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‘You have to help to be helped’

Dr Marcus G. George, CEO and Partner, Engineering Consortium Consulting Engineers, speaks on how resilience in the face of stringent market conditions can reinforce competitive advantages in the forms of creative solutions and collaborative efforts. Excerpts from the interview…

| | Mar 24, 2020 | 10:23 am
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Dr Marcus G. George

IN VIEW OF THE CURRENT MARKET CONDITIONS, HOW DO YOU SEE PAYMENT- RELATED ISSUES IMPACTING THE QUALITY OF CONSTRUCTION IN THE REGION?

When it comes to delayed payments, we have to hold true to our longstanding principle of ensuring quality and consistency across all of our projects. At ECCE, one of our core values and the very essence of our DNA is to ensure that we never compromise on the quality of the services that we offer. As a result of our unwavering commitment to quality, and especially throughout all phases of economic cycles, we have won the trust of our clients, many of
whom are prestigious and major private, governmental and semi- governmental entities.

The shortage of liquidity in the market does come with challenges; however, our robust in-house finance team has found creative and long-term solutions to tackle the challenging market conditions. Due to our history and experience in the UAE, we have developed key and long-lasting relationships with banks in order to ensure that we can always deliver on our short-, medium- and long-term commitments towards all of our stakeholders. At ECCE, we take a very proactive and solution-oriented approach to every challenge we face.

SO, IT’S REALLY ABOUT CREATIVE SOLUTIONS?

Absolutely. The ability to be versatile and come up with creative solutions is essential to ensuring that your organisation adapts to challenges it faces. We
live in an increasingly globalised and mobile world, and therefore our challenges are also evolving at the same pace, which requires companies to be proactive, open-minded and creative when tackling challenges. This type of resilient mindset is both reassuring for your clients and motivating for your employees. It shows that you have a long-term vision and that you’re in it for the long run. We want our clients to rest assured that during the tough times, we will remain committed and deliver on our commitments.

AS A CONSULTANT, HAVE YOU HAD TO PLAY THE ROLE OF ESSENTIALLY A ‘BANKER’ OR ‘FINANCIER’ FOR ANY OF THE PROJECTS YOU ARE WORKING ON? OR, WHAT OTHER STRATEGIES HAVE YOU USED TO ENSURE FINANCIAL FLUIDITY IN THE PROJECTS?
As a main consultancy that is specialised in the construction industry in design and supervision, and with an unlimited Dubai Municipality license, one of our key strengths is that we have all key disciplines of the construction industry in-house, including but not limited to MEP, structural, landscaping, interiors and architectural. We also offer turnkey solutions for our clients, in order to ensure consistency in terms of quality and to ensure the process is as seamless and enjoyable as possible for our clients.

Our core strength is design and supervision, on any scale or type of project (i.e. residential, commercial, infrastructure, master developments, medical, educational and so on). As a part of our comprehensive service offering, we are happy to provide our clients with feasibility studies to assess the financial viability of projects based on our extensive experience in the region, across all construction-related sectors, including but not limited to hospitality, medical, infrastructure, residential, commercial and educational.

IN THAT SENSE, DO YOU FEEL THAT SHOWCASING THE ABILITY TO FIND CREATIVE SOLUTIONS DURING THIS TIME IS ACTUALLY A WAY TO STRENGTHEN THE RELATIONSHIP WITH CLIENTS IN THE LONG RUN?

Adopting a long-term vision means that as an organisation, you have to accept and adapt to every phase of the economic cycle. This means that we are prepared for any challenge that the market will throw at us, which is reassuring for our clients, because ultimately, they are committed to developing their projects without being hindered by any unforeseeable disruption. Our clients are generally committed to developing the real estate landscape in the UAE in the long run, and it’s reassuring for them to share this passion with an experienced consultancy firm with a proactive long-term approach. During these difficult market conditions, most of our clients value the reassurance and commitment from all involved parties that there will be no disruption to business, and this is what we aim to deliver to our clients.

IN VIEW OF THE OVERSUPPLY OF BUILDINGS IN THE UAE, HAVE YOU STARTED TO PUT AN INCREASED FOCUS ON REFURBISHMENT PROJECTS? OR, IS THERE STILL A STRONG PIPELINE OF NEW CONSTRUCTION IN THE COMING MONTHS?

Whether you call it an oversupply, a correction of the market, or simply the market becoming mature, the changing market dynamics and needs of our clients has meant that we have had to change our approach. The pipeline of new construction has not been as strong as previous years, which meant that our business model has evolved, and for example, in order to accommodate this change, we have set up a new department that focuses solely on refurbishment and interiors. This is just one of the changes we have made internally to ensure that we remain competitive and add value to the market.

ECCE is committed to the long-term vision of growth and success of the UAE, in line with the visions of the leaders H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Therefore, we see the current situation as a temporary one, and whilst we remain committed to traditional real estate developments, we are also extending our focus to infrastructure, social housing and medical projects, and other similar types of projects which may not be as affected by economic cycles.

It is also important to keep in mind that ECCE is a company that provides international services, so we have regional projects in the GCC and Iraq, and a growing interest in physically entering the Saudi market in light of the recent economic, social and infrastructure developments in the Kingdom.

COULD YOU TALK US THROUGH ABOUT YOUR EFFORTS TO INTEGRATE MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY INTO THE PROJECTS YOU ARE DOING, BE IT IN THE FORM OF SOLAR WATER HEATERS OR SOME OTHER TECHNOLOGIES?

ECCE is committed to integrating as much green and renewable energy as possible in all of our projects. All of our departments have been instructed and are encouraged to always study and include environmentally friendly materials, such as solar water heaters, and to inform our clients of the long-term economic and environmental advantages of using such materials and technologies.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC PROJECTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
All of our projects are special to us, irrespective of the size or location, but we have been involved with some very interesting projects in Dubai Marina with the Select Group and across Dubai with DAMAC including the iconic Akoya project.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER SECTORS THAT CONTINUE TO DRIVE GROWTH?
Infrastructure in Dubai continues to be world-leading, but with as every country that has a rapidly growing population, there will constantly be a strain on infrastructure and there will always be demand for necessary projects, such as social housing, hospitals, clinics and schools.

Dubai is a major aviation, tourism and conventions hub, and we believe that there will always be demand in the hospitality industry, and despite a pressure on hotel yields, Dubai remains one of the top global tourist destinations with high hotel occupancy rates. There is also a push for more accessible and affordable hotels and hotel apartments, in light of a more mobile, regional middle class.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, refurbishment and energy savings are both segments of our business that we are witnessing an increased interest in. The real estate market in Dubai is becoming mature, and in line with other global mature markets, investors and clients are looking for affordable, quality and energy-efficient solutions, and we are proactively taking measures to ensure these are all part of our service offering to our clients.


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