Fluid Process Sdn Bhd – Ragunath Bharath, Managing Director – Malaysia
IFP as a prime example of Malaysian oil & gas engineering capacity and how the growth of companies like IFP is a key element Dr. Ragunath Bharath discussed IFP’s evolution to cover modification of plants and upgrades with a multidimensional approach, the company’s track record as demonstrated by a recent process engineering project for Dialog for the Pengerang Complex and his ambition from IFP to become more than just an engineering SME but rather an EPC downstream engineering partner of choice.
Dr. Bharath, what could you tell us about IFP’s positioning in the market?
IFP was incorporated in 2001, and is today a medium sized company with 60 employees and five projects on stream.
When I founded the company I noticed a gap to fill in downstream oil and gas engineering, where not many players were competing. As such, we entered the market to provide the engineering part of the business, since many Malaysian EPC companies were quite capable in construction but need integrated engineering services to execute successful EPC projects of the small to medium scale. Malaysian EPC companies had evolved from the construction side rather than engineering side. We support Malaysian EPC companies in providing integrated engineering services which is extremely essential to execute EPC projects successfully.
Our core business is not so much focused on greenfields but more brownfields. We position ourselves as a plant modification upgrading company for the engineering sector.
How has your services portfolio evolved since you founded the company?
I established IFP with a core capability in process and chemical engineering. Since its establishment, IFP has ventured into providing multi-discipline integrated engineering service involving piping, mechanical (static & rotating), electrical, material handling, civil & structure and instrument & control disciplines for EPCC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Commissioning) projects in the hydrocarbon, petrochemical and environmental industry.
We used to serve the EPC contractors by sub-contracting but today we are working directly with operators in the downstream sector.
Our emphasis remains in the downstream; we concentrate on terminals and storage facilities such as the RAPID project.
What is your strategy to win contracts for mega-projects such as RAPID?
As IFP we provide clients with options for the design work that is related to local engineering standards. Multinationals that have won contracts for RAPID might not be familiar with Malaysian regulations and we can assist them here. Currently we are in the process of sending proposals to large EPC contractors involved in RAPID.
Our strategy to secure contracts is twofold: through floating invitation to bid documents and we are approaching clients through our marketing efforts.
You registered in Qatar and Oman and took a small equity in an Indian firm: Anewa. What could you tell us about your internationalization strategy today?
We are listed as a Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) in Malaysia, which means we have to secure works from outside Malaysia. MSC is a Government-designated zone in Malaysia designed to leapfrog Malaysia into the information and knowledge age.
As you rightfully mentioned we took a small equity an operating engineering company in India. India is quite saturated, so we choose a company that had been growing for the past four years, with about hundred over people working, executing engineering jobs from India, Singapore and from the Middle East. In addition we formed a Joint Venture in Kazakhstan, which conducts our marketing efforts. Another country we are actively looking at is Myanmar, a country that has recently opened up for business.
What project would you highlight that you are most pride of and demonstrates IFP’s capabilities in its fullest?
One project that I would like to highlight is the Pengerang Deepwater Petroleum Terminal. This project we completed this year for Dialog, an integrated specialist technical services provider in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry. IFP was responsible for process engineering that covers complete spectrum of process engineering design works for the Pengerang Deepwater Terminal.
The Pengerang Deepwater PetroleumTerminal is part of the Malaysian Economic Transformation Program (ETP). In your opinion, what is your assessment of the ETP’s overall impact on Malaysia’s oil and gas industry?
I find this a positive development. The focus on oil and gas projects, arising from the Economic Transformation Programme, will create a more dynamic and progressive oil and gas industry in Malaysia. The Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) is one big step in creating value to the downstream oil and gas value chain in Johor.
And as IFP, we are looking forward to the exciting opportunities this brings for us. As an SME we are closely following the large players, active in developing Malaysia as the downstream hub in oil and gas, to provide them with our niche services. For EPC jobs, the engineering part is very small in terms of value but the implications are huge. Our focus being on revamping and modification, we place people on site to work with the contractors and understand what is going on. We verify whatever drawing is given to us before we start any design, which has in the past saved a lot of time and avoided many mistakes.
What is the biggest challenge for IFP?
One of the largest challenges is to remain a small attractive niche player while not facing restrictions in terms of human resources capabilities. For niche players it’s easier to partner with other small players, but you still need strong resources.
Our strategy is to attract young Malaysian engineers to come and work for us, even people who do not have an oil and gas background but are willing to learn. As IFP, we have invested significantly in training programs for our employees.
Where would you like to take IFP in the next three years?
Our objective has not changed; we will continue providing timely, cost effective and innovative engineering and technology solutions to our clients.
We are a growing organization and aim to take on bigger jobs in the near future; we have the capacity to provide projects on a larger scale. Currently most of our services are tailored for Malaysian based operating companies and Malaysian EPC companies; when they go for an EPC job we support them for the “E” part, while they do the “P” and the “C” part. In order to move forward and grow the business we aim to start providing procurement and construction services as well.
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