Saudi Arabia's infrastructure and construction sector has always had huge potential with the infrastructure and construction market being the world's most attractive, according to Rizwan Sajan, founder and chairman of Danube Group.
"When we started our operations in Saudi Arabia, the construction industry was witnessing a rapid growth. Our new showroom was therefore strategically timed complementing the ongoing projects in the country allowing developers easier and quicker access to world-class building materials," Sajan told Khalil Hanware of Arab News in an exclusive interview.
"With numerous new projects announced by the government and the implementation of structural reforms aimed at raising productivity of the nonoil sector, we expect the industry to grow continuously, responding positively to our growth." he added.
To continue the momentum in 2013, we aim to establish 4-6 new showrooms thereby spanning our network and expanding our operations in the Kingdom," Sajan said.
Being providers of the best-in-class products under one roof, Dubai-based Danube has been one of the major suppliers for projects, including expansion in Makkah of the Holy Haram and Jamarat, and Jeddah and Jazan airports.
Following is the text of the interview:
Please tell us something about the Danube Group.
Over the last 19 years, the Danube Group has surely gone a long way since its humble beginning with a small trading shop in Deira. Today, we are the region's leader in construction, building materials, home interiors and shop fitting industries. Danube has coursed a path that has transformed one shop with only three employees to over 40 locations in 9 countries with employee strength of over 2,000 people. Recently, Danube Group, the first expatriate entity joined hands with Dubai Metro's Naming Rights Project launched by the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA), securing naming rights for the Jebel Ali Industrial Station, which is now renamed as Danube.
What are Danube's achievements?
Danube has earned key accolades and distinctions from various international award giving bodies. The company has been lauded for the significant contributions made toward the development of the UAE. The group also has received prestigious awards for its excellent leadership, strategic concepts and initiatives. These awards include the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Excellence Award, Dubai Quality Award, Dubai Customs Award - the Dubai Logistics and Supply Chain Award, and the UAE's Top 20 Performers. Danube is the first building material company in the UAE to be awarded the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MRM) Business Awards held with the support of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for consecutive two years.
The company operates from its head office in JAFZA, the UAE. What are the activities of the company?
Danube Group functions from its head office in JAFZA operating into three segments namely, Building Materials, Buildmart (Interior Solutions), and Online Services called Danube Direct. The company provides more than 25,000 products in stock and in-house value-added services in all of its multiple set of showrooms across the MENA region and India. Offering a wide portfolio of products into building materials like MDF, plywood, boards, exotic timber, veneer, laminates, aluminum cladding, steel, hardware, ceramic tiles, wall panel, chandeliers, sanitary ware, kitchen, glass, acrylic, electrical, doors, flooring, ceiling, paints, edge banding, fire solutions and much more. We have been significantly involved in high profile projects in the UAE, such as the Burj Khalifa, Yas Island Development, Meydan Race Course, Emmar Projects, Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 and 4, Palm Jumeirah and many more landmarks in the UAE. Our Buildmart range caters to every requirement of its customer providing complete solutions for home making. These products include chandeliers, luxury sanitary ware, wallpapers, curtains, Venetian blinds, carpets, parquet flooring, decorative paints, ceramic tiles, doors, kid's play, garden and outdoor furniture, gazebos, electrical, kitchens and kitchen appliances. Additionally, the online store, Danube Direct, has been created to offer customers the convenience to shop online for household, fashion and electronic products.
Danube started its Saudi operations in 2009. Please share with us your experience in the Kingdom.
When we started our operations in Saudi Arabia, the construction industry was witnessing a rapid growth. The new showroom was therefore strategically timed complementing the ongoing projects in the country allowing developers easier and quicker access to world-class building materials. Moreover, the market in Saudi Arabia has always had a huge potential with the infrastructure and construction market being the world's most attractive. With numerous new projects announced in the Kingdom by the government and the implementation of structural reforms aimed at raising productivity of the nonoil sector, we expect the industry to grow continuously, responding positively to our growth. On the whole, I would say as a company we have a long way to go and while going forward in the future we will explore the untapped areas and extend our presence countrywide.
Danube has already four warehousing facilities and 2 showrooms in Saudi Arabia. Are you planning further expansion in the Kingdom?
That's right. We have four warehouses in Saudi Arabia, including two in Jeddah and one each in Riyadh and Dammam. The two showrooms are located at Bawadi in Jeddah and Prince Sultan Street in Riyadh. Since our establishment, Danube has remained steadfast in expanding its presence across various geographies living up to its reputation of being providers of world-class materials. To continue the momentum in 2013, we aim to establish 4-6 new showrooms thereby spanning our network and expanding our operations in the Kingdom.
