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Face to face: N. Valrani, P. Idicheria, C. Sarafopoulos, Al Shirawi FM

Al Shirawi FM received a large round of funding from its board, laying the foundation to enter new sectors

Charalampos Sarafopoulos, Navin Valrani and Pramodh Idicheria.
Charalampos Sarafopoulos, Navin Valrani and Pramodh Idicheria.
Valrani says Al Shirawi FM's workplace culture is similar to that of Google or Apple's offices.
Valrani says Al Shirawi FM's workplace culture is similar to that of Google or Apple's offices.
Al Shirawi Group has more than 350 active contracts.
Al Shirawi Group has more than 350 active contracts.

Al Shirawi FM’s chief executive officer Navin Valrani, chief operating officer Pramodh Idicheria and general manager Charalampos Sarafopoulos, during a candid conversation pepped up by the obvious camaraderie between the leadership team, reveals key details about major strategic developments at the organisation exclusively to fmME.

“We at Al Shirawi FM love what we do and this is the most exciting year in the history of the company. It’s an excellent time to be at Al Shirawi as we have big plans that stem from a commitment from our shareholders to expand the business, and inject vast amounts of capital in the company — in excess of AED100m ($27.25m),” he reveals.

The investment is set to pan out over the next 24 months, Valrani says whose father, Mohan Valrani, was one of the founding members of the Al Shirawi Group back in the early 70s.

The firm’s CEO is confident that none of its competitors will be bolstering their operations with a similar injection of cash. “That too specifically towards FM operations,” Valrani informs.

Sarafopoulos gives an overview of how the capital will be invested. “First of all, we will invest in our people, technology and in expanding the business altogether. We are planning on expanding into waste management and offering this service to our existing clients as well as others. The major part of the investment will be allocated to solar energy solutions. We are going to invest more than [AED]80m ($21.75m) in different projects, not similar to anything seen in the UAE before.”

Idicheria adds: “We will begin the pilot project with our own facilities. Simultaneously, we are also in discussion with a world-renowned company [to launch a solar company] to form a JV or partnership arrangement; it’s still early to disclose the details.”

To begin with, all of Al Shirawi Group’s buildings and assets will be going solar, which uses a significant amount of energy Valrani says. The solar project has also received support from the corporate and board level — which not only resonates with the plans of the UAE but also gives an insight of our future as a company, he adds.

A fair amount of the $27.25m will be reserved for the firm’s diversification into waste management. Valrani gives an insight as to why the firm decided to enter this space. “Waste management is sizable, and we believe in the city of Dubai which continues to witness tremendous expansion in population, which leads to waste generation, and that needs to be managed efficiently. We possess in-house skills that will differentiate us from our competitors,” he states.

The group believes it is well placed to enter this market as it will leverage its existing client relationships — as many as 350 active contracts.

“This gives us a big portfolio of potential clients to reach out to and we have the know-how and the ideas on how to further develop it. We will, eventually, enter waste processing and recycling as well. The goal is to create a strong FM company which will provide all services to our clients in-house,” Sarafopoulos adds.

Al Shirawi is also looking at expanding into other markets, and Valrani and the board have set sights east on the Indian market.

He explains: “Until now we have been UAE focused, but based on our five-year strategic plan we identified different markets we would like to operate in. India is one of those as it is one of the most attractive markets for us on multiple fronts. The Indian property market is developing rapidly from a high-end facilities management perspective. With the economic development going on there, we would like to be in India to meet those needs of the market. And we have given ourselves a five-year time frame to do that.”

Along with the Gulf countries, Valrani is also paying close attention to the African continent, particularly countries such as Egypt and Kenya.

His confidence to take on a new challenge outside the UAE stems from the firm’s recent contract wins closer to home — where Al Shirawi provides IFM services to luxury residential assets such as Dubai Prism, Volante Tower, the 118 Tower and Le Rêve to name a few.

“The recent win of 118 Tower and Volante was particularly satisfying — one based in Downtown Dubai and the other in Business Bay, respectively. The developer for Volante is the same as Le Rêve, and both developers had us on board before the completion of construction. The Volante Tower and 118 Tower have both been designed to have one tenant per floor. That’s the level of upper upscale luxury we are talking about here. The 118 [Tower] has 44 stories and 27 residents. We offer both hard and soft services and everything in between,” Valrani says.

It’s interesting to note that the firm, which handles multiple luxury projects requiring specialised soft skills, is just as dominant in the infrastructure management segment.This is reflected in its ongoing relationship with Dubai Government entities such as Dubai Municipality and RTA as its maintenance contractor for road infrastructure and government buildings.

Idicheria says the reputation of the group, which is not just restricted to the FM side of the business, is built on the company’s core values of trust, transparency, compassion, with honesty and discipline as the mainstay.

He also states that not all contracts turn in a profit. “But we make sure we provide our clients with the best service possible because it’s the reputation and relationship we are after,” he adds.

Looking at the future, Valrani is confident that Al Shirawi FM, “will be around for the next 50 years”. And he credits the firm’s strong values of corporate governance for this. “Al Shirawi Group, through our chairman Abdulla Al Shirawi and senior vice chairman Mohan Valrani, were one of the few [local] companies that successfully inculcated the second generation, a process which started in the mid-80s and concluded in 1997. Today, all the business units within the group are handled between seven individuals. And we also have a document of succession planning in place for the next generation.

“If you have to bet which FM company is going to be around for the next 50 years in this market, I am pretty sure Al Shirawi will be at the top of the list,” he concludes.

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