Belhasa Projects continues to grow strongly and excel in outdoor works of all shapes and sizes, drawing on the latest innovations from around the world and delivering cutting edge designs and solutions to its expanding client base.
From residential and specialised equine pools to hotel landscaping and outdoor leisure facilities, the company handles up to 100 live sites at any given moment, the largest at present being the $25 million extension of Dubai’s DragonMart Mall.
Chief Executive Officer Suleyman Busby is also championing the adoption of hydrogen peroxide disinfectant solutions for swimming pools in a bid to flush out the decades of damaging effects chlorine has had on people and the environment.
And although technical innovation such as this keeps the business ahead of the technical curve, it remains equally a peoples’ business, demonstrated by the systems in place to gear up the 2,500-strong employee base.
Year of the DragonMart
Local developer Nakheel’s dragon-shaped emporium in Dubai is one of the emirate’s largest and is doubling in size, with Belhasa Projects given the significant task of managing the water and power infrastructure extension as well as the landscaping around the site.
Busby added: “It is a massive site, you’d get tired walking around it. We are up and running and should be finished this year as it is a fast-track six month job, typical of Dubai where in other places bureaucracy would get in the way.
“As a company we have grown back up to the $100 million a year revenue bracket after the 2008 financial crash, and this single project is worth $25 million.
“This is a particular cherry at the moment but we are doing many projects at any one time. We win a project almost every day – things like pool upgrades and maintenance come several times every week, too many to list.”
Through its four divisions (special projects, infrastructure, maintenance and trading), Belhasa Projects has become a regional go-to for exterior works, a culmination of more than 30 years of reputation-building since 1980, ancient for UAE standards given the country was born in 1971.
Flushing out chlorine
In the company’s single-biggest segment, pools, Busby is determined to revolutionise the dated and hazardous disinfectant methods and reduce the reliance on chlorine, a toxic substance which is harmful to the environment.
“The pool industry has been coming out with alternatives for a long time now but none of them have displaced chlorine due to its basic reliability and cost advantages,” he said.
“Automatic dosing systems are being used to keep amounts down to the minimum required, however these are all just running around the question. Chlorine will always be the bad guy.”
Busby works closely with sister company Belhasa Biotek Solutions, who run a processing factory in Dubai, importing raw hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) and turning it into a range of disinfectant products for many industries from pools to food processing.
“We are moving the game on a bit and pushing for the use of H₂O₂,” Busby said. “This is infinitely better than chlorine – it is only toxic in concentrations you would never need in a pool. It is stable and doesn’t smell, and it degrades into oxygen and hydrogen.
“That is the benefit of being part of a conglomerate. We can buy trucks from Belhasa Motors, rent vehicles from Belhasa Rent-a-Car and train our drivers at Emirates Driving Institute. We can even get pizza for lunch from another Belhasa company.”
Finding the best
Beyond the conglomerate network, Belhasa Projects looks worldwide to find the latest and most innovative solutions to offer its clients, wherever it may come from.
Busby explained that contractors can no longer offer the same end product as they did five years ago. “Now the world is so wired up you catch hold of the latest trends very quickly – someone in Dubai can look up the latest pool lighting in Europe and demand they have it here.”
“We have a large full time international procurement team who take the best they can find from wherever they can find them – we don’t have a particular country, we scour the globe.”
An example of this reach comes from Germany, where industry-renowned Polytan supplies Belhasa Projects with state-of-the-art sports surfaces including running tracks and artificial football pitches.
A peoples’ business
“There is no point buying high-tech products from overseas if you can’t install it or use it,” Busby said.
Ensuring that the 2,000 blue collar site workers and 500 other staff across the business are up to speed in the use of the latest machinery, quality and health and safety guidelines is a thorough in-house training system which has drawn on industry expertise gained from global supplier relationships.
“With so many sites ongoing it’s not just a question of having a few really good project managers who know how to be the sheriff of their town, I have to have standardised systems,” Busby added.
This knowledgeable body of personnel, developed over three decades, leaves Belhasa Projects well-placed to fulfil Busby’s immediate ambitions. “What I want is to have a net profit and collect it as cash, not having it sat in somebody else’s pocket waiting to be paid,” he said.
“That has been and still is the challenge; we are still waiting for the market to become cash liquid. Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity and cash flow is reality. I’m thinking of painting that on the wall with some acrylic paint.”
Longer term, the company is focused on developing a stronger presence across the region beyond its strongholds in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
“We will spot places where it’s still worth us going and outperforming the local competition, which we have done many times in the past 20 years,” Busby added. “Oman is one place we are looking at.”
“I want in 2020 to be surprised at what we are producing and think ‘how did we do that?’.”