FM Magazine (GCC Edition) was a media partner for the inaugural edition of the FM Expo in 2005. A decade later we ask Jaafar Shubber, senior project manager with dmg events, about its impact on the development of facilities management in the Gulf.
The regional facilities management industry has grown considerably since the launch of the FM Expo in 2005. What do you attribute this to?
Yes, the GCC facilities management sector is witnessing a boom driven by an upswing in construction activities related to real estate, hospitality, and infrastructure. In 2014, the region’s total construction projects reached nearly USD 195.67 billion, fuelling the demand for specialised FM Services. It is important to mention here that with the rise of multi-storey and high-rise buildings, complex design features, and demand for a wide range of support services, FM services have become more challenging and thus can be undertaken efficiently only by professional service providers.
Moreover, real estate developers and owners in the region have become more aware about the concept of sustainable environments, green buildings, and smart cities. They have realised that FM, through its products and services, can significantly reduce cost and time and ensure the longevity of buildings and properties. It is this drive towards sustainability that has given a boost to the FM industry as a specialised job that can be done only by experts.
How successful has the event been in raising the profile of facilities management?
FM EXPO has increased in size since its first edition in 2005. Aside from the companies that have been exhibiting with us since the beginning, we welcome new exhibitors every year along with a constantly increasing footfall of visitors. Yes, the event has been highly successful in raising the profile of facilities management as exhibiting companies are able to conduct business and reach out to their target audience.
There was a time not so long ago when even the largest regional service providers referred to themselves according to their key functions (an obvious example is Al-Shirawi FM which previously provided facilities management services under the Al-Shirawi Electromechanical Engineering banner). Does becoming a facilities management provider require anything other than rebranding?
Yes, absolutely. For a company to transition into an authentic FM company, they will have to undergo an internal shift that will accommodate the new services that will be demanded of them. This goes beyond rebranding and taking on a new name. They have to master every single service that they will be offering, and educate themselves on the latest market trends. They would need to have a new and more integrated system, as well as hire a skilled labour force that carries the necessary knowledge, experience and expertise in whatever they are providing.
It is generally accepted that the UAE leads the Gulf region in FM services provision. Do you see other GCC countries catching up?
Definitely - the UAE has been a regional leader in the FM industry, however, other countries are gradually catching up.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – First in the list is the KSA which is the oldest and largest participant in the GCC’s construction boom. The government has played a larger role in the development of the Kingdom, which has now begun to reap the benefits of its massive sustained diversification and expansion program and expansionary budgets. The KSA is further developing its infrastructure, including airports; seaports, economic cities, and state housing – all of which will require technologically advanced FM services.
Qatar – Driven by Qatar National Vision 2020 and its upcoming hosting of FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar has progressed ahead with several key projects, including world-class stadiums, hotels and resorts, mixed-use developments, and infrastructure projects such as rail and road network, airports and seaports. Projects of such massive scale will need the support and assistance of FM companies for maintenance, management, and functioning.
Kuwait – As part of its USD 130 billion National Development Plan 2010-2014, Kuwait continues to successfully carry out its economic diversification. A number of projects vital for the country’s economic growth are already underway or set for completion, including a USD 6 billion airport expansion to be finished by 2016 and a USD 7 billion metropolitan transportation network to be operational by 2020. There is a growing demand for local FM companies to look after the state-of-the-art development that will transform Kuwait into a modern, urban city.
Integrated (or "Total") FM services provision has always been popular with clients in the region. Is there a future for single-service providers?
Yes, absolutely. There will always be a future for single-service providers as long as they maintain consistency and provide superior quality service. They can always be subcontracted by the big facilities management companies.
As the FM sector continues to expand because of the booming construction developments underway, there will be more opportunities for single-service providers to reach a wider audience with specialized demands. Furthermore, more FM companies entering the market are in need of single-service providers who can help them execute work because though many have integrated services provisions, some large FM companies are still not able to do total FM.
Cleaning and waste management are both facilities management functions but the FM Expo is co-located with separate cleaning and waste management events. Why?
Actually, they are not co-located events. We clustered them all together as the FM Expo covers facilities management, waste and recycling and commercial cleaning which are all closely interlinked, share the same customers, and even carry transactions with each other. We have introduced measures to ensure each sector retains its distinctive identity through clear branding.
Last year, 50 per cent of companies presented themselves as an integrated company that provides all three services. On top of that, the exhibitors at the event also cross-sell to each other. This is why we have also targeted each sector individually, providing workshops, seminars, and a comprehensive knowledge programme. Doing so allows us to provide a more comprehensive platform, which will be more beneficial for all parties involved.
It can be tempting to view trade fairs as social occasions or even opportunities for establishing what competitors are up to. How much business do they actually generate for participants?
Trade shows and other similar occasions that gather key influencers and industry leaders are invaluable to businesses. Although we live in a technologically advanced society where connectivitiy is easier than ever before and we are constantly being bombarded by an overwhelming flood of marketing and advertising campaigns, nothing can substitute face-to-face interaction. FM Expo brings together top experts from the Middle East region into one comprehensive event that provides a venue for lively discussion on current trends and a stimulating exchange of ideas. As all major players in the industry are gathered together for several days, the networking advantages save the company money, time and energy that they would have invested to individually seek out a similar audience.
FM Expo provides a fantastic opportunity to set up meetings with other businesses and connect with visitors. As countless people visit the event in search of products and services, FM Expo provides a good platform for both parties to properly interact through discussions and forums. At the end of the day, It’s not only branding or an introduction for businesses, but also an opportunity to showcase their full services.
How successful was the 2015 event?
We were looking forward to a better turnout and our initial estimate is the event attracted 25 per cent more visitors than last year’s edition.
We also implemented additional components to encourage more dialogue, and not least more seminars and conferences.
The FM Expo is organised by dmg events which is one of the world's largest exhibition and conferencing groups. What advantages does this provide?
dmg events is a trusted name, having organized several successful large-scale events such as the Big 5, ADIPEC, and Hotel Show amongst other internationally renowned and regionally acclaimed exhibitions and conferences. Their expertise provides us with the wonderful opportunity to connect with different segments and verticals in the market. This is particularly useful as the FM Expo also maintains a global presence, since we nurture contacts from different parts of the world. Last year alone, we welcomed visitors from 44 different countries. This gives us a very wide audience from different segments.
Working with a reputable organizer such as dmg events is crucial as organizing an event of such calibre and helps enhance the brand’s image and strengthen its name.
Working with the right kinds of people is also instrumental in building your reputation in the industry.
Is the FM expo only for showcasing products and services or does it also aim to be an educational platform?
Yes, absolutely. We also aim to educate. We are providing the best education in the industry completely free of charge. We are doing it through the conference which features over 30 seminars that we have put together with the assistance of our partners. They are all free and are developed for FM companies, for their clients and also for their targets and prospects. All of them can come, learn how to do their jobs a lot better and improve their technical knowledge, without having to pay anything.
Apart from gathering people from the industry and being able to network, our understanding and appreciation of the importance of knowledge has always driven the FM Expo.
Knowledge is power and we aim to provide as much knowledge as possible.