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Qatar’s ‘infrastructure rush’ to continue apace in years ahead

Interview - July 13, 2016

Astad Project Management has been involved in the development of the most iconic projects in Qatar, such as Education City, Qatar National Convention Center, Sidra Medical and Research Center, Museum of Islamic Art, and the National Museum of Qatar (still in progress). These projects have established a benchmark in terms of design, with a unique mix of tradition, identity and the latest trends, as well as new technologies (such as the implementation of building information modeling) and strict sustainability standards (with projects such as the Lusail Sports Arena). CEO Ali Al-Khalifa explains the huge impact Astad Project Management is having on Qatar’s construction sector and its great potential for development beyond preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, particularly with the new law on public-private partnerships (PPPs) to be enacted by the end of 2016.



How is Astad contributing to achieving Qatar’s economic, human, social and environmental development goals, being the developer of key projects and responsible for doing it in a socially and environmentally viable way?

Our company emerged out of Qatar’s need to build the large-scale infrastructure and development projects to fulfill the Qatar National Vision 2030 and beyond.

We continually strive towards delivering infrastructure that will reflect the development and diversification of our nation, ensuring we meet the objectives outlined in the Qatar National Vision 2030.

We manage some of the country’s most complex, large-scale national projects, working alongside local customs and traditions in order to instill a sense of national pride into all of the projects we deliver.

We strategically pin our business operations around the four main pillars outlined in the nation’s vision, managing a number of projects in a variety of sectors including education, healthcare, transportation and sports. Each of the projects we deliver brings the country closer to achieving the objectives outlined in the Qatar National Vision 2030 by serving as platforms for community development for generations to come.

It is our responsibility to develop hospitals, universities, stadiums and museums to the highest quality, ensuring this nation’s infrastructure leads the way in innovation, design and practicality.


How is the 2022 FIFA World Cup accelerating positive changes for the country and what role is Astad playing in this regard?

The event is more than a worldwide competition; it represents a chance to establish a long-term legacy within the built environment, the sporting community and the general population of Qatar. Spectacular world-class stadiums are springing up across the nation at an inconceivable pace, but it is important to make sure they are more than just monuments of an unforgettable period in the life of this country. It is also crucial that the stadiums and growth associated with the FIFA World Cup provide a true legacy that all Qatari’s will be proud to be a part of.

It is accelerating positive change through various infrastructure developments that surround and accommodate such an event that surpasses the stadiums themselves and includes roadworks, bridges, trams, and railways. We are currently working on the Hamad Bin Khalifa Sports Complex – a proposed venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – as well as providing our services to the Doha Metro. As project managers we must ensure this momentous event is a success and in doing so all projects we are managing related to the FIFA World Cup are being developed sustainably and to the highest international standards.

The World Cup is an inspiring event to be involved in, and we will be working to ensure the highest quality of delivery, as we do with every project in our portfolio. As the first Arab country to host this globally resonant event, the world’s eyes will be upon us, and we are determined to surpass all expectations.


What are the future prospects for the construction and real estate sector in Qatar? How is its growth fostering development in other areas such as tourism and retail?

The future is positive for the construction industry. Demand is increasing as deadlines for major international events are approaching in different countries around the world. The commitments and set budgets for major construction projects, specifically in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the UAE for EXPO 2020 Dubai, will guarantee a healthy and strong year for the construction industry in this region.

The Qatar government has initiatives to improve tourism, aiming to gain interest in new investments in Qatar under the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030. This expansion of tourism, as well as retail, is driving the growth of the construction industry and will maintain demand for the construction industry for many years to come.


What new opportunities are being opened up by the new law on PPPs to be enacted by the end of this year?

This is one of Qatar’s efforts to boost the growing private sector and ease the strain on government finances caused by low oil prices.

The new law will make PPPs easier to operate and expand their use into other sectors. In Qatar, we are spending billions of dollars on infrastructure and construction projects in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, as well as the Qatar National Vision 2030. The new law on PPPs will present opportunities for the private sector in sports, healthcare and education.


How are you working with SMEs to foster their participation?

We have a commitment towards the Qatar National Vision 2030 to support the development of a growing private sector, steadily transforming and diversifying Qatar’s economy. We currently support over 200 existing local SMEs and we take part in local initiatives to regularly showcase our procurement procedures to local SMEs, welcoming them into our local supply chain.

We aim to continue expanding our use of local SMEs and introduce the opportunities we have available in the areas of architecture, civil/structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and drainage, and interior design.


Having been involved in the development of the most iconic projects for the country, how is Astad fostering innovation within the construction sector?

