INTERVIEW: Ranjeev Menon, group CEO, GWC
“I think our ascent up the ladder of industry leadership within the past ten years has been nothing short of exceptional,” Ranjeev Menon, group CEO of Qatar’s Gulf Warehousing Company (GWC) says, discussing the factors behind the company’s successful bid to develop the Bu Sulba hub in South Central Doha.
“This definitely contributed to the confidence that Manateq and the National Logistics Task Force (NLTF) has placed in us when awarding the contract,” he adds.
The Bu Sulba project aims to serve the logistics requirements of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the south to central part of Doha up to Al Gharrafa and Al Wakra city.
The hub has been proposed to be developed as a self-contained centre to cover an area of 517,376 square metres and the built-up area for the hub, primarily aimed at the food and FMCG general goods sector, will be more than 40% of the total area.
Besides 194 optimised warehousing units for SMEs, the development will also house a container yard, labour accommodation, shopping and dining facilities, a first aid centre and a mosque.
“The hub will feature a variety of different operational and recreational facilities in its aim to create a fully self-contained community,” Menon shares.
“For our clients’ warehousing needs, we will offer them a choice of distribution centers and multi-purpose warehouses, which will provide dry, chilled, frozen, temperature controlled, and bulk warehousing.
“All our warehouses will also be powered by our state-of-the-art IT infrastructure, which will offer on-demand services the moment the client occupies a warehouse. Such as a fibre optic network, IP telephone lines, internet access and all other data services.
“We will also make available to our clients the latest warehouse management system (WMS) in order have the optimum monitoring and tracking of their storage operations.”
Menon remarks that he feels “very proud” of GWC’s achievements since its launch in 2004 with its first flagship facility and believes these have been propelled by the company’s spirit and attitude.
The company established its first flagship facility in ST15 Industrial Estate. This then expanded into its ST41 facility, followed by industry-specific facilities in Messaieed and Ras Laffan, offering Hazmat and chemical storage.
Thinking back, Menon reveals: “We reflected on what we had learned as a logistics provider vis-a-vis the level of demand, the types and specifications of the warehousing needed, and the multi-faceted nature of services that our clients needed, and put it to use in our designs for the Logistics Village Qatar (LVQ).
“The LVQ is far more than a real-estate project; it is a targeted logistics infrastructure project, devising solutions based on our understanding of our clients’ needs – an understanding that will further inform how we are developing the Bu Sulba Logistics Hub.”
The Bu Sulba project is described by Menon as a crucial part of GWC’s long-term strategy to satisfy a gap in the logistics infrastructure in Qatar.
“By our own estimates, the country will require between 5.5 to 8 million square metres of additional logistics infrastructure if it aims to meet the deadlines it has set for itself for both the World Cup 2022 and the Qatar National Vision 2030,” he states.
“We also strongly agree with the government position on the role that SMEs will play in diversifying industrial sectors and supporting a non-hydrocarbon dependent economy. To help these SMEs flourish, we must provide them with access to robust logistics infrastructure solutions at a reasonable cost.
“The Bu Sulba Logistics Hub will provide these enterprises with all the facilities in place at the LVQ at competitive prices that will allow them to begin operations immediately, focusing on their core business while leaving the logistics aspects to us.”
Indeed, SMES have become a crucial component in Qatar’s larger plan to diversify its economy beyond hydrocarbons. Addressing the role SMEs plan in the nation’s logistics and supply chain landscape, Menon comments: “With World Bank statistics showing that SMEs represent around 60% of MENA GDP, and as recent numbers showing non-hydrocarbon growth head-to-head with the hydrocarbon sector, it has never been more important to ensure that the nation’s infrastructure caters to the SMEs as well as it caters to the larger corporations.”
Continuing, he adds: “Price is definitely a concern for companies starting up but other factors also play equally important roles in ensuring the success of an SME. Access to immediately available assets that are scalable enough to grow as the operation grows is one such factor, as is instant control and transparency in regards to such infrastructure.
He tells Logistics Middle East that SME logistics needs extend beyond storage and distribution, extending to requiring assistance in managing international freight requirements, customs clearances, acquiring insurance, managing local and international bureaucracies, and even packing and receiving shipments.
“All these choices and concerns can have a direct impact on their business continuity, and SMEs can benefit greatly for strong guidance on these issues,” Menon asserts.
“The Bu Sulba Logistics Hub will handle these concerns, providing clients with immediately operational, pre-designed and constructed infrastructure, with all licensing, certification, security, safety and customer service concerns already handled by our project team.”
With GWC continuing to manage the hub – due for completion in Q1 2017 – clients will have full access to the organisation’s services and networks as well as a professional consultancy service, provided by GWC, aimed at helping companies maximum their use of the space.
Nationwide, by the end of 2015, nearly 80 projects will be complete, representing an investment by the government of $65 million. Menon sees the Manateq project itself is a sign of the government’s trust in the sector, with its aim to construct three fully-functioning economic zones.
“The nation is at a very exciting time in its history, as project after project is completed, and a vision that could only be glimpsed previously is now coming into view,” he comments.
GWC is also at an exciting time with revenues peaking last year at $185 million and profits surging 38% year-on-year. Menon attributes this to the company’s “sheer passion and desire to be the best”.
He notes that substantial investments and efforts have been made to reach this level, not least its expansion of its facilities in Logistics Village Qatar (LVQ) and Ras Laffan Industrial City last year.
“We developed a further 81,000 square metres at LVQ in 2014, adding to our warehousing and distribution infrastructure during the fourth phase expansion in last year’s third quarter,” he says.
Outlining impending work, he adds: “We are further supplementing LVQ through a fifth expansion phase, which will add around 54,000 square meters to our current storage capabilities.
"We are also continuing to work on our Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLIC) logistics hub, adding nearly 65,000 square metres of warehousing facilities, which will provide a new temperature controlled warehouse, open yard, and the first ISO tanks storage unit in the nation.”