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Interview

Nabil Alalawi – CEO, AlMansoori, Abu Dhabi

Nabil Alalawi, CEO of AlMansoori, shares the inspiration behind the company’s founding, the business philosophy behind its success over the past four decades, the company’s 12 principles of service attitude governing exceptional customer service, and his optimism for AlMansoori’s future development.

Can you describe the inspiration behind the founding of AlMansoori?

My educational background is in petroleum engineering. After I graduated, I was hired by an American oilfield services company looking for Arabs to spearhead their business endeavors in the Middle East. After thirteen successful years in Abu Dhabi and around the world, it was only natural that I continue working in a field I was passionate about, which ultimately led to my desire to start AlMansoori.

I briefly considered working for other large service companies but I realized that I could have a far larger impact if I started my own company. I wanted to show that there is considerable talent and potential in this region, and that it is possible for a local company to develop and compete head to head with the largest international service companies. This was my vision and this was what drove me to keep going despite the tough times.

My cofounders and I started AlMansoori in Abu Dhabi in 1977 and today it is one of the largest and most well-known local service providers in the region. I am very gratified and pleased that I was able to start a company that provides world class services in modern, world-class facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technology and a team of highly skilled employees in order to service the international oil and gas industry.

How has the company evolved over the years?

The company has since grown to employ a successful and dynamic workforce of 2,484 employees across 18 countries. The good news is that we are continuing to grow in size; we are hiring new employees for our slate of upcoming projects, despite the low oil price. For instance, in the past few years, we have hired over 400 new employees.

In terms of operations, in 2008, AlMansoori made the strategic decision to create two holding companies: AlMansoori Petroleum Services (AMPS) and AlMansoori Petroleum Industries (AMPI). This segregated the company’s business units, and manufacturing and fabrication units respectively. AlMansoori has also created an integrated project services division to ensure that clients who may require services from more than one AlMansoori division benefit from seamless project management.

Overall, we are very pleased with our progress and we remain very optimistic about our future growth. This is justified by the fact that we have witnessed double-digit growth in the past few years and that remains our projection for 2016. In addition, this year, we will hire 400 more people. This is remarkable considering that this is a time when our competition is downsizing to survive. We are in a very optimistic business position precisely because we have managed to remain competitive by innovating and adapting our operations to control costs and lower prices for our clients.

How does being based in Abu Dhabi help in your internationalization process?

Being headquartered in Abu Dhabi allows us the opportunity to run our operation from arguably the most exciting and important oil and gas market in the world. In addition, the perks of the UAE as a business destination are well-known: a very structured and regulated financial system, positive oil and gas regulations and an open and transparent investment environment.

The MENA region is the most important petroleum market in the world because 60 percent of the world’s oil reserves are here. Regional governments are embarking on ambitious programs of economic diversification and this is a wise move for sustainable development, but the development of the renewables sector is not incompatible with the continued importance of the petroleum industry. Given the current global dependence on petroleum, oil will be here for the foreseeable future and will remain a much-needed commodity. This means we need to continue to invest in technology and seize the moment!

How are you keeping the company cost-competitive in the current low oil price environment?

Our biggest asset is our employees, our human capital. This is why we are actually hiring more people at the moment, despite the current slump in the industry. We are a people business and I irrevocably attribute the success of this company to our human talent.

Nevertheless, it is true that we are facing increased cost pressures from our clients. The industry’s old pricing structure is no longer economically viable, and we are not exempt from the need to increase our cost-efficiency. We are very responsive to such industry pressures; to remain cost-competitive, we are eliminating unnecessary expenditures. A good analogy is a tea set. You have the teacup and the saucer. It is a very nice object, but ultimately, you are drinking tea and you only need to have great tea and a lovely cup to sip from. The saucer is not necessary. This is the approach I am taking with the company: I am eliminating all unnecessary frills.

There is no way we will compromise quality but in order to support our clients through these difficult times, we need to be cognizant of our spending.

What makes AlMansoori successful in light of today’s competitive landscape?

AlMansoori provides superior service; we meet the needs of our customers above and beyond our contractual obligations, because we are committed to them. This principle of committed customer service is fundamental to our business strategy and it is imperative that our employees thoroughly understand and adhere to it.

We hire extremely qualified people and we provide extensive training. As a service provider, we follow what I call the 12 principles of service attitude. One of them is the concept of ‘lateral services’, which means all employees are responsible for providing various services and can never respond ‘it is not my job’ when tasked to do something. We also empower our employees to act as visible leaders and to take ownership of their work. In addition, we instill in all our employees a sense of urgency in their interactions with our clients in order to reflect the fact that our clients’ needs are our top priority.

This has contributed to the development of an unwavering commitment to service in our employees; their positive attitudes help convince our customers that we are the right company for the job.

We also encourage all our employees to actively participate in the company because it creates a sense of community at the workplace. We have communication at all levels between employees, supervisors and clients. This requires significant dedication and flexibility on the part of our employees and I remain grateful to them for their hard work.

Overall, I believe the company’s success lies in our employees’ ability to consistently provide exceptional service for our customers. When you combine this go-getter attitude with the great equipment and quality control we maintain, success is inevitable.

We have lasted four decades as a successful local company. In order to survive and excel for another four, I believe we need to constantly adapt. My motto is ‘change or be changed’. The risk of success is that it can bring complacency but I am very aware that we need to strategize and adapt to the current challenging times, and I have to say, these may be challenging times but it is also a very exciting environment navigate. Every challenge is just an opportunity waiting to be grasped.

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