Devaki Khimji

"Large contracting companies should take responsibility for mentoring SMEs so that they can become quality subcontractors."

Devaki KHIMJI Executive Director Al Turki Enterprises

in figures

Years of experience in the oil and gas industryAround 30

Kilometres logged without road traffic accident-related lost time incident70 million

Advance Oman’s standards

August 14, 2015

Executive director of Oman’s Al Turki Enterprises (ATE) Devaki Khimji talks to TOGY about how local companies can compete with internationals and how various labour issues can be addressed. With a fleet of more than 2,000 vehicles and around 4,500 employees engaged in its oil and gas division, ATE is one of the largest services providers in Oman’s hydrocarbons market.

How has the Omani hydrocarbons market reacted to the drop in oil prices?
Oman’s hydrocarbons market, like other oil-driven markets, has responded to the low prices by focusing on the recovery of easy oil. This has resulted in increased drilling activity, as compared to 2014. It has also led to the fast-tracking of activities such as the construction of flowlines, pipelines, and rig locations.

How can local companies compete with large international engineering, procurement and construction operators?
It is true that major multinational companies are better equipped with larger workforces and greater financial backing. However, government and semi-government agencies are increasingly prioritising local companies over foreign ones when awarding contracts. Contracts are being awarded to Oman-headquartered businesses with the expectation that they will subcontract work to or form joint ventures with local community contractors or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which will involve mentoring. This is a good strategy as it promotes in-country value.

 

What can be done to promote small local businesses from working as subcontractors to taking the role of contractors?
Large contracting companies should take responsibility for mentoring SMEs so that they can become quality subcontractors who can work alongside them. These companies should partner with SMEs to help them with skills such as contract and labour management and also assist them in obtaining financial loans. This would help SMEs to not only become more qualified subcontractors, but eventually become main contractors in their own right.

Why do large engineering and construction companies often fail to retain staff?
The market for skilled staff in Oman is very competitive. This applies equally to expatriates and Omanis. On the whole, opportunities are abundant for national job seekers. For companies, retaining good employees is an ongoing challenge. Measures should be taken to keep employees happy. It is important for employers to evaluate the reasons behind an Omani staff member’s decision to resign. In most cases, it is due to various reasons such as a lack of clear policies, procedures, career development plans, salary expectations and benefits such as private health insurance. The Ministry of Manpower should increase the clarity of guidelines, particularly those for employees working in the oil and gas industry.

How do you assess the level of health, safety and environment (HSE) standards for construction companies in Oman?
The awareness of and compliance with HSE requirements among a majority of construction companies in Oman has gone up several fold over the past five years. Previously, the realisation of the importance of HSE was limited to companies operating in oil and gas services and some selected construction companies. Good health and the fitness of employees are essential, as well as the prevention of non-accidental deaths. One of the major risks for employees comes from living conditions. Companies operating in sites in the country’s interior have made substantial improvements in this regard, including providing better accommodation and food. Operators have also increased the frequency and extent of medical check-ups for employees over the age of 40 to ensure their overall fitness to work. The Omani government has implemented strict measures to promote environmental protection. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs is very active and ensures that its guidelines are mandatory for doing business in Oman.

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