Haris Abdul Azeez, Manager, Atosco Qatar
The manager of Atosco discusses his experience of establishing a business in Qatar, some of the challenges the company has faced in the market and how it has overcome them.
How did Atosco come to be established in Qatar? What opportunities did the owners of the company see here?
The business began in the UAE, and around 2000 the owners of the company decided that they wanted to establish a bigger business in Qatar, having worked on a few projects here before. For the first few years, this was accomplished with partnerships in the market, but in 2003 we decided to start here alone. We started small, but today are proud to serve Qatar Petroleum (QP), RasGas, Qatar Gas, and Qasco as some of our largest clients here, along with many of the smaller local service companies.
We wanted to be here before the start of the Asian Games in 2006, as the build-up to this event meant there would be a lot of work for us here – it was also around that time that Qatar’s gas industry was beginning to boom. Now, everyone is looking towards the World Cup in 2022 as the next biggest growth driver, and we also hope that it will help to grow our business as well.
The UAE we were there for a long time, we knew at that time that Qatar was developing, before the Asian Games in 2006. So they wanted us to start, but when we started gas was booming. So everything went very well, and our business developed. Now they are looking towards 2022, and everything is going very fast, so we hope we can cooperate with them – Qatar will be very big, and we can also grow with them.
Moving from partnering to establishing our own operation was a natural evolution – we had the right connections and I have over 25 years experience in the sector. We had to work hard in the early years to establish the right relationships with our customers, but this has meant that business has been solid for us in recent years.
What kind of products and services does Atosco offer here, and why?
Our best-selling items are hydraulic hoses and hydraulic seals. When we first arrived here, there were other suppliers of these products, but we focused on bringing to the market the best quality products we could – today, we source some of these items from the US, and some from Italy. The fact of the matter is that the major companies here prefer high quality over low price, which makes both of us happy.
Although we do stock and sell other products, it is this hydraulic product line that is really our main seller, and we like to keep ourselves focused here. However, if we can sell complementary or supplementary products to our customers alongside this, we will.
One of the aspects of our business that keeps the competition from the door is the fact that we are ISO certified – this allows us to make the case for selling better quality products and retaining our margins. Qataris do like to bargain, but this is to be expected everywhere, and in the end, they are willing to pay more for higher quality materials. When it comes to our smaller customers, we do offer lower quality products form Turkey, but the larger oil and gas companies are willing to pay for European products.
How does Qatar compare to the UAE in terms of doing business?
I have been here for 14 years now, and I have found doing business here to be a great pleasure, in part thanks to the team that we have built here at Atosco. Qatar is today the group’s largest market in the Middle East – one of our better strategies early on was to establish good relationships with similar suppliers in the market when we first arrived, and this has led to a very pleasant market situation. Things are very consistent here in Qatar – we know what our customers want, and despite the changes in policy, our business here has been very stable. The UAE market is not like this at all: things are very competitive over there, and it is harder to thrive as a business.
How has this good business environment affected the growth of your company?
The market has been very good to our company, and placed us in an excellent consolidated position with zero debt and good relationships with our suppliers. We have reinvested our profits for a number of years, which has allowed us to expand to meet demand comfortably.
We arrived in Qatar at a good moment, and were able to establish excellent working relationships with the major oil and gas companies here at a time when supply of hydraulic hoses and pipes was limited. Today, these companies are extremely unwilling to look for new suppliers when they are happy with their existing ones.
As part our growth strategy, we will soon be opening a new warehouse in Ras Laffan industrial city, in order to be closer to our customers there. We already have reps and salespeople working there, but this will allow us to base them there permanently, as well as keep our products even closer to our customers that are based at Ras Laffan. Based on how we perform at Ras Laffan in the coming months, and on the products that our customers there are requesting, we will decide on a growth strategy, which may include diversification into some new product areas, based on their feedback.
Being close to our customers is key, and has been ever since we established operations here in Qatar. We want to cooperate as fully as possible with our customers, and being close to them is the best way to achieve this.