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Local ambition: Muscat's Mahmoud Al Darii and his Iveco fleet

Mahmoud Al Darii, the managing director of Dant Najd, his own Muscat-based transport company, explains how the support of Iveco and its local partners in trying times won his allegiance

INTERVIEWS, PMV

Dant Najd was established as a company in 2008 after Mahmoud Al Darii, its managing director and founder, saw an opportunity to provide transport services in support of the ongoing oilfield developments in Oman along the border with Saudi Arabia. Today, his operations involve a fleet of more than 30 light and heavy trucks and other equipment items.

A local success story, Al Darii hails from a small, originally Bedouin community that resides in the vicinity of the areas currently being developed by the Government of Oman and the state’s oil and gas interests.

To ensure that the local population reaps a share of the reward from these projects, certain dispensations are given to companies established by members of such communities. In addition, the 60% state owned Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is required to sub-contract a certain proportion of its work to small- and medium-sized enterprises.

But to get in on the game, Al Darii first had to get established, and so he explains: “I finished my studies in commerce and operations, and immediately afterwards I started my business, in January 2008.

“It was difficult at first: finding the finance and funds to start. But I started with one truck — to try to enter the market — because at that time the market was good in transportation.

“Unfortunately, the market came down in 2008 because of the crisis, and after that it was slow going. But in 2009/2010 the market slowly came back up and I tried to expand.”

“But even with my bank history, there was no support, and I couldn’t secure any funds, and you need a facility to buy trucks.”

It was at this point, in 2010, that Al Darii approached the local representative for Iveco Trucks. He recalls: “I told him: ‘I want to buy one truck’, and he said: “Just bring the finance and the truck is ready. I then went off and tried to secure finance here and there, to no avail.

“So personally he went to meet these people, and he convinced them to take it as a challenge to cooperate with me — because I was a young guy, starting a new business, and the market was slowly going up at that time, and the approval came. From then on, by looking at the market, new jobs and new chances came to me, and now I have more than 10 trucks.”

Al Darii has stuck with Iveco since, and he notes: “The Trakker is a good truck and Iveco support us. When I required a second truck, my first priority was to call them. Even in 2012, I wanted one truck urgently, and even though MAN and Volvo trucks were available here, and the Iveco price was higher, I still took it.”

Al Darii then began coming back to Iveco for a new truck every 1.5 years, and, as his business escalated, every four months.

Even his peers were surprised, and he notes: “At that time, Iveco was not that present in Oman. Everybody was buying and talking about MAN and Volvo, but I told myself, why not try this truck? What’s wrong with trying?

“Secondly, I got support from these people. When you get support you have to continue with them, and I was getting support, respect, cooperation and we built up a relationship.

“If you’re facing difficulties and you solve them together, relationships will come. And relationships are everything. And again, Iveco produce good trucks.”

With time, his possession of Iveco Trucks has even become somewhat of a cause célèbre for Al Darii. He explains: “If any companies see this truck working in oilfields, they said: ‘What is this truck?’ After this they would ask: ‘Which company? Which dealer?’ Many people came to Iveco through references from me.

“I was working on an oilfield for Galfar and they knew that Iveco meant Dant Najd, because nobody else had Iveco trucks there.”

Al Darii hints at the large deal that Iveco secured in late 2015 with Galfar Engineering & Contracting that saw the contractor purchase a fleet of 207 of Iveco Trakker trucks to be used in levelling work at the Duqm refinery site.

With that landmark deal, the visibility of Iveco in Oman took a significant step forward.

Fit for purpose

The workhorse of Dant Najd is the Iveco Trakker 440, and with the exception of a couple of 420 units and another 380, the majority of its 10 plus heavy trucks are Trakker 440 units.

Equipped with Cursor 13 engines, these 6x4 tractors are deployed in a range of haulage operations, but primarily coupled to either water tankers or lowbed and flatbed trailers.

In general, the company’s operations see the trucks employed on tarmacked roads for more than 60% of the time, with the remainder spent on off-road but graded dirt track.

He notes: “We have water haulage tanker trailers, with 5,000 and 8,000 gallon capacities, and flatbed and low-bed trailers, but lately we have focused on water haulage, because there is a high requirement for it on the oilfields.”

With the exception of one ZF-Eurotronic automatic transmission, all of Dant Najd’s units have manual transmissions.

Al Darii comments: “Here in Oman, not many people are purchasing trucks with automatic transmissions. Automatic transmissions are probably good for the clutch plate, and for the driver, since they are taking a rest — but I am not sure if it is better in terms of fuel consumption, and it is more complicated. People prefer mechanical trucks for ease of maintenance: you cannot always take a truck to the showroom, but even when you are 500km away you can still take a manual transmission to any mechanic.”

Reaching further

The transport business in Oman is currently stable, according to Al Darii, and he hopes to expand more. He noted: “We are dealing with the government, so if the government’s business is going smoothly, so is ours. It is a circle, because the government gives the contractors work, and the contractors give work to the subcontractors. And there we enjoy some support — because they have to give a certain proportion of their work to small-medium companies like ours.”

Dant Najd’s projects largely lie in the furthest reaches of Oman’s hinterland. He signposts it by saying: “On the 400km stretch from Muscat to Salalah, everything to the right side after 200km is an oil and gas field.”

In 2014, Dant Najd embarked on a second venture and purchased New Holland equipment to enter the flowline business, which involves the initial pipeline systems connecting oil wellheads to the first piece of production equipment in the refining process.

In all of its activities, however, the company continues to rely on the support and assistance of Iveco and its dealer in Oman, International Equipment & Contracting, the equipment arm of the Suhail Bahwan Automotive Group.

Building bridges

Asked about the level of support he receives from the dealer, Al Darii is all smiles: “The support is excellent. For example, if I am away from Oman, and there is only one day left to sign cheques for a truck to be released from the showroom, they say: ‘Release this truck.’ Then, on the second or third day, I will send them the check. We have trust.”

The dealer has on occasion even consented to let Dant Najd transport its mechanics over hundreds of kilometres to remote projects.

Not naming names, Al Darii’s experiences have not always been like this. His first truck was not an Iveco, and he found the support for that vehicle woefully lacking — and came away with a distinctly negative impression.

He notes: “When I sent the truck for service they held on to it, and treated my business with very little respect. At that time I had only one truck, and perhaps they thought: ‘Oh, this is only a small company, leave it’, and were more concerned with larger customers, but for me, that one truck was my whole business.

“But with Iveco, from 2010, I found their people dealing with me like I had 100 trucks. This made a huge difference. Some companies will deal with you depending on how many assets you have, but that shouldn’t be the case. So for me, to find people that dealt with me well — even though I only had truck — that was something special.”

Al Darii is also something special himself, as he notes: “Normally locals don’t have projects. They want to buy these vehicles and lease them as rentals. But my business is project work. Sometimes a company will even approach me and ask me to lease them a truck or some equipment, but I approach things differently. I tell them: ‘Give me that project’, for example, water hauling, and I will take responsibility for everything, all-inclusive: water purchase, diesel purchase, consumption and maintenance. So I pay for everything, but they pay me triple —and this way I can make a little bit more; it just requires me to have the cash flow to hand.”

As for Iveco and IECC, if the up and coming fleet of Dant Najd is anything to go by, it bodes well for their joint maintenance of good client relations and aftersales support in Oman.

As for Dant Najd, which loosely translates as pearl of the desert — a metaphor for the hidden oasis that gives succour to the lost traveller — its business only looks set to grow.

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