Middle East developers urged to focus on quality

Gulf developers are being urged to focus on quality and lose their price sensitive nature. Entrants to the Gulf construction market are finding that a price sensitivity that is sometimes overriding quality control concerns.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  December 13, 2003

Gulf developers are being urged to focus on quality and lose their price sensitive nature. Entrants to the Gulf construction market are finding that a price sensitivity that is sometimes overriding quality control concerns. “The Gulf could be a good market,” says Ashraf Ali Khan, senior executive vice-president of Habibullah Sons of Pakistan, a recent entrant to the regional market. “However, people should pay more attention to quality rather than to price. If you look at all the various projects, they look good and beautiful. But if you look at them in detail, you can find flaws,” Khan points out. His company began exports of various grades of marble to the Gulf just about a year ago. “Pricing here is a major problem. This is a very price sensitive market. People here are used to buying stock lots of commercial quality marble from Greece, Italy and Spain. It is rarely first choice material. “And, even if a product from India, Pakistan or China is better in quality, the general impression is that it should be cheap,” Khan points out. He says the Italians mostly sell first choice material elsewhere. “But they cannot stock second range material. They have to market it. Though they are selling low, they still make a profit.” Habibullah Sons has been exporting, on average, a minimum of 10-12 containers a month to the USA for the last ten years. It has exported about 10-15 containers to the Gulf since it made a beginning about a year ago. Here, importers buy materials in slabs preferring to cut their own sizes according to the needs of the project. In the USA or Europe, people buy cut-to-size slabs. Secondly, Gulf importers prefer to keep smaller stocks because the sizes of individual projects have been comparatively smaller. Thirdly, a number of varieties are used in a single project, whereas in the US or Europe, only one or two varieties are used, Khan pointed out. He says the company aims to raise its exports to the Gulf substantially over the coming years. “Our products are well known in the US and Europe where architects specify them. Owning our own quarries, we are probably the only company in the world that offers so many different materials (about 300 as a direct source. There are others who offer 50 or 60 items, but they are traders,” Khan says.

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