By Sarah Blackman
Al Fara'a Properties director Natasha Gangaramani explains how working within a group can help to deliver projects on time.
As the construction industry struggles to complete projects on time, Al Fara'a Properties director Natasha Gangaramani explains how working within a group can help a business deliver the goods.
What does Al Fara'a Group consist of?
Al Fara'a is an integrated construction group and has been in the UAE for about 30 years now. We have Al Fara'a Contracting, which is our construction arm, and we have Al Fara'a Properties. Unibeton Ready Mix is also part of our group and has supplied concrete to projects such as Le Grande Chateau, which has recently been handed over in Jumeirah Village.
In addition, we have Al Fara'a Belgium Aluminium and Glass Industries; and Al Fara'a Joinery. The fact that we are an integrated group allows us to start a project very early and make sure any issues are resolved quickly.
What stages are your projects at within Jumeirah Village?
Burj Al Fara'a is a commercial tower in Jumeirah Village, which is currently under mobilisation and is due to start construction anytime soon. This project will be completed in around 24 months and has 40 floors. Manhattan has been under construction for the last eight months and has reached the first floor.
It has three basements, so it took a while to come above ground. We will be delivering this in the last quarter of 2010 and Mulberry Mansions, which incorporates a mix of Italian and French architecture, will be delivered around the same time. Construction on Le Grande Chateau started in January 2007 and was completed in July this year. It consists of 170 apartments and a string of townhouses.
Jumeriah Village has about 900 plots and, within those plots, we were the first to start construction and the first to deliver a project. This is a huge milestone for us. Whatever project we launch we are very, very quick to get to ground and to mobilise so we can commit to deliver on time.
Why did you decide to integrate the French/Italian theme?
You don't see this kind of beautiful architecture in Dubai anymore. What you see is people trying to make quick and easy design decisions but we really wanted to invest in the architecture so residents can be proud of where they are staying. Manhattan is the same - it is a very wide building and it reminds me of buildings in New York.
Do you tend to award contracts to the companies within the Al Fara'a Group?
Whenever we tender a job we are fair in that we evaluate pricing and compare quality. Our buildings are going to be standing the test of time and we wanted to ensure that everything we do is of the highest quality. Unibeton was very competitive with its pricing when it made a bid for Le Grande Chateau and we knew the quality of its product is excellent. But, we do an across the table evaluation, whenever we have a project, so our group companies will not always win a contract.
Do you have projects outside Jumeirah Village?
We have Bellatora Residences in Dubai Maritime City and Image Residences in Downtown Jebel Ali. These projects are very close to tender and in the last stages of design. We cannot reveal information regarding the tenders right now.
How do you ensure the safety of your construction workers?
Al Fara'a Group has a separate safety department for all labourers. We also have a labour university so we can enhance our workers' skills and train them. At the same time, while they are attending the university, they are trained on safety. We use constant training, dialogue and visuals that help workers learn not to take safety measures for granted. We have safety managers on all sites and we have a communications department that is also dedicated to safety. This is important because we have a labour force of about 16,000.
Are you planning to expand outside the UAE and work on an international level?
We have been looking at expansion for a while now and we have been in dialogue with certain countries in the GCC and outside the region. It's just about finding the right opportunity. We have a few joint ventures in place that obviously benefit us here in the local market. But, now we are looking at expanding outside and partnering with strong firms who have parallel values and product knowledge. We want to enhance our quality; we don't want to take a huge step back.