Spotlight on technology

Welcome to the first of a series of supplements that will run alongside CEO Middle East.

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By  CEO Middle East Published  June 4, 2007

Herbert Radlinger
Schnabel

Logistics is a very important factor due to high demand; guarantee highly skilled consultants; follow international standards.

How does the region compare to the rest of the global market?
As we started our business in Dubai, we are strongly influenced by the dynamic of that emirate. This place is so challenging and you can see that other countries try to follow this development in their own specific way.

The whole region varies so much in its level of development. While some countries reached levels of international standards, others are still at the beginning and try to catch up.

The whole region is still driven from the high prices in oil and gas but this gives the opportunity to develop a more oil independent economy. And I believe that the leaders of the regional states, especially in the Gulf region recognised that chance. Look at the development programmes launched in Qatar, KSA etc. These are dimensions which cannot be found so easy somewhere else in the world.

In comparison to other markets there are almost unlimited resources in money here in the emirate. On the other hand we have a lack in goods and human resources. The local market is one of commodities and trade which also means very little manufacturing of goods. As a consequence almost all goods and resources have to be imported which could become a threat for the velocity of the economic development. The worldwide demand and the dollar peg accelerate the rapid price increase of these goods.

Is there room for growth? Is the necessary infrastructure in place?
There certainly is a lot of room for growth. The region is hungry to communicate and all countries in the region are starting to set up a similar plan of development. Dubai started such a plan years ago and can be seen as a trendsetter which all other countries around copy in their specific way.

The quality of infrastructure depends on the region. More advanced countries offer a much more developed infrastructure than countries which are just starting to develop. Logistics and shipment of products are becoming more and more challenging and is a very important factor in competition due to the high demand especially in the construction market. This also means that countries which missed to develop their infrastructure on time will face delays due to the lack of goods and other resources.

They also have to compete with the other emerging regions in Asia and India, which try to get its hand on commodities of any kind.

Tell us the Background to the business and its history in the region.
SCHNABEL started 30 years ago as one of Germany's first data centre planners. Today SCHNABEL has expertise in the areas of project management, technical infrastructure, safety and security facilities. Because of the development of the European economy and the internationalisation of communication services, SCHNABEL AG expanded beyond the borders of Germany. Last summer we opened up our branch office in Dubai with our partner EHDF and have since then established SCHNABEL within the emirate.

What is your strategy to increase market share and spread brand awareness?
Our aim is to shape awareness of the benefits of effective data centre infrastructure and management. With all our knowledge and experience our customers should recognise SCHNABEL as the technical expert in the field of data centre consulting and engineering.

Who are your main competitors and how do you plan on staying ahead of them?
Our main competitors are system integrators, turnkey contractors and consultants of the construction industry. Our way of getting ahead is to offer specialised services of very high quality by following international standards and guarantee highly skilled consultants. We are aiming at broadening our portfolio, form alliances with system integrators and put stress on vendor independency.

With technology evolving so quickly how can you ensure that your data centres are going to keep up with developments?
Data centres have to be by nature flexible and scalable. We are following defined international standards and give clients the possibility to extent, expand and modernise their data centres without downtime. By following defined international standards we guarantee a reliable quality which meets the latest technical advances.

Are the individuals in the region highly trained enough to take on your projects? Where do you recruit from to guarantee quality?
Unfortunately, there is a lack of trained people as disciple of this kind are quite new in the market. The training of our staff will be essential as it will be one core criteria to stay ahead of our competitors. The core team of specialised engineers is coming from Europe and additional staff will be recruited either locally or from Asian countries.

Do you have any upcoming projects? At which stage do you become involved with a new project from the drawing board building planning stage, from when the company moves in?
By nature of our business we are getting involved from the drawing board; sometimes we will be engaged after clients facing issues regarding the design and are looking for a specialised consultant. We are moving in either through RFP's, contacts to the clients directly or through channel partner like system integrators.

How would you define your management strategy?
There are a few principles on which businesses work, such as without sales no revenue, without customer satisfaction no sustainable business relationship. In order to satisfy a customer and achieve a sustainable business relationship it needs quality, reliability and flexibility. Permanent development of resources to keep on the growing path is as essential as new product development.

What are the major differences when doing business here compared to other markets and how do you overcome them?
Patronage is still very common in some industries which means that many decisions consider political decisions more than economic or other aspects, thus it takes quite some time until a decision is reached.

As a consequence there are delays in each project of at least six months. Another difference is that payments are irregular and delayed.

To overcome these issues we are trying to dampen the volatility of project duration by developing backlogs. The payment issues can only be overcome by focused claim management.

Where do you see yourself and/or the business in 5 to 10 years?
Within five years I would like to see SCHNABEL as an established player in the market and moreover as a trendsetter and the expert in the region.

In ten years time SCHNABEL should be an international acknowledged consultant whose expertise is highly sought after.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
Yes. I would really like to learn Arabic in order to get a better feeling for the people, their thinking and their heritage.

What is the most challenging part of the role?
Who has the possibility to establish a company from the scratch once in his life? This is challenging by its own. To integrate all bits and pieces to create a whole.

To concentrate its energy on different aspects without losing focus. To show endurance and patience and accepting that things take a while to mature.

Is there anything that you would do differently with hindsight?
The success and the feed back regarding our services prove that it was the right decision to start the business in the region. We are still at the beginning of our development and we will definitely have to learn a lot.

Generally speaking it's much too early to say anything about what to do different in hindsight.

The more experience you get the more you can reflect the past and then you can assess things much better.

Maybe we should talk about this in five years again.

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