‘We compete with ourselves to come out with the best’
Dated: 26-11-2013

Jamal Abdullah Lootah, CEO of Imdaad and President of the MEFMA, is busy with charting new business strategies that take the leading provider of integrated facilities management (FM) solutions in the UAE to the further level. Setting the tone for the next stage of performance catering to the ever-changing requirements of the economy, Lootah is steering the company on expansion drive. After foraying into Qatar, Imdaad will open its office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) this year, Lootah tells Clean Middle East.

After Imdaad Qatar in 2012, what’s the next on your expansion plan?

The region offers a lot of opportunities in waste recycling, cleaning, and facilities management sectors. The UAE and Dubai in particular offers a lot of opportunities. The rapid development in Dubai enabled us to provide high quality services on par with the global standards. We aim to reach entire the GCC and it’s our target. As part of our expansion and growth plan, we will tap the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia market. Hopefully, Imdaad will have its own office in Saudi this year. Our business expansion strategy too varies from country to country. It’s joint venture (JV) in Qatar and our own unit in Saudi. It depends upon the country. We have a specific plan for each sector. 

How do you see Expo-2020 from the cleaning, waste management and FM sectors’ point of view?

Expo-2020 is a big target and we’ll exceed the expectations. Dubai is the home to high rise towers in the world. So is the FM sector that emerged as the best in the global market. No other country can do what Dubai can do. Be it culture diversity, corporate services or business environment, whatever you take, Dubai stands high. There’s good synergy between the government and companies. The Dubai government and the private sector are working together to make it happen. Dubai is a dynamic city where every day is loaded with something new happening.

How is the journey so far in the UAE?

The awareness in the cleaning and FM sectors in Dubai is very high when compared with the other parts of the region. We’re the best in the world standards. We’re also working with RERA on regulations and setting other processes in the FM sector. The services we deliver are mostly associated with the environmental standards & stipulations. The FM sector has to gear up for the next stage as the future challenges we are bound to face will not be easy.

What are the challenges?

Awareness is a major challenge. For instance, Saudi market is the biggest in the region, but it’s different in culture and other market dynamics. The market size of cleaning, waste management and FM segments is huge, but at the same time, we have to address these segments in a different manner. We have a different plan for each segment. We standardise segment-specific action plans for cleaning and FM activity right from villa, residential apartment to high rise towers as each of these requires different type of treatment in providing services.

Another challenge is cost factor. The people who think of price will have to compromise on quality. We aim at striking a balance in cost without compromising on quality parameters. Towards this, we train our people and our customers also. To get the right people with right price on time is very important. This continues to be a core part of our daily task. The on-going training is key to establish and maintain excellence and this should be discussed with all FM players as a collective effort. We deploy latest equipment with technology applications to serve our customers in a better way.

How do you see current market dynamics?

The awareness about right cleaning practices is missing. Cleaning is not just mere cleaning, but it should be integrated services. We’re specialist in cleaning. It’s not the quantity, but quality that matters. We compete with ourselves to come out with the best. This shows how Imdaad is pioneering in providing quality services to our customers and also setting benchmarks for the rest of the players.

Customers want to reduce the cost, while companies vie for more business. Naturally, the government is more keen on regulations. So, we have to bridge the gap and bring the government, companies and industry closer. The market requirements vary from country to country. For instance, each country in Europe is different in requirements of services. One country prefers costs, one is keen services and one demands for high technology-enabled services. So every market is different and service providers have to strategise business plans accordingly.

What’s your take on the global economy?

It’s much better than 2009. Some countries are still suffering. However, we’re already progressing. We also extend our expertise to our neighbours to with us. We want win-win situation for everyone. The growth at Imdaad is better than what it used to be two years ago. Imdaad has gained a strong reputation in the region as an adopter and implementer of the latest FM technologies and practices.

What’s your take on Green practices?

Imdaad always tries to come out with the new thing in technology applications. We focus on eco-friendly equipment and prioritize sustainability across all its operations. We’re very young country. We started where other countries reached their peak in latest technology applications. We are very keen on conserving electricity by preferring wind power and solar power.

Emiratisation has been one of major priorities of Imdaad. Is there any specific target on this front?

It’s going on encouragingly, but retention is a big challenge for us. We need to build more awareness among Emarati students about opportunities in the FM and waste management segments. We’re working with colleges and universities to develop courses on FM and waste management subjects. So that, this measure will create trained and skilled manpower for future requirements.