Expertise is becoming the most sought-after product in construction

Suppliers looking to achieve growth within the Gulf’s ultra-competitive construction sector can no longer afford to offer raw materials and components in isolation

COMMENT, Business, Bahri & Mazroei Group, BMTC, Dubai Sports City, Expertise

The Middle East has a rich and varied history of entrepreneurship. For centuries, traders have flocked to – and thrived in – the region, selling their wares and establishing countless business empires along the way.

As the Gulf states’ economies have expanded, so too has the range of commodities available in the region. Today, pretty much any material or component can be sourced locally, and construction-related offerings are no exception. From raw building materials to the latest operational technologies, it’s now possible to develop entire communities without having to look beyond the borders of the GCC.

In years gone by, the key considerations for traders were typically cost, quality, and delivery time. While perhaps an oversimplification, the wholesaler that could procure the required quantity and quality of product within the desired timeframe would, generally speaking, win the order. On the face of it, this trend still holds true, and it shows no real sign of abating. However, the way in which our industry defines the term ‘product’ is constantly broadening.

When it comes to the Middle East’s contemporary construction sector, the most successful traders have come to realise it is no longer sufficient to provide materials and components in isolation. In today’s ultra-competitive market, expertise is among the most sought-after products that a supplier can offer.

The ability to deliver segment-specific analysis and advice is gaining parity with factors such as price, quality, and delivery time. It is becoming increasingly common for developers, contractors, and even consultants, to ask suppliers not only to provide the optimum materials and components for their projects, but also to justify why they represent the best fit.

Take Bahri & Mazroei Group as an example. Established almost half a century ago, the Dubai-based conglomerate has cemented its reputation within the GCC’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) sector, providing lighting, electrical, water, and building management system (BMS) technologies to customers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.

In this issue’s face-to-face interview, the group’s vice chairman, Esam Al Mazroei, explains how his team’s activities have become increasingly consultative during recent years (page 22). Indeed, on hearing of some of Bahri & Mazroei Group’s recent projects, you’d be forgiven for assuming it was a consultant rather than a supplier.

In Q2 2017, for instance, group subsidiary Bahri & Mazroei Trading Company (BMTC) signed a long-term agreement for the provision and oversight of solar-powered street lighting in Dubai Sports City. Under the terms of the deal, the firm will deploy its solar street lighting system, in conjunction with smart controls, to perform remote monitoring and data analyitcs – a strategy that is expected to drive greater operational efficiency within the community.

And the Dubai Sports City contract is not a one-off. During recent years, Bahri & Mazroei Group has played an integral role in the development of lighting systems for a plethora of regional projects, both public and private, and even oversaw the world’s largest Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) installation at Abu Dhabi World Trade Center’s (WTC) Trust Tower.

Al Mazroei’s team may represent a shining example (pun intended) of the increasingly consultative activities of regional suppliers, but it is by no means an exception. From MEP, through plant, machinery, and vehicles (PMV), to facilities management (FM), firms that would traditionally have been considered wholesalers are being asked to provide advice and oversight in addition to physical products. As Al Mazroei tells Construction Week: “This is a normal part of our job. [Clients] are often looking for the latest technologies, so we go to them and explain the [related] advantages and disadvantages.”

Make no mistake, Gulf construction is rapidly transforming into a knowledge-based sector. The suppliers that thrive will be the smartest, not the cheapest.

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