Keeping an eye on Qatar

Country's growth potential is clear

Stephen Moore
Stephen Moore

Having worked in the Middle East for some seven years in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and now, full circle back to the UAE, it is evident that there are some very major differences across the patch.

Influences by local governments, clients (both private and public), along with local market demands on price and quality vary widely, as does the availability of quality service providers across the region.

Qatar is developing quickly and the local FM market is booming with an abundance of both local and international players, who are either already established in the country or working fast to do so.

With new projects being tendered frequently such as the new airport in Doha, Msheireb Properties and Barwa’s portfolio, these mega projects differentiate the local and international players and certainly split the marketplace in two.

The market still remains typically closed to new players, who need to have either a local Qatari presence and established base, or a very good local sponsor. If aided by these two factors, new players will be able to break into the market quickly with a rapidly growing portfolio, or else they will be faced with a slow and, at times, painful existence waiting for the elusive tender return to be successful.

So, is now the right time to get into Qatar? Yes, absolutely. As towers, low-rise buildings, stadiums and malls get built and near completion, the country’s FM market’s can be expected to grow exponentially in the coming months and years.

All of the usual growing pains exist, especially with regard to staffing policies. Obtaining visas for staff remains difficult. Another issue is staff accommodation, which is being corralled into areas far from built-up areas.

Bachelors aren’t allowed to share in family areas either, which means staff are being driven further out of the city. All of this increases staff travel times to work sites to up to an hour or two, while also contending with traffic snarl-ups due to the constantly changing road networks. This scenario, however, does sound similar to perhaps that of the UAE about seven years ago.

For those of us who have been in the Middle East for some time, the aforementioned is just all part of the daily grind of doing business in a place that has an ever-changing landscape and skyline.

It is certainly better than it was all those years ago, and our Arabic sponsors are making progress with standards on all levels. Worker’s rights through labour laws for accommodation, remuneration, H&S, benefits have come a long way.

So too has the FM market with regards to quality, competitiveness, overall VFM, client expectation and awareness, etc. The facilities we are all maintaining have likewise started to raise the bar with design, construction, commissioning and final handovers over recent years and are certainly a great improvement from the days gone by.

Qatar is definitely on the local FM radar as a growing market place for FM companies to do business, while, at the same time, maintaining market shares in their power bases, wherever they may be in the region. Will it be challenging to enter? Perhaps. Is the competition fierce? Most definitely. Are there opportunities? Plenty. Is it a mature market place? Well... is there one in the Middle East?

With a typical FM company growing at a rate of perhaps 75% year on year in Qatar it is certainly a growth opportunity at present. As to the question of whether it can be maintained going forward, one would think so, given that we have another eight years of FIFA World Cup enabling works ahead.

I, for one, am looking forward to the short hop and a jump and an hour’s flight to watch the event’s opening ceremony!

About the author
Stephen Moore recently joined EFS Facilities Services in Dubai as director - service assurance. He was previously the general manager for Ecovert FM in Qatar, where he worked for the past three years.

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