TOGY talks to
Qatar’s logistics opportunitiesNovember 13, 2018
Abdulrahman Al Mustafawi Al Hashemi, managing director of Al-Tawfeeq Trading & Contracting, talks to TOGY about opportunities in the market, the importance of knowledge transfer and how the embargo has led to new international linkages. Al-Tawfeeq Trading & Contracting is a trading and construction group active in oil and gas, infrastructure, power and water.
• On the Hamad Port: “There are a lot of opportunities now in the international trade and logistics sectors. The opening of the Hamad Port offers plenty of opportunities to that end. It can compete internationally because of the location and facilities and the freezone being developed. Qatar was always a place where ships stopped over. We’re just modernising and developing.”
• On the embargo: “The market was dependent on goods supplied from neighbouring countries because it was convenient and cheap. A regional plant could even store it for you and deliver it within one day. Now the private sector is more aware and is focusing on establishing resources and finding different sources from around the world.”
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Which sectors or sub-sectors offer the most opportunities in Qatar?
We believe that the oil and gas sector is lifting off because the government announced new projects and will come out with tenders shortly. It is a project-dependent sector. As such, we are planning to do more in the oil and gas sector.
There are a lot of opportunities in packaging and repackaging: buying in bulk internationally, repacking it in Qatar and sending it into other markets. We have the contacts, experience and infrastructure to build those kinds of facilities. We would like to be a pioneer in developing international trade in importing and re-exporting. Qatar could be a hub because of our strategic geopolitical location.
There are a lot of opportunities now in the international trade and logistics sectors. The opening of the Hamad Port offers plenty of opportunities to that end. It can compete internationally because of the location and facilities and the freezone being developed. Qatar was always a place where ships stopped over. We’re just modernising and developing.
We have one of the best infrastructure systems in the world in terms of roads, highways and our airport. The port is only in phase one and there is another phase to the airport coming. Our rail system will be finished very soon as well.
What is your approach to knowledge transfer?
We want to bring in international experts to execute projects with better technology, which supports with His Highness the Emir’s 2030 vision of attracting knowledge-based investments in the country. When you attract foreign engineers, local engineers learn from them.
We were one of the first companies to bring international companies to Qatar and make use of the knowledge they have. We like investing in people; business is people at the end of the day. If you don’t have the right people, it doesn’t matter how much money you invest.
Has the Qatari economy shown that it is resilient?
You could say the embargo was the best thing that happened to Qatar because it showed us that we don’t need to depend on anyone. The government and institutions proved they are able to get through anything.
It was an unprecedented event in the region. When the embargo happened last year, the national community and people in the region didn’t think Qatar could survive, but we showed the world we can survive financial difficulty. The government dealt with the embargo with great maturity, and the people living in Qatar as well as the businesses showed solidarity.
Even though it happened when oil prices weren’t very high and there weren’t many ongoing projects, many companies had difficulties but got through them because the government provided the platform to create international connections, thereby facilitating and enabling the procurement of similar products they used to source from the UAE or Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, the government pushed forward legislation to create the basis for a very friendly business environment and is opening up the economy to foreign investors.
Is it fair to say that the embargo opened the eyes of the local business community to finding economic linkages with non-regional countries?
Yes. The market was dependent on goods supplied from neighbouring countries because it was convenient and cheap. A regional plant could even store it for you and deliver it within one day. Now the private sector is more aware and is focusing on establishing resources and finding different sources from around the world.
For example, catering and food businesses suffered during the embargo because a lot of food used to come from nearby. Now we are making our own milk. After the embargo a greater emphasis was placed on that. We found other, cheaper sources for certain goods.
Equally, the government built Hamad Port, which opened at the beginning of the embargo. It receives many shipments from different origins compared to what we had in the past. Everything there is running smoothly. Now we have our own shipping lines and there are more air cargo flights.
How have local players adapted to market conditions?
We supply products to the market from around the world. There are items that came through Jebel Ali that we needed in order to deliver projects in a timely fashion, but all of a sudden they weren’t coming through on time. We were compelled to source them from elsewhere. If there is a product missing, we call another supplier. We may lose money or time, but we have established better contacts and have a clear vision.
The embargo showed the Qatari business community that we can manufacture ourselves and we know there are thousands of companies and hundreds of countries that want to trade with us. We are open for business. We are open to doing business with anyone who doesn’t hold grudges.
The embargo forced us to be more organised and look into diversifying our service and product offerings. For instance, suddenly there were lubricants supply shortages so we have looked to source from other refineries in Singapore, Vietnam and India.
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