You claim Danube's showrooms are an easy access for contractors, architects, builders and homemakers. How does the system work?
When we established Danube in 1993, we envisioned a concept that could serve all the wants and needs of our customers - a total one-stop-shop that offers everything you need to build your home. In light of this concept, Danube Group stocks all the products that one would need to build a home thereby serving developers, architects, interior designers and home owners all under one roof. It is a unique format and offers homemakers a variety of products to choose from.
Danube has supplied building materials to major projects in Saudi Arabia, including Jeddah Airport, Jazan Airport, Makkah expansion of the Holy Haram, Jabal Al-Omar and expansion of Jamarat. What is the extent of your involvement in these projects?
The rapid expansion has fueled great interest in the Saudi market from various manufacturers and suppliers of construction material and machinery from across the world. However, being providers of the best-in-class products under one roof, Danube was one of the major suppliers for all these projects.
The company operates from its head office in JAFZA, the UAE. Is it easy to operate from there across other countries?
With its strategic location in the trade network connecting Asia with the Mediterranean and North Africa, the UAE has thrived in its role as a regional hub. Moreover, the UAE offers a stable political landscape, an open economy, a modern banking and financial system, tax-free environments, structured transportation and logistics infrastructure and world-class free zones, which facilitate efficient trade and ease the flow of operations.
How many branches Danube has and in which countries?
From a small trading firm, Danube has grown into one of the largest building materials company in the region. We have 40 branches in 9 countries worldwide including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and India, in addition to procurement offices in China and Canada. Keeping pace with our Dubai based business house, we have recently extended our presence in the African region with the opening of our new showrooms in Kenya and Libya. We also have expansion plans in other areas of Africa, such as Ethiopia and Tunisia soon.
Recently the company introduced an Industrial Complex, which will help reduce UAE construction industry's dependence on imported finished products as these will be custom-manufactured in the complex. In what way it will help the builders?
Strategically located to cater to the GCC markets, our Industrial Complex enables to create many direct jobs and support hundreds of indirect employment. Spread across a total area of 450,000 square meters, the facility accommodates an increase in inventory and expanded shipping functions that help reduce the UAE construction industry's dependence on imported finished products as these will be custom-manufactured in the complex. Additionally, being a manufacturing unit for major construction and building materials, the new Industrial Complex serves as an advantage for local traders facilitating them to see the products and placing customized orders. It also saves them the time and cost in importing the same. Moreover, the Industrial Complex is integrated with Warehouse Management System (WMS) featuring four value addition units measuring 150,000 square meters. This comprises Melamine Pressing Unit, Steel Cut and Bend Unit, Decor Unit (Veneer Pressing Unit), Development Unit, Ceiling Tiles Manufacturing Unit, and Distribution Unit in addition to a Warehouse Unit measuring 300,000 square meters.
Is Danube involved in corporate social responsibility?
Since the time Danube was established, the company has been promoting several community initiatives supporting various organizations. Some of these organizations include Dubai Cares, a philanthropic organization that works to improve children's access to quality primary education in developing countries, Society for Advocacy & Awareness Toward Holistic Inclusion (SAATHI), which is established with the support of the Consulate General of India, Dubai, and works toward an inclusive society empowering the families and people with disabilities, Action Care, which supports diversity of educational development and various other projects both in the UAE and throughout the region, and Al Ahlia Charity School, which aids the education of underprivileged girls in the UAE. As a responsible organization supporting greener and cleaner community, Danube also participated in the Clean Up the World Campaign 2012 making a positive contribution to the global environmental concerns. Supporting the humanitarian mission and noble act, which contributes to saving the lives of many patients, Danube has also been an active participant in the UAE Blood Donation Camp.
What about green building products?
Danube embraces the responsibility for the company's actions and encourages a positive impact through the activities of the company on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere who may also be considered as stakeholders. In line with this and as part of our long-standing commitment to preserve biodiversity, Danube is the first building material company to be FSC certified in the GCC, which provides customers with greener products through responsible forest management. These certifications confirm that Danube's line of products, such as wood, MDF, plywood, boards, and door core, has been manufactured using raw materials harvested from certified sources, controlled wood sources or post-consumer reclaimed sources. Danube is the only company to have the highest range of products under the FSC certification in the GCC. Additionally, Danube also offers products like sanitary ware, gypsum products, cement fiber boards, etc., which can be used for LEED certified projects. The scale of Danube's commitment to green building standards demonstrates our commitment to a greener and cleaner society for now and generations to come.