The quest for a futuristic economy – Global Business Outlook Interviews Mr. Ramez Al-Khayyat

April 7, 2021

Power International Holding is one of the big players in modernising Qatar, as it prepares for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Power International Holding is a diverse business conglomerate that was founded in Qatar, with a strong vision to lead in every industry that it undertakes. The conglomerate’s focus is channeled into six main sectors: general contracting, industries and services, agriculture and food industries, real estate, lifestyle and services, which are of utmost importance to enhance Qatar’s economic appeal on a global scale. Although the traditional market of the conglomerate has been Qatar for many years, it is observed that the group of companies have become prominent in their industries nationwide and in regions of the world.

A recent addition to the conglomerate’s diverse portfolio is healthcare. Elegancia Healthcare, a subsidiary of Power International Holding and Elegancia Group, has signed a partnership agreement with Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles for The View Hospital. The 250-bed facility is scheduled
to open in August 2022.

There is a sense of trepidation knowing that the coronavirus pandemic has made thriving economies heavily reliant on healthcare. “With Qatar’s growing population and demand for medical services, a key focus for us will be strengthening our healthcare arm. We are confident that this could be a significant growth area for us in the coming years,” Ramez Al-Khayyat, the vice chairman and Group CEO of Power International Holding, told Global Business Outlook. Despite the pandemic, the conglomerate is showing commendable work in reinforcing sustainability and success for its group of companies through a simple approach: It acts as a powerhouse for each of its business units by providing them with the tools and resources that are necessary to maintain sustainable growth.

Digital adoption is on the rise. An example of that is the conglomerate’s string of efforts in combining technological and operational improvements, coupled with profound experience under the leadership of Ramez Al-Khayyat, who pointed out that “This year more than ever has shown that business leaders cannot relax and expect things to improve on their own. At Power International Holding, we look to install a sense of pride in going that extra mile, to be brave, try something different and in most cases our efforts have been rewarded.” His due diligence in ensuring that the group of companies continue to remain efficient, responsive and agile—not only in improving margins but also in their ways to deliver top-class customer experience—is remarkable. In his views, “the hard work is paying off.”

The conglomerate has realised the power of digital adoption to become an intelligent enterprise. Last year, it embarked on a sophisticated three-year digital transformation programme across its group of companies, especially because its portfolio was becoming increasingly complex. “Investing in digital innovation, which includes creating digital loyalty platforms of our shopping venues, or using machine learning to monitor and predict footfall across our buildings, is just another tool for us as we further modernise and improve our offering,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said. Essentially, the conglomerate sought a future-proof system that will provide a common framework with flexibility for it to expand into new industries.

Now the conglomerate has become data-driven from top to bottom. “We have always had the courage to invest in new ideas and technologies to help the group reach new levels of success,” he added. What is interesting about the new process is that the data seamlessly flows directly into the SAP systems and all activities are reflected on the dashboards. Ramez Al-Khayyat explained that through the integration of these SAP systems, the conglomerate will be able to achieve its ambition of driving lean, agile and efficient operations across every function. “Becoming more data-driven will also ensure that we are ready for all challenges and opportunities that the future holds.”

On a macro level, the conglomerate has encouraged digitisation across its group of companies. “We have embraced digital transformation across all our businesses and technology has played a vital role in aiding economic recovery and giving consumers confidence,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said. “Some of this innovation delivers seemingly small improvements that can make a really big difference.”

For example, AURA Group has expanded digital solutions across all its restaurants, which even includes scannable QR codes to replace food menus, and in-app ordering for food delivery services. In another example, the Mall of Qatar is able to offer its shoppers an enhanced digital shopping experience through a customer data platform that provides them with a generous loyalty programme that is perfectly tailored to specific preferences. Likewise, UCC Holding and Elegancia Group utilises best-in-class tender management software to streamline their tendering processes, which in turn saves project costs and provides complete visibility of all project tenders. For Baladna, its agriculture experts use the most advanced dairy management software programme for managing the herd, monitoring cows’ milk production, handling terminals and defining daily tasks.

Building a path to self-sufficiency. In June 2019, Baladna first started exporting milk to neighbouring countries in the Middle East. “We now have plans to expand our operations in Southeast Asia and North Africa for 2021,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said. Baladna has significantly contributed to Qatar’s food security and safety during a diplomatic crisis and a blockade. The group believes that adopting a self-sufficiency model is imperative to any nation that seeks to modernise itself. Also, the group is developing sustainable trade and international collaboration with other nations.

For one: Qatar is already the UK’s third biggest market in the region, and both nations are exploring trade opportunities as part of their individual efforts in economic recovery. The cows at Baladna farms produce an average of 37 litres of milk per day against the production levels of 22 litres and 30 litres in the UK and the US. At the same time, there is anticipation that the UK is set to begin a post-Brexit trade and investment review of Gulf markets—which can lead to a huge growth opportunity for the group and Qatar.

For Qatar, having a second-generation conglomerate this diverse is a boon to its economy. The conglomerate has already expanded its presence with offices and projects in the UK, France, Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon, Oman and Maldives. Again, “we will be looking to expand into North Africa and Southeast Asian markets soon because there is a huge amount of potential as the world rebounds from the pandemic,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said.

