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Wed 31 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Stone Gallery

Rising fuel costs may have had an impact, but business is still booming for stone product suppliers in the region, says Vishal Lakhani, director of Stone Gallery.

Rising fuel costs may have had an impact, but business is still booming for stone product suppliers in the region, says Vishal Lakhani, director of Stone Gallery.

Stone Gallery is one of the largest suppliers of hard landscaping products in the region. Supplying to both exterior and interior projects, the company has experienced rapid growth in the region since it was founded in 2001.

The company has three locations in Dubai one in Al Quoz, which includes a showroom, plus stockyards in Al Quoz and Jebel Ali.

How long has Stone Gallery existed in the UAE?

Stone Gallery started in 2001 as an offshoot of an existing company called Captain Marble, which was established in 1995. Captain Marble dealt primarily in marble and granite, while Stone Gallery offers a full range of stone related and hard landscaping products for exteriors.

We set up Stone Gallery because we surveyed the market and realised that while there was a lot available for interiors, there was a lack of supply for exteriors.

Who are your clients?

We deal with residential customers as well as contractors, architects, and design consultants. On the commercial side, we have supplied to several of the major hotels in Dubai including Al Qasr and Mina A' Salam.

Projects that we are working on at the moment include Jumeirah Beach road and Emaar Business Park as well as Al Raha Gardens in Abu Dhabi, which was one of our biggest projects. The split of our work is approximately 70% exterior versus 30% interior.

What types of stone are most in demand at present?

Depending on the project and on the architect, granite is very popular, as is sandstone.The sandstone trend has been around for eight or nine years, while granite is coming in now in a bigger way.

Which stones work best and worst with the climate in this region in your view?

We don't advise people to use limestone for exteriors. Limestone is very porous. It is OK for the façade, but not for the paving where there is high traffic. I'd say granite is one of the best stones for the exterior use for large commercial areas.

Have you benefited from the landscaping boom?

Yes, we have. The market picked up from 1996-1997 when we saw a big jump in the landscaping industry because a lot of people were buying their own homes.

Has the rising cost of fuel had an impact on business?

Absolutely. All our stones are imported because there are no local quarries here. They come from among other countries India, Spain, Italy, Portugal, China, and Indonesia. [When fuel prices rose], we had to relook at our prices. Costs went up not only for sea freight but also for local transit costs.

We tried to keep our prices the same and we managed to a certain extent. We maintained a steady growth and we are happy now that the prices are starting to come down.

Are you worried about how the global economic crisis will impact your business?

There is no impact now but we believe it will impact our business. Our supply comes in a lot towards the end of projects, although the tendering and specifying are done at the beginning of projects, and that is when the budget dries up and [project managers] start cutting corners.

So whatever is already in the pipeline is going to be completed, but new projects that you see in the market are being delayed so this effect is going to come later.

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