Face to face: Faisal Bouzo and Tarek Al Ajlani, C&P
Faisal Bouzo and Tarek Al Ajlani detail Construction and Planning Co’s impressive journey from an ambitious Saudi Arabian start-up to a multimillion-dollar contractor with a 500-plus workforce
These are undoubtedly challenging times for Saudi Arabia’s construction sector. Reduced national revenues resulting from the post-2014 oil price decline have led to project uncertainty, low market liquidity, and a host of associated challenges for the kingdom’s contracting community. While it can sometimes feel like positive news is in scant supply, there are still success stories to be found – providing you know where to look. Take for example Construction and Planning Co Ltd (C&P), a Riyadh-headquartered firm that has grown from an ambitious start-up to a multimillion-dollar contractor in little more than a decade.
Established in 2004 by two young Saudi entrepreneurs, Faisal Bouzo and Tarek Al Ajlani, C&P started life as a three-person outfit performing small-scale construction and fit-out works within the kingdom’s residential sector. Today, the contractor boasts a 500-plus workforce, and has completed large-scale fit-out, construction, and landscaping projects – in a diverse range of market segments – for some of the largest conglomerates on the planet.
In hindsight, this is not altogether surprising. Both Bouzo and Al Ajlani grew up in families that ran construction and engineering businesses. Upon discovering their mutual passion for architecture and construction, C&P’s co-founders and managing partners knew immediately what they wanted to achieve.
“Our mission was to deliver quality creations with high-end execution by joining forces,” Bouzo tells Construction Week. “We identified a niche in the market: to deliver projects within Saudi Arabia according to the highest international standards.”
Al Ajlani continues: “There was a dearth of kingdom-based companies equipped to deliver creative designs and high-end execution, particularly for mid- to large-scale projects in the residential sector. We established C&P to fill this particular gap, initially by breaking down barriers in terms of the standard designs to which the market had become accustomed, and then by establishing redefined benchmarks for quality and innovation.”
During the past 12 years, C&P’s workforce has witnessed significant organic growth. The company now employs a diverse range of construction experts, including directors, project managers, site engineers, planning professionals, and a comprehensive team of support staff. Fortunately, the firm’s 500-plus workforce has plenty to keep it busy. Despite Saudi Arabia’s challenging contracting market, C&P has succeeded in securing a broad array of high-profile projects across multiple segments.
“We recently finalised an affiliation with World Trade Center Saudi Arabia (WTC-Saudi),” reveals Bouzo. “With an estimated value of $26.7m (SAR100m), this joint venture deal was signed with the aim of developing real estate properties over a period of five years.
“WTC-Saudi complements C&P’s services by supplying our clients with temporary, fully-equipped offices, enabling them to make the most of their commercial spaces while their permanent offices are being completed. In turn, C&P is responsible for handling the fit-out of all offices within WTC-Saudi’s towers.”
Despite its relative youth, C&P has worked for a dizzying selection of the world’s biggest multinationals. The contractor’s client portfolio includes Apple Saudi Arabia, Deutsche Bank, Dell, BNP Paribas, Becton Dickinson (BD), and Hansgrohe. It has completed fit-out works for the headquarters of the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri), and Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (Taqnia). In addition, C&P is now in the final stages of completing a construction project, valued at more than $26.7m (SAR100m), to rebuild Riyadh Care Hospital.
However, the company hasn’t forgotten its residential roots. Al Ajlani explains: “C&P is currently completing works for a 900,000m2 residential project on behalf of renowned real estate developer, Solidere International, alongside Unimac and Aqualia. Our scope of work for the development, which is located in Riyadh’s Al Malqa district, involves landscaping and irrigation works, and the establishment of water wells and desalination plants.”
Bouzo adds: “We also developed tropical plantations, for which C&P’s Landscape & Irrigation Division had to create on-site plant nurseries. These facilities are necessary in order to enable the plants to adapt and acclimatise to the Saudi Arabian climate.”
C&P’s other ongoing projects include Phase 1 of Anfas Medical Care’s (AMC) hospital and medical cities development programme (page 23). It is working on the headquarters of Itochu Corporation and Accenture. Moreover, the firm is supporting the construction of showrooms and service centres for Al Habtoor Motors.
This is an impressive body of work, especially within the context of Saudi Arabia’s tough business environment. So how has C&P succeeded in growing its operations against the current of a tempestuous contracting market? In Al Ajlani’s opinion, the answer to this question lies in the company’s solid track record of delivery.
