex, and needing a high level of expertise, as Shawkat Ghamrawi explained:

“Al-Ahlia Integrated General Trading & Contracting Co. (Kuwait) is over 40 years old, conducting contracting business in the Electro-Mechanical (H.V.A.C., plumbing & fire fighting, electrical and controls) field for major projects (hospitals, commercial centres & buildings, power stations, pumping stations, water desalination plants, residential & industrial). Our main clients are the Government of Kuwait and private entrepreneurs, for whom we normally implement specifications and drawings, and sometimes conduct design reviews plus value engineering.”

To break this down a little further, there are four divisions within the company, each of which has a specific focus and specialty. The Contracting arm looks after the execution of both small and large-scale engineering projects, while the Commercial section offers specialised sales within a number of areas including, but not limited to, refrigeration, hydraulics, plumbing and fire fighting equipment. There are more specialist areas to be added shortly, so this is a growing division.

Offering a more independent service is the B.A.S arm of AAIGTC, which is focused purely on Building Automation Systems. With sales, design and engineering, through to maintenance all carried out by this one division, the relevant expertise needed here is evident. Finally, the Maintenance division takes responsibility for any and all electromechanical services and equipment.

With such a diverse range of services to oversee, it makes perfect sense that AAIGTC has retained a localised field of operation, servicing Kuwait only. There’s no doubt that international operations could be managed, but by retaining a tight grip on location, all the knowledge and professional expertise that has helped AAIGTC to reach the levels of success it currently enjoys, can be put to great use to improve infrastructure in Kuwait, for the good of the population. That’s not to say that the contracting sector is not competitive, however, AAIGTC has more than risen to the challenge of a busy industry:

“Our field of operation, or industry – if you will, is purely contracting and having a certain connection to trading, offering related products to our field, as well as conducting servicing and maintenance. Our business was buoyant from 1977 until 1990, with minor annual growth through to2011. Sudden growth commenced in 2012 and has continued to now, with an annual growth of between 60-80%; that translates to a jump in revenue of US$6.5 million to over US$45 million in 2017.”

That’s a phenomenal jump by anyone’s standards and begs the question, what has lead to such growth? Shawkat credits five pillars of operation that really makes AAIGTC stand out from its competitors: honesty, commitment, technology, trust and delivery. By striving to maintain transparent working practices, exemplar expertise and by using cutting edge technology, the company really has become a force to be reckoned with, but Shawkat acknowledges that these endeavours would all be fruitless without a staffing body to uphold the values that underpin AAIGTC. “True, reliable and sincere staff are key assets in our company, especially when they are appreciated, rewarded, respected and trained.”

Seeing team members as vital assets is a healthy and progressive approach and naturally leads to the same respect being extended to supply chain partners. By never losing sight of the fact that every person and company, at every stage of the process, has a critical part to play in the success of any contract or project, a culture of mutual appreciation can be encouraged, which allows for easier growth, development and even, where appropriate, diversity. AAIGTC is proof incarnate of this, judging by those impressive numbers seen earlier.

Year on year growth is one thing, but to get a better sense of the levels of success being enjoyed by the team at AAIGTC, we asked Shawkat to divulge a few recent accomplishments that he is particularly proud of:

“Signing a contract for M.E.P. works for the Maternity Hospital, as sub-contractors, at a value of about US$ 170 millions, for execution within 42 months. We also recently signed a contract (as a sub-contractor) for electrical works for the New Air Terminal (T II) at Kuwait International Airport and are constructing our new 3000m2 floor area headquarters (for planned occupancy in Sept./Oct. 2018) at an estimated cost of about US$ 8.5 million. In addition, we have signed several agency agreements for different associated products of UK, European, U.S.A. and China origin.”

On the surface, it could appear as though there is no project that AAIGTC won’t take on, but there is a steady hand guiding the direction of the organisation, courtesy of Shawkat. He recognises that the rate of growth up to now has been exceptional and has no qualms in slowing things down a little in the future, to maintain quality and delivery expectations;

“Our company’s goals and objectives are to maintain the principle of expansion and growth at tolerable and wise pace and acceleration. Perhaps, we may impose a halt on our present jump of growth and to try to limit it to an average of 10-15% annually.”

This is not to say that everything is going to grind to an abrupt halt though, as every company in the world needs to keep moving with the times in order to remain current and relevant:

“On the contracting front, we may add a couple of sub-contractor works for M.E.P. Services. Naturally, we will not be closing our doors for additional contracts, but we will be more selective for volume, commitment, parties, receivables, benefits, etc. We recommend and implement planning ahead for periods of three to five years, and normally, based on governmental planning, our expertise forecast, and, perhaps, the practices and movements of the international arena and market moves.”

Concluding the interview, we asked Shawkat if there were any other accomplishments that he’d like to draw attention to: “The exciting news at our end was actually the acquisition of Al-Ahlia interest (Shares) by Fouad Alghanim & Sons Group of Companies (F.A.S.), by which 75% of the total shares are shifted to F.A.S. This acquisition, in 2012, has created drastic up-lift jump in the complete status of Al-Ahlia in moving its status from a third-grade set-up to super first grade level in the M.E.P. field; we are keen to maintain it and try to improve on it.” Already acknowledged as a bright spark in the industry, we have no concerns about AAIGTC fulfilling this brief and more!

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Alice Instone-Brewer

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