Anil Gopinathan Pillai, CEO of Airolink Group, tells us about the company’s philosophy and future plans, as well as his own inspiration.
Can you tell us about the work you do at Airolink International Construction LLC and the types of clients you work with?
The Airolink group of companies was established in the Republic of Ireland and has offices in Dublin, the U.A.E. and India. We are one of the leading civil contractors in the U.A.E. We specialize in residential, commercial and educational institutions offering a complete package from land acquisition, design and construction through to completion (turnkey).
Our expert team offers every project the benefits of quality, cost competitiveness and the experience of a proven contractor. We make every effort to meet all the cost, schedule and performance requirements for every contract we have been awarded, and because of this we undertake a lot of projects with repeat clients.
What is your approach when undertaking a new client or project?
We follow a systematic approach for project management, and spend lot of time effectively planning from day one. Beginning at the conceptual stage, all possibilities are taken into consideration and the technological, financial and economic feasibility of each alternative is assessed and compared in order to select the best alternative that meets the needs of all stakeholders.
Once the project scope is clearly defined and understood, a detailed engineering design will serve as a blueprint for construction, and a definitive cost estimate will serve as the baseline for cost control.
Procurement activities are carried out in a very systematic manner, ensuring the smooth delivery of materials on site during execution. Post construction, there is a brief DLP period that takes care of any snags, after which we handover the completed project.
What are your thoughts on the state of your industry currently?
The engineering and construction industries are known for their slow adoption of new technologies compared to other global sectors, even though it accounts for more than 6% of global GDP. In developing countries such as India, this accounts for more than 8%. The sector consumes around 50% of steel produced globally and 3 billion tonnes of other raw materials, so any improvement in productivity through the adoption of modern engineering technologies will have a huge impact.
We are currently in a transformation stage of embracing world class and innovative technological opportunities, which we see as a path to a more productive and socially responsible future. This includes adopting advanced building and finishing materials, using modularized and prefabricated components, semi-automated equipment, the use of sustainable products with optimum life-cycle value and industry collaborations.
What attributes do you believe are essential to achieving success in your industry and what is one of the major challenges?
To succeed you need total dedication and focus in delivering quality and cost-effective services to clients while meeting deadlines consistently. But a lack of liquidity is a challenge faced by many. Although bank finances are available, success is only for those contractors that have a strong legacy with project deliveries. One of the major challenges faced by contractors is financial discipline, or the lack of it.
What challenges and opportunities have you faced and how have they affected your role?
There are always challenges in any business. Some are rewarding, some are harsh, but nevertheless they all teach you a lesson. With every challenge I face I do not falter, because I know the solutions are within my understanding too.
The biggest challenges I ever faced were in early stage of my career in Ireland when I had started my company. It was the time of recession and there was severe labour unrest. Handling those challenges professionally especially as a budding entrepreneur was the biggest challenge. It took some time, but I successfully handled the situation and overcame it.
What role do your staff play in the success of your firm?
Our people are our strength—it is crucial to have the right people at the right jobs. We currently have over 6,000 employees representing more than 18 nationalities and we plan to expand this to 10,000 in the near future. Our employees are encouraged to actively take part in the decision-making process in the company. Employees are trained frequently to address various gaps arising from demographic changes, technological and process advances, authority and regulatory requirements etc.
What future developments you foresee and how will you adapt?
According to experts, multiple mega-trends will shape the future of construction. For instance, more than 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to buildings. This and issues like it require an adequate response from the industry as a whole. Improvements need to be made in the way the industry operates to provide substantial benefits to society, which we all are a part of.
Can you tell us about your future plans?
We have a portfolio of projects worth $5.2 billion with a capability of $12 billion more by the end of this year. We have ongoing works in hospitality, retail and education, with more than 25,000 students actively engaged within school facilities built by Airolink.
Two particularly interesting projects are the Seven Hotel & Apartments on The Palm Dubai, with a connecting highlevel steel bridge comprising an infinity pool and outdoor restaurant deck facilities, all structurally engineered to exacting standards, and the Al Mamzar Hotel, which is a four-star, design and construct hotel collaboration.
What inspires you?
The U.A.E.’s journey itself is inspiring; the way it overcame the financial crisis was enough to boost my morale and serve as one of my biggest aspirations. I strongly believe in the principles of the great visionary leaders of the U.A.E. and the philosophy that they bring in the governance of this land. Inspired by this and to honour the Year of Tolerance, we pledge to outsource our divisions to seasoned experts in the market, as an effort towards creating more job opportunities, thereby contributing to striking a balance in the construction industry’s system and economy as a whole, of which we are all a part.