“Our history of consistent quality and timely delivery of projects has enabled us to outperform the competition,” he says. “We view our clients as partners. We share the same vision: to complete projects on time and to the highest quality standards. This philosophy allows our clients to utilise their investments on time and, sometimes, ahead of time.”
Bouzo says C&P’s aversion to complacency has also played a significant role. He explains: “We do not allow ourselves to nestle in any comfort zones; we are always eager to outperform other players in the market, and we continuously challenge ourselves to improve on our past performance by expanding our professional and technical horizons.
“At C&P, we believe in the architecture of hierarchy; we place a great deal of importance on teamwork and specialisation. We ensure that our employees remain at the top of their game by allowing them to engage in self-development training programmes, such as Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. We also equip our staff with – and train them in the use of – the latest technologies, such as building information modelling (BIM).”
To date, all of C&P’s work has been conducted in Saudi Arabia but, owing to its strong performance, Al Ajlani says it is exploring opportunities to move into other territories.
“Have we considered expansion?” he asks. “Most definitely. Many of our loyal clients are looking to expand into other parts of the GCC, and have approached us to handle construction and fit-out works. This will provide C&P with opportunities to fulfil its vision by extending its services beyond the kingdom.”
And encouragingly, C&P’s expansion plans are not only geographical in nature. Bouzo says that the company also intends to make fresh inroads in uncharted sectors.
He concludes: “As part of its current agenda, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is working to increase private sector involvement within the field of public healthcare. As such, C&P is working in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to create total solutions for the healthcare sector, which will include facilities management (FM) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) capabilities. We will achieve this by intensifying our focus on associated projects, partnering with global operators and suppliers within the healthcare industry.”
Case Study: Anfas Medical Care
Anfas Medical Care’s (AMC) hospital and medical cities development programme represents one of the largest contracts within C&P’s current portfolio. The first facility, which will be located in Riyadh, boasts a built-up area of 27,000m2, and is due to complete in Q1 2018.
AMC selected C&P to realise its $1.3bn (SAR5bn) development vision. The contractor, which is currently working on the $107m (SAR400m) contract for Phase 1 of the programme, will complete the remainder of the works during the coming five years.
Bouzo tells Construction Week: “AMC is bringing forward a new and innovative model that has been designed to reinvent the concept of healthcare and the methods through which it is delivered. AMC Hospital will be the first in a series of hospitals and medical cities set to launch across the kingdom. These facilities will deliver top-notch healthcare by putting the latest medical technologies in the hands of world-class healthcare experts and professionals.”
AMC stated that the concept stems from the fact that few, if any, hospitals in the Middle East perform follow-up sessions with patients who have undergone intensive medical treatments. As such, the organisation has set about building facilities that provide long-term patients with a “home away from home”, whether during the initial procedures or following their discharge.
Al Ajlani elaborates: “To further reinforce the hospital’s level of dedication to wellbeing, all rooms will be equipped with live cameras that can be accessed by patients’ loved ones. This will allow families to monitor their daily activities, putting both the patients and their relatives at ease, and providing them with unparalleled peace of mind.”
Upon discharge, outbound patients will be remotely monitored by AMC Hospital staff to safeguard their health during recovery. The facility will be operated by Houston Methodist, one of the US’s foremost hospital management specialists, and powered by GE Healthcare, a leading international manufacturer of medical equipment.
In terms of local know-how, AMC is funded by Dallah Albaraka Holding Company and AMI Saudi Arabia Ltd, high-profile Saudi Arabian business enterprises that boast establishments and investments such as Dallah Health.
According to Bouzo, C&P was selected as the main construction and fit-out partner for AMC projects due to the values that it shares with the other stakeholders. He explains: “AMC found in C&P a like-minded partner, in terms of its approach to work, implementation of creative ideas, and determination to meet challenges head on.”
Dr Mamdouh AlBaqumi, founder and chief executive officer of AMC, agrees, stating: “We admire C&P’s enthusiasm and flexibility, especially the company’s ability to reinvent itself – a quality that is seldom seen nowadays among large construction companies.”
Commenting on C&P’s burgeoning healthcare portfolio, Al Ajlani concludes: “With AMC Hospital, C&P is setting a new record in terms of the construction of medical facilities in the Saudi market. Despite having a limited timeline in comparison to the size of the project, the speed of execution has not been hindered. On the contrary, construction progress is continuing to gain momentum without any compromise on quality.”