clean middle east
 
 
Interview
Dated: 07-08-2018

 “The year 2018 has been defined by Al Fajer FM as a year of transformation and customer excellence.” Sangeetha B., Deputy CEO, Al Fajer FM

Al Fajer Facilities Management - an integrated facility management company based in Dubai recently went through a major rebranding, which led to changes in its business approach and more. Sangeetha B., Deputy CEO, Al Fajer FM talks to Rashmi Karanjekar about the company’s current image, its projects and its challenges

Tell us about Al Fajer’s presence in the Middle East.

Al Fajer Group has over 14 companies spanning across various industries, under the Chairmanship of His Highness Sheikh Hasher Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum. The group enjoys a standing in the market that speaks of reliability, sustainability and success. Al Fajer FM, while operating independently, does benefit from the reputation of being under the umbrella of the group. The test of any company lies in their sustainability during tough market conditions. Al Fajer FM has stood the test of time, and we are now geared to increase our reach in the market. At the moment, the focus is only in UAE, but there is a strategic plan over the next few years to foray into the Middle Eastern region.

Having started off as a cleaning services provider, what were the factors that made Al Fajer SMS add hard services to its portfolio and rebrand as Al Fajer FM?

The acronym SMS stood for Security and Maintenance Services. Unfortunately, over the years, hard services had taken a back seat with cleaning and security services dominating our portfolio. This was one of the factors behind the rebranding that happened over 2016/17, and furthermore to portray our capabilities as a Total Facilities Management Company. We are now in the TFM space and have largely connected directly with clients, while we do complement and work as partners with other service providers.

What kind of administrative and manpower changes did you have to undertake to rebrand as an FM company?

The biggest change was to align our people to the vision of the company. There have been a few tough decisions that had to be taken to bring about the change both with the manpower and administration. The rebranding fortunately helped in instilling a sense of pride amongst employees across all levels. The message that is constantly communicated is one of proactiveness, practicing defined values and teamwork. Considerable emphasis has been placed on training and we are aiming at an entire cleaning workforce with BICs certification.

There is an underlying message of zero tolerance, and I am happy to say that after the initial challenges, there has been a willing acceptance of the changed policies and processes. We are also engaging with suppliers in parallel to work with us in increasing the value we provide to the clients.

Earlier, Al Fajer worked with several FM companies to carry out their soft services – how did those relationships change once you became an FM company?

As mentioned earlier, we value our partners as much as we value our clients. There has been an increase in our portfolio of service offerings, but we are quick to acknowledge the expertise of other FM companies in their areas of excellence and happy to partner with them to create a great ‘go-to-market’ value for clients. We pride ourselves on a flexible approach to requirements that allows us to make changes to services quickly.

Give us an idea of the marketing activities involved in ensuring that clients hear about you as a company with years of expertise and a fresh portfolio?

The year 2018 has been defined by Al Fajer FM as a year of transformation and customer excellence. We are now talking about our achievements and as we speak, a marketing plan is being put in place to utilise the exposure provided by social media to reach out to clients. We will have monthly newsletters sent to clients and partners alike to talk about not just our achievements, new business and innovations but also our efforts at CSR and employee engagement programs.

What is your opinion of the current scenario of the FM and cleaning market?

Like every industry, there have been paradigm shifts in the way the market looks at FM and the move from traditional FM towards a strategic model. There have been innovations, disruptions and adoption of global best practices. All these changes have pushed FM companies to focus and include innovations to their services, such as green products and state-of-the-art technology to have an edge and create a niche in a highly competitive market.

How do you think the companies in this region view your presence? How are you staying ahead of your competition?

The increasing number of enquiries that we receive and the influx of new clients to our client base is an indication of our standing and reputation in the market. At the moment, our focus is on challenging ourselves to go beyond just cleaning or securities services and engage as partners with our clients. We are not yet focusing on the competition and believe that the rise above competition would be inevitable with quality service and a customer centric approach.

Can you list down the projects you are undertaking in the near future and the scope of work involved?

One of the biggest projects that Al Fajer FM has acquired is the security services for International City and Discovery Gardens and is slated for deployment in July 2018. Besides this, we have been awarded with several cleaning contracts in the Palm, major security contracts and many more key contracts are in the pipeline. We are also increasing our employee strength by over 1500. Our Specialist Paints division has been awarded more than a few contracts and we foresee a major revenue generation from that service.

We are aggressively strengthening our hard services and see a huge potential and market for such services. Our approach to clients is currently a TFM model as opposed to individual services and the response has been overwhelming.

Tell us about the latest technologies introduced by the company with regard to the cleaning and hygiene segment.

Cleaning is still perceived as a largely traditional people-focused industry where the personal touch is required and appreciated, but the speed with which this is changing cannot be ignored. We work with Avet, a Swiss company to use systems that significantly reduce water consumption and require minimal chemicals or pollutants while providing superior results. We are looking at robots for high-level external facade and interior cleaning, hard floor cleaning and asset management systems. For the hard services, we are identifying a grease extraction and duct cleaning system. We are also looking at covert security tracking device; floor cloths for removal of stubborn stains and puncture proof gloves apart from other innovative and eco-friendly cleaning solutions available in the ever-evolving market.

Any new software adapted after re-branding?

We have acquired an ERP system to include all modules and developed an app for monitoring sales and operations as well as biometric for attendance reporting. We are in the process of setting up a call centre with integrated software and are keen on going green by introducing digitisation. A fleet management system is in place and we are also working on a camp management solution. We are quick to adopt latest solutions, if found relevant and a value addition.

Is your company already in line with the ‘Internet of Things’? If not, are you planning to work towards it?

Internet of Things and Big Data are predicted enablers, and we are definitely working towards it. IoT is the answer to all the questions we may have on sustainability, analytics, predictive maintenance besides connecting better with clients, offering them better service. The basic part of this solution would be to identify and plan on what data is required for a qualitative analysis. We will start with the MEP Division where IoT could be used to automate daily tasks and analyse data into actionable tasks.

We will explore how IoT can help in transforming our business, manage our assets, become operationally efficient and reduce our costs. New technology would also provide opportunities in the procurement area, extending our supplier reach and improving the relationship with the suppliers. We do anticipate an increased investment in connected services such as asset management and remote analytics.

What lies ahead?

Exciting times! Use of technology as an enabler and catalyst for change, establish Al Fajer FM as the preferred single point for outsourced services and tie up with sustainability partners to provide innovative and green solutions. Explore and include clients from diverse industries. Enhance offerings within existing services and a lot more!

Internally, we are looking at establishing a strong financial model, outsource non-core activities and identify efficient methods for resource optimisation. We are leaning towards cost containment which is imperative in a challenging economic climate. We are well poised to grow our business with all the right ingredients and I firmly believe that for Al Fajer FM, the best is yet to come.

 

 
 
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