We combine world-class services with an intricate knowledge of the local market, adopting the latest and most innovative international trends in Qatar and abroad. We offer a full range of services across the project management spectrum to deliver challenging, ambitious, complex and iconic projects, while being determined to develop and redefine the construction sector across the region.

Innovation and technology lie at the center of our operations, and we strive to leverage the latest trends and tools to streamline our processes, increase our efficiency, reduce project costs, better serve our clients, and successfully deliver projects and programs to the highest international standards.

We have heavily invested in implementing our flagship technology platform “SINAN”, which includes a complete and integrated set of solutions to automate the entire construction project lifecycle from initiation through delivery and closeout. SINAN connects our clients, project teams, contractors, suppliers, architects, consultants and all other relevant stakeholders for an optimized collaborative experience throughout the project lifecycle.

At the core of our project-centric business, effective and efficient project management remains a top priority. Handling complex multibillion-riyal mega-projects across several clients with hundreds of involved stakeholders requires the right set of technological solutions to automate project processes and support the management of risks, schedules, resources and costs. SINAN’s Construction Management Solution is built on top of an industry-leading comprehensive construction project lifecycle management solution.

The complex, cutting-edge nature of many of our projects has led us to welcome and eagerly promote the implementation of BIM (building information modeling) in Qatar. We utilize BIM to enhance the project delivery process, and combine this innovative technology with our seasoned experience to provide state-of-the-art solutions to ensure the smooth transition of a project throughout its entire life cycle.

Our ability to work in harmony with the local business environment, combined with our expertise in engineering and construction, provides a vivid illustration of our commitment to international standards of excellence and innovation and has cemented our position as a leading project management company in Qatar.


You recently mentioned Astad would be moving into the international markets in the upcoming years. What markets are you targeting and what are the main comparative advantages this company holds to compete on the international scene?

Our operations internationally have already launched. The motivation behind this expansion comes from the accumulated experience we have in Qatar. We are a major project management company with a portfolio of projects that reflect our teams’ innovation, such as Education City, the National Museum of Qatar, Lusail Sports Arena, and many other prestigious projects in Qatar. We believe the experience, knowledge, and excellence that we have built in Qatar over the years will prove to be beneficial to clients around the world.

We are targeting Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, the UAE and the United Kingdom, with current prospective work coming from a number of different countries. Our first international operation is located in Egypt as we are currently mobilizing a project based in Sharm El Sheikh. I am confident that Astad International will thrive across and outside of the region, much like Astad has demonstrated in Qatar.


It is an exciting time for Astad, new projects, new countries and new services are all in the pipeline. What role is Astad International to play in the company’s expansion?

Astad International will accommodate our growth and play a vital role in our progression throughout the next year, furthering our vision to provide superior services across the globe. It will act as our strategic global arm, and will be the parent entity for all of our international operations, providing our world-class project management services beyond Qatar.

We will work together with our clients locally and across borders, continuing to work on major projects, remaining committed to the delivery of projects in line with international best practices as we move forward, while sharing knowledge in an effort to develop solutions that strengthen the region’s construction industry.

I look forward to working with our teams, clients and contractors, building upon our expansion in the months and years ahead, cementing our position at the forefront of the construction industry.


How is Astad Consult reinforcing the company’s position as a key local player and how is it adding value by offering new services?

Astad Consult was strategically developed to allow us to provide fully fledged services in all aspects of project development and on-going maintenance. Astad Consult will be home to entirely new services covering the fields of construction management and supervision, design consultancy, facility management, asset management and staff augmentation.


How can foreign investors benefit from the construction boom in Qatar?

Qatar is considered to be the Middle East’s most reliable economy for foreign investments and businesses due to the construction works that are necessary for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the Qatar National Vision 2030.

Qatar is undergoing a boom within the construction sector with many mega building and infrastructure projects under way, and this will see Qatar grow at a fast pace for the next five to seven years.


How did your previous experience in other markets around the globe help you to define Astad strategy in a very particular market such as Qatar’s?

I worked in Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and China before joining Astad as CEO in 2010. At Astad, we are fortunate to have a diverse pool of professionals comprising over 50 different nationalities, providing a broad knowledge base and versatility that allows us to successfully move forward with a multitude of projects. It all comes down to efficient planning, fluid communication systems and a productive work environment. These are the key aspects that have seen us flourish as a company.

Both the number and value of projects we have in our portfolio, as well as their complexity, have increased exponentially in just a few years. This has greatly widened the breadth of our abilities as a company and we are deeply proud of the growth that we have realized.