Thebusinessyear : Not Overnight
THEBUSINESSYEAR: Not Overnight
TBY talks to Ullattil Achu, General Manager of Dyarco, on the evolution of the economy and the role of foreign companies.
TBY: How would you describe the evolution of the Qatari economy over recent decades?
ULLATIL ACHU: When I started a World Bank project in Santo Domingo, I had an indication from my partners at the time that they were considering the possibility of entering the shipping business in Doha. But when I came here, it was still an immature sector operating from a very small port. The country, however, clearly did have potential even though pronounced demand was being met by a poor supply of infrastructure and services, with a patent need for professionals. I led operations as General Manager and the company grew quite rapidly. Yet believing in the need to diversify, we divided it up by activity. Our focus was growth and there was no economic segment that we specifically wanted to enter or avoid. We did not enter high capital ventures because we were a small, new company- albeit with a large parent company- but focused instead on maximum diversification with numerous companies. There were certain industries that I was more capable of understanding than others. In such cases, we opted for joint venture projects to complement our skill sets.
TBY: How do you select your partners?
ULLATIL ACHU: Nothing happens overnight and much research is required before partnering with a company. Aside from our preference for diversification of activity, we are highly geared toward reputation. I don’t mind a new niche player without a long track record, as being a new entity is in the very fabric of niche businesses. We tolerate a degree of risk in certain ventures, provided it is not capital intensive. Therefore, first come reputation and track record, and secondly a niche offering. What role then, do we play? Fundamentally, we need to have the right chemistry for cooperation. I might add that all of the relationships we have developed to date have been very fruitful, wherein our contribution and perspective are valued. There are companies that are associated with big names in Qatar, but that approach us to for help with support services, for example. We are looking at such possibilities since these services are vital.
TBY: What is the role of foreign companies in developing the Qatari economy?
ULLATIL ACHU: This is a new country that still has much need of instrumental knowledge. The population of seasoned players is limited, which needs addressing. Foreign companies have the capacity to bring in the right technology, information, and experience. No country is isolated; it has to be integrated to maximize its potential in a practical manner that generates wealth.
TBY: How do you play a role in the diversification of Qatar?
ULLATIL ACHU: The key element that Qatar can bank on is gas and the value added related to it. Qataris working toward realizing its vision for 2030, and has the potential to become a developed country. In order to do so, fundamentals must become both strong and stable, which requires significant cash flow. Yet without a solid educational base this is impossible. Obsolete infrastructure is being replaced, and underpins the growth of any nation. Qatar needs migration of technology, knowledge, professionalism, and many other elements. And in terms of diversification, it could become a superb center for sports tourism, for example. In fact, we are currently pushing for the development of a sports academy to invest in related training. It’s not just about oil and gas.
BIOGRAPHY: Ullattil Achu has been the General Manager of Dyarco since 2000 and boasts over 22 years of experience working at prominent international banks. Including the management of a World Bank funded project.