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Tue 15 Mar 2011 12:00 AM

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Champion contractor

With involvement in such iconic projects as Dubai Sports City, Shaikhani Contracting is poised to grow further as it looks to such diverse regions like Qatar and Africa

Champion contractor
Rizwan Shaikhani and Sunil Taneja

Shaikhani Contracting is a member of the Shaikhani Group, which includes Memon Investments, a leading developer of such projects as Champions Towers I ($20.4million), II ($30million), III ($39.4million) and IV ($122.5million) and Frankfurt Sports City ($92million) in Dubai Sports City. It also has Gardenia I and II, Gardenia Residency III and IV and Frankfurt Tower in Jumeirah Village South on its roster of current projects. The group’s inaugural commercial development is the Cambridge Business Centre in Dubai Silicon Oasis.

Memon Investments joint MD Rizwan Shaikhani explains it is a multibillion dollar international business conglomerate that has delivered 30,000 units globally, with a presence in 90 countries in Asia, Europe and MENA, and 30 years’ experience to date in real estate, construction, manufacturing, trading and even IT. Headquartered in Dubai, Shaikhani Contracting specialises in high-rise towers, mixed-use developments, residential projects, manufacturing units, hotels, retail facilities and commercial projects.

It is well-equipped to cater for the entire construction cycle, from building to finishing, explains Shaikhani Contracting GM Sunil Taneja. This encompasses general contracting, HVAC, MEP, glass, aluminium and cladding, joinery, insulation, metal and cabinet works, civil works and flooring. Taneja comments that the Shaikhani Group itself is 32 years old. Real-estate development has always been a primary focus, and it was decided to establish Shaikhani Contracting in order to add value to the group as a whole. “This was not only a new addition to our current profile, but was also synergistic to the existing group services.”

While the group, and Memon Investments in particular, has an international focus, the UAE and Dubai in particular have also been a strong focus. Shaikhani, who has garnered considerable experience in the global construction industry, says: “Dubai is a different market, as it is an amalgam of US and British standards. We could have easily entered into a joint venture with another company, but decided to set up our contracting business from scratch in order to ensure we did everything right from the outset.”

Taneja concurs, adding that this approach of understanding the basics before embarking on any action has been integral to the group’s continued success. “Our take up is slow and measured, allowing us to tick all the boxes and slowly acquire the necessary team and expertise. At present we have 40 workers and about 12 staff, which is a very respectable figure in these times especially.”

It is important to be able to deliver on your promises, especially in construction, says Taneja. “What happens in most businesses is there are a lot of people who make a lot of promises, but only a few will deliver on these. So the intention to deliver has to be backed up by quality follow-through that is not compromised.” In keeping with this philosophy of maintaining excellence, Shaikhani says the company has a policy of working with only the best consultants and related professionals, such as Anan Safreni. “This gives us a lot of credibility when we are entrusted to do the finishing works for a high-rise tower, for example. This gives us a lot of added value.”

Taneja says the next stage in the contractor’s development is a planned expansion to Qatar to take advantage of the anticipated 2022 FIFA Soccer World Cup building boom, as well as Saudi Arabia and the rest of MENA, including Africa. “We think there is a lot of scope there, as it is the only continent with good growth projections for the next 25 years.”

Shaikhani adds that the contractor has been careful to follow a measured rate of development in Dubai, so that it does not exceed its capacity at any stage or carry any unnecessary overheads. “We wish to follow the licensing pattern of Dubai, which progresses through G+1, G+4 and G+7. We are going through those steps now, and will be at the stage within the next two to three months where we will be able to apply for a higher licence.”

The contractor remains cautiously optimistic about the Dubai market itself, however. “There is not much additional scope in Dubai, especially in terms of high-rise towers. It is going to take a little time to get to the stage where we can expect some significant new projects. In the past, milestone projects were being launched continuously, and every tower had a speciality. It is going to take a while before the market comes back to anywhere near the same level. Having said that, there is a significant demand for high-quality villas and commercial and industrial buildings,” says Taneja.

Shaikhani is confident that the worst of the crisis has passed, and that there is renewed confidence and hope in the construction industry, which has been the main driver of the region’s phenomenal growth. There is also more liquidity in the market as banks have relaxed lending restrictions, allowing contractors to either resume stalled activities or take on new work.

Shaikhani Contracting was established in 2008, a time “when the market was due for a correction,” says Taneja. “When you open a business in times when everybody is flourishing, it is a different scene altogether. When the market dynamics changed as suddenly as it did, we tried to make the most of the situation at the time.”

This awareness has influenced the contractor’s market trajectory ever since. “Our first step in 2008 was to establish the correct team in order to be able to tackle the market as it was then. This meant we had a good pool of project managers, engineers and labourers to carry us forward. Now we not only have a full team, but having been in the market for close onto three years, we have sufficient projects in hand and are ready to expand.”

Taneja says it is important to be a trendsetter in the construction industry, rather than attempting to keep pace with shifting market dynamics. “The dynamics of business revolve around two key strategies, namely selling in a buyers’ market, or buying in a sellers’ market. At the moment you will not see many contractors being established here, or recruiting actively, as we are.” Shaikhani adds that the financial security offered by Memon Investments has allowed the contractor to weather the downturn successfully.

“We are very well supported financially, which makes a lot of difference in terms of both the group’s credentials and our standing in the market. This is what differentiates us from other contractors, as we do not have financial problems. As a contractor, financing is perhaps the biggest concern of all at the moment.”

Shaikhani says the entire construction supply chain has been affected by the downturn and its attendant payment and liquidity issues. “We have a very good name with our suppliers, for example. A short additional delay in payment is not a problem for us, as we have nurtured that relationship and know that payment will be forthcoming. This gives us a tremendous reputation in the market, because he will bring five new customers along with him.”

In terms of joint ventures going forward, Taneja says: “We are open to joint ventures. Now is the time when there has to be a synergy between like-minded people. Maybe they have something which our company is lacking, or maybe we have something which their company is lacking, so if we can develop a working mechanism that can deliver results to the customer, we will all be happy.”

While the contractor’s current expansion seems to be accelerating rapidly, Taneja is confident that it has the correct set-up in place to accommodate this growth. “We are taking this company to a very high level at a very fast pace compared to other contracting companies.”

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