The Ministry of Finance expects Qatar’s GDP to grow by more than 2 percent in 2021. With the conglomerate’s expansive nature, Qatar will certainly find itself in the position of having a desirable economic growth. Ramez Al-Khayyat, meanwhile, said “from everything that we see on the ground, I am confident that this can be achieved or even exceeded. We see a bright future for Qatar as it prepares to host one of the greatest shows in the world.”

Efforts in developing the national economy. The conglomerate’s influence is increasing in size on the back of having employed 41,000 people across eight regions of the world. Its workforce is ranging from expert tradesmen to experienced engineers to highly-skilled chefs to well trained hospitality staff. “Just as Qatar’s economy has grown and diversified, we have too,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said. “We are proud to play a major role in Qatar’s economic development. From a brick-and-mortar perspective, our general contracting division has developed more than 60 million m2 of built up area in construction. In the hospitality sector, we now run more than 40 premium restaurants in prime locations throughout the country. We are also proud to have contributed towards Qatar’s dairy self-sufficiency, with Baladna now supplying eight out of 10 glasses of milk taken in Qatar, while producing 500 thousand litres of fresh milk every day.”

Although the pandemic struck Qatar while it was enjoying a construction boom, the relentless work of UCC Holding and Elegancia Group is outstanding, especially as the nation is gearing up for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. “We have worked on several significant infrastructure projects that have helped to prepare the country to successfully host the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” Ramez Al- Khayyat said. Also, large-scale projects are underway on the back of making significant investments in the expansion of Qatar’s road and rail network. This is a good time to realise those projects because it will sophisticate Qatar’s transport infrastructure, as it is preparing to host the World Cup.

A big moment is about to come into play. Qatar hosting the World Cup will be a big moment in its economic history. The highlight of this opportunity is that Qatar will be the smallest nation so far to host the global finals— and more importantly, it seeks to be a grand World Cup host like no other. The nation has spent years constructing some of the most environmentally friendly and state-of-the-art sporting facilities in the world for fans arriving in 2022. “We expect many people will come for the game and then come back time and again for luxury hospitality, fine dining and attractive investment opportunities. This is an exciting time for Qatar and we at Power International Holding are proud to be playing our part,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said.

When Qatar was named host for the World Cup, it sought a few pledges that would make it go miles ahead of the curve to suit the 21st century high-density game. For that reason, the conglomerate is drawing up plans and working on projects to reinforce the nation’s allure in terms of infrastructure and self-sufficiency. The Qatari government, on its part, has developed initiatives to expand the private sector and introduce 100 percent foreign ownership which could further shape the industry to greater heights. Last June, UCC Holding had announced Golden Sponsorship of its first conference that sought to develop partnerships with the private and public sector. The public-private partnership model has gained global interest from a governance perspective, which is essentially important to activate this partnership on the basis of accountability, transparency and mutual benefit. At a macro level, corporate governance plays a huge role in building investor confidence and strengthening economic capabilities to attract investments in the future.

“We are also proud to have developed several assets that have a wider social significance, including new schools, health centres, university buildings and housing developments,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said. The construction sector has become the nation’s biggest non-mineral sector, contributing 15 percent to the GDP. That said, the conglomerate is even optimistic about the economic readjustment that is anticipated to be sharp enough — creating a value for the nation’s construction sector to reach previous estimations of $71.65 billion by 2025. This estimation illustrates an extraordinary growth rate and more opportunities for a nation that is recognised for having one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. “Our many restaurants, hotels and shopping destinations are all ready to host visitors for the World Cup and for future generations to come,” Ramez Al-Khayyat said.

Another pronounced element of hosting the World Cup is the power it is giving to Qatar’s real estate sector. “We expect these measures will help to attract more expatriates, foreign buyers, as well as real estate funds. Qatar is an incredibly welcoming and exciting place to live and do business,” he explained. In line with that, ASSETS Real Estate’s profound work in project developments have added a significant value to the nation’s economic development. The real estate unit operates various properties in Qatar, including the Baywalk Viva Bahriya in the Pearl, Com39 Tower and THE e18theen Tower, located in Lusail City.

Why Lusail is so important. Lusail Stadium will be one of the eight stadiums where the World Cup will be hosted. The stadium will be world-renowned for its water and energy efficient building. Ramez Al- Khayyat pointed out that “If you take Lusail as an example, there will be 22 hotels with various international star ratings, making it a worthy destination for visitors. But more than that, the city will boast numerous new residential units, modern office buildings and attractive retail and dining venues. Lusail will have all of the things required to support a highly successful international sporting event, and its transformed skyline will also help to build the foundation for many more years of continued local growth and prosperity.” The conglomerate will help the nation’s legacy of innovating solutions to endure long after the tournament has come to an end.

Lusail is in fact one of the host cities for the World Cup and is a thriving new area with an expected capacity that can house up to 450,000 people during the premier sporting event. Even though the nation’s real estate has been hard hit by the pandemic, the World Cup “is expected to be a major growth driver” attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists. Thriving on these developments, the conglomerate seeks to grow vertically and horizontally in the next few years. “This may well include exploring new opportunities and further diversification into healthcare and education. We are also looking to expand locally in oil and gas and secure additional international consulting and construction projects, particularly in Africa,” Ramez Al-Khayyat concluded.

 

This article was originally published in Global Business Outlook.