S&T discusses five-star delivery within the hospitality market

KS Ravi Kumar explains how selectivity and consistency have enabled S&T Interiors and Contracting to grow its hospitality project portfolio significantly in the GCC and beyond

S&T completed Oman’s Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in conjunction with ALEC.
S&T completed Oman’s Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in conjunction with ALEC.
S&T recently handed over The Lalit London, which was developed within a Grade II-listed building in the UK.
S&T recently handed over The Lalit London, which was developed within a Grade II-listed building in the UK.

KS Ravi Kumar explains how selectivity and consistency have enabled S&T Interiors and Contracting to grow its hospitality project portfolio significantly in the GCC and beyond...

Establishing your company as a go-to contractor within the Gulf’s construction sector is difficult at the best of times, let alone within the highly competitive hospitality segment.

By 2020, the Middle East’s hospitality pipeline is expected to reach 158,950 rooms, spread across 541 hotels, according to research published by EY. Construction activities within the segment are booming and, with so many high-quality offerings on the horizon, developers cannot afford to take any chances when it comes to their delivery partners.

Within this context, the hospitality-related success that S&T Interiors and Contracting has achieved during the past 12 years has been impressive, to say the least. The Oman-headquartered construction outfit has cemented its reputation as both a main contractor and fit-out specialist within the segment, and has played an integral role in the development of a string of high-profile hotels and resorts in the GCC and beyond.

KS Ravi Kumar, executive director of international operations at S&T, attributes the company’s growth to two primary factors: selectivity and consistency.

“We are extremely selective when it comes to the people with whom we work, both in terms of clients and our supply chain,” he begins. “This has always been the case for S&T. We do not bid on contracts for the heck of it. Instead, we choose our prospective partners carefully.

“I think that this has been one of the main reasons behind our growth, not only within the hospitality segment, but also in other industry sectors. We only work with companies that share our commitment to delivery, and this has been the crux of our success during the past 12 years.”

In addition to contributing to a sustainable business model, the selective nature of S&T’s corporate strategy has resulted in consistently high-quality delivery, according to Kumar. Indeed, despite the geographic expanse of its active markets, the contractor has compiled a list of approved supply-chain partners, and uses these tried-and-tested companies for all of its projects.

“Before a supplier can be enlisted, our team conducts a comprehensive study of the company in question: its factories, its employees, and its track record,” he explains. “Only once we are satisfied with a firm’s credentials can it be added to S&T’s list of trusted suppliers, and we use these companies from project to project.

“And that’s across the board; we only work with people we can trust,” Kumar continues. “In the same way, we ensure that we fulfil the promises we make to our clients so that they return to us with good contracts, which is vital in today’s market.

“S&T has never let down a client, and we’ve never been let down either,” he emphasises, citing selectivity as the main driver behind this winning streak.

And it’s been some winning streak. S&T’s recent hospitality-related handovers have included Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in Oman, which it completed in conjunction with main contractor, ALEC; and The Lalit London in the United Kingdom. As the latter was developed on the site of St Olave’s Grammar School, Kumar’s team had to overcome an array of challenges related to the building’s Grade II-listed status.

“This was S&T’s first project in London, and it involved transforming a Grade II-listed school into a 70-room hotel,” he says. “We couldn’t touch the façade at all, and certain elements of the building’s interior had to remain intact, such as the gypsum in the governor’s room and the flooring in the main dining area. Not only did we have to work around these features, but we also had to ensure that they were not damaged. It was a tough project, but it has that ‘wow’ factor.”

S&T is currently working on two additional hospitality projects in the UK’s capital city: The Principal London Hotel, Russell Square; and the conversion of Lord Beaverbrook’s former residence.

Commenting on the latter, Kumar tells Construction Week: “Lord Beaverbrook was a Canadian-British businessman, and an extremely influential figure during the first half of the 20th century. S&T is currently completing the civil and fit-out works to convert his estate into a hotel and spa. We arrived onsite last year, and the project is now nearing completion.”

Meanwhile, in its domestic market of Oman, S&T is conducting civil, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) works for Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a five-star resort located in Muscat.

While there’s no denying that the company’s hospitality portfolio possesses a certain air of glamour, Kumar is keen to point out that S&T’s expertise is not exclusively limited to the luxury segment.

“We are equally adept when it comes to mid-market offerings,” he explains. “We’ve worked on a number of projects in this segment, which we believe represents a growth market for the Gulf. The important point to remember is that we employ the same philosophy of delivery, regardless of whether we’re working on a three-, four-, or five-star development. There is no variation in our approach to quality and execution. It’s purely a question of specifications: the materials used, the room sizes, the fixtures and fittings, and so on. These are the only factors that change between a mid-market hotel and a luxury resort; S&T’s execution remains the same.”

This commitment to consistency and an unwillingness to compromise on the quality of delivery have resulted in significant repeat business for S&T, according to Kumar. Value engineering, he adds, has also played a critical role in cementing long-term relationships with clients.

While Kumar concedes that “it’s always a challenge to conduct value engineering without compromising on the desired specifications”, he notes that it is possible.

“Supplier selection plays a big part in value engineering” he elaborates. “We have trusted suppliers in the Far East that offer very attractive rates, and we also source materials from competitive European markets, such as Spain and Portugal.

“It’s equally important to build healthy business relationships with your supply chain,” Kumar continues. “For instance, if we can contribute towards the cash flow of our partners by offering higher advance payments, it’s possible to make savings in the longer term. And because we only work with trusted suppliers, we know that they will deliver; we do not deal with fly-by-night operators. It’s a win-win-win situation for our suppliers, our clients, and S&T itself.”

Kumar concludes: “Repeat business speaks to the strength of a company. If a client comes back to you again and again, and he’s willing to give you a better price each time, believe me: that’s the best thing that can happen to a contractor. It’s testament to the level of service we provide.”

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