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Sat 28 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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The complete package

Savvy cable consumers in the Middle East must insist on getting service and value for money as well as quality, says Andrew Shaw, managing director of Ducab.

Savvy cable consumers in the Middle East must insist on getting service and value for money as well as quality, says Andrew Shaw, managing director of Ducab.

How competitive is the market for cable?

There are a lot of cable manufacturers in the region. Outside the region, there are many who are looking to export because their own markets are depressed. They think the Middle East is the last market of any interest and growth, so the competition is pretty fierce.

What makes Ducab stand out from its competitors?

Ducab has always provided the highest quality cables in the market. In this market, it's really important to not only offer that quality, but a very quick service as well.

There's been such an expansion in Dubai in the last few years that service standards have probably slipped. Everybody's been running at full speed - from restaurants right through to industrial products companies - so we're really emphasising getting back to the basics, great quality great service and overall a package of the best value, which is what people need.

Quality is the whole package - it's service, delivery, responsiveness and back-up. We offer all this. Because of our large manufacturing capacity, we have the ability to help customers in a tight squeeze, who may need cable in a few days. We have that flexibility.

How has Ducab grown in the last few months?

Last year we opened a copper roll factory, which is the UAE's first copper roll plant. We're casting cathodes and we're making rod for our own use, which we then draw down into wires to go into the cables. We're selling that rod to other cable manufacturers in the region. This backward integration gives us more control over our costs, and adds more value to our raw materials in the UAE.

We have also launched Ducab FR - fire resistant cable. We're selling a lot of that into the metro and high-rise buildings. Because of all the fires over the past couple of years, civil defence has really started tightening the rules quite aggressively.

What challenges has your business faced recently?

Our sales have reduced. The amount of cable the market needs has certainly reduced because so many projects are either going more slowly, being put on hold or just stopping. We are very concerned with the fact that so few projects are starting, because we supply cable once a project is coming to completion. We expect to see the full impact in the second half of this year and the beginning of 2010. But, there is still demand for cable.

We are a leader in the UAE as a whole, we are big in Abu Dhabi, and we are also selling throughout the GCC, so we have to balance our production. It's true that projects have been slowed down in Dubai and the UAE, but other markets are still more buoyant - other projects are still continuing.

How have you modified your business plan to meet these challenges?

We're rebalancing to focus more on taking opportunities in other GCC markets, where we already have operations, and also defending our share. There is still business throughout the UAE, as there is in the region. We're by far the largest cable manufacturer in the UAE, so we are best placed to offer the sort of service and the full range of products that the market needs. In this climate everybody is concerned.

Customers want to be sure that they're buying from the best manufacturer, one which offers full technical and service back-up and a quick response. And we can offer all of that because we have three factories - two in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai - we can give an unrivalled package of quality, service, delivery and availability to take what business there is.

What market trends will emerge out of this downturn?

There's been such an expansion in the last few years that service standards have probably slipped, because everybody's been running at full speed. I think the basic values of quality, service, consistency, dependability and value will come back. Our consumers are definitely under more pressure - for deadlines and for cash, they're under pressure all round.

The intensity has come out of the market, so they have a bit more time to get exactly what they want, they are prepared to shop around for it, and to put in demands. We are already seeing customers demanding better lead times and better service response. Fortunately, we've been able to respond.

The Cable GuyOriginally from England, Andrew Shaw graduated from London's Imperial College in 1984 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and from London Business School with an MBA.

He has held a variety of positions for BICC Cables and Pirelli in Thailand and Malaysia, and was the CEO of Prysmian Cables and Systems in China. Shaw has been the managing director of Ducab since 2007.

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