We are going to remain residents of Qatar keeping the NRI status for future, still it will be a change for us for the days to come, hopefully better for us. I shall continue to be a Director of Al Balagh and subsidiaries, the firm where I have been all these years but on an advisory role ... definitely not on a 'live wire' basis. It is a time to shift the mode of the gear of life to go a bit slower....We are back to a better , socially enriched , colourful life. Not a full stop of active life but a comma!
In this blog I thought of publishing the valedictory speech made on the day officially the colleagues bid bye. Sorry if it is boring but still thought better it is published......Read
Respected Chairman, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and family members,
I know that today no one will tell badly about me. But your appreciative words went beyond to the extent I had a doubt whether you are talking about me or someone else. Thank you for your kind words. Allow me to do some introspection now.
After my engineering degree, when I got a position of Assistant Engineer in Kerala Public Works Authority at my age of 24 which is a gazette rank, I thought it was the end of choosing a path for my future career. In a country where a Govt. job was covetable and respectable, while I had an opportunity to rise to the position of Chief Engineer of the state, I did not want to leave it under any circumstances.
As few years passed, although I used to enjoy my bachelor days with a dept. jeep in my custody and an own Chek motor cycle named Jawa, I was finding difficult to fall within the framework of the Govt. service. Corruption was rampant and I found myself an odd man out in the service. Since I was brought up by my parents and grandparents to be honest with a strong conviction that way, it was difficult for me to change. I got married and my wife too came from a similar background and without long we had two children. In order to cope up with the situation, to make money required to make a good house of our own but remaining honest in a govt. service, I decided to avail 5 years leave from service and look for a lucrative job in any of the Gulf States. It was intended that once I have that money I will return to India for sure where a respectable career and colourful life is assured. It may be of interest to you now to know that except me hardly few among thousands of engineers of Kerala Public Works authority did leave the 'comforts and luxury' of the Kerala Govt. service and went abroad looking for a career or if at all they all have returned to the dept. sooner or later.
While looking for an right opening I noticed an advertisement in a newspaper: “A reputed construction company in Doha is looking for a civil engineer”. I applied for the position, was interviewed by my predecessor Mr. TK Thomas who was good to tell me that I am selected for the position soon after the interview. I did not know much about Doha and Qatar. I still remember the day I spent in Kochi public library with an encyclopedia to know more about the country and Arabs. Thus looking for a short but lucrative career, I came to Qatar in 1984.
Within a week or so I had to face three bare unpleasant truths which were not expected. First, the firm where I joined is not reputed as advertised, it was small one with hardly 31 employees. The main office was functioning in a small space about 30 sq. meters. Second, Qatar itself was a small country in area with a small economy compared to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Oman. Third, the price of crude oil was the lowest ever- less than USD 10 per barrel and those days everything depends here on oil price especially the development works.
My first impulse was to return to India, cancel my leave and join back to department. Giving myself a time of one month for that, I started working in a small project of Al Balagh with Qatar Petroleum at Dukhan. Soon I realized one fact. The standards of engineering practice in Doha were much superior to what was then in India. Products especially used in finishes also the best in the world. I have found out that even if I look for a professional career in gulf elsewhere later, thorough knowledge of these products and British standards and codes are essential. I decided myself to continue for a year for this reason. Learning the new codes and working in the project in all eagerness continued.
Although I considered myself a good engineer, since my back ground then was from the client side working for Govt. soon I realized that I do not have any knowledge on engineering management or construction management or business management. I was professionally ambitious and I was convinced that such knowledge is essential for future growth. That was the time in India no Open University or distant education scheme was available or in Doha forget about a business school; even a good book stall was not available. I could find a solution for this joining the Library of British Council which I and my family, who joined me in 1986, used extremely well for years to follow, in spite I was racing against time always.
Al Balagh contracting continued to make progress working with Qatar Petroleum, Ministry of Defense and Public Works Department especially when we did two schools. In 1993, that’s over 21 years back, quite unexpectedly the owners decided to appoint me as GM, when Mr. Thomas opted to end his career with Al Balagh. The employee strength then was 91 with one division which was contracting division with a C grade.
The core Al Balagh support team at that time was very small-D Souza, Manohar, Santhosh in the main office while Suresh and Baby in operations. There were two or three more in office and projects that used to come and go but never remained long with us for obvious reasons . During my first year in the new seat, we tried to continue the existing policy but failed badly in the financials. In the second and third year we tried to take more jobs on contracts at lesser margins like many other companies those days, trying to bring down the costs of overheads but result was even worse. Work, work and work, that’s what the core team used to do but unfortunately no tangible results, came our way. That’s when I decided not to quote any more cheaply under any circumstances like others. We failed initially to get many jobs because we were not ready to take up at the prevailing market prices, a situation which was very difficult for me to explain to others.
Without long we could identify the soil where we can grow. Certain clients started to appreciate our jobs. Slowly but steadily we started to grow further. Staff and workers joined us more and more but thankfully all followed the existing core team spirit. We invested regularly in resources like camps, workshops and plants and machinery. From a C Grade Company we rose to B grade in 1995. And then ultimately A grade, the highest in Qatar, was awarded to Al Balagh in 2001. We never looked back thereafter. From our first diversified division which we started in 1996, we could rise to the development wave which hit Qatar’s economy in early years of this century thanks to the wisdom of HH the father Emir Sh. Hamad .More and more divisions and joint ventures were formed and well established. Clients started appreciating our products and services openly. Many prestigious projects were given to us without tenders but on negotiations by the most elite clientele of the country. Last ten years our growth is astonishing culminating to what we are now.
Awards and appreciations came many times to us but the biggest was, as you all know, came last year- the best national company awarded by none other than Qatar Olympic Committee. That’s the time I decided myself that my role in the current position is over here. It was difficult for me to make such a decision, in the same way it was difficult for me 30 years back to decide to come here.
When I look back the reasons for our success, it leads to four mainly:-
Al Balagh will continue to grow exponentially in geometric progression in years to come, I am sure, climbing the band wagon of aggressive development plans our most respected Emir His Highness Sh. Tamim Bin Hamad Althani has envisaged for Qatar for the future. Let Al Balagh continue to remain as one of the best national companies, if not the best. Let more and more divisions and joint ventures flourish under the umbrella of Al Balagh keeping our company motto – professionalism and quality – always high. My heart will continue to wish for this wherever I am.
May I ask her to come to dais and join me with your permission…..
We wish all the Qatari and other guests here and their families continued good health and happiness in life.
We wish the team Al Balagh – past and present- and family members all the best in life. We thank you all for the wonderful support and contributions you all have rendered in making Al Balagh what is now.
I am leaving my position in Al Balagh without any tears in my eyes or lump in the throat because I have done my best for it under the given circumstances and vice verse. I will continue to be a part of Al Balagh as long as I am wanted. If the management thinks my exposure here over the years will continue to benefit Al Balagh in future ventures or projects in one way or other, I am available for my contribution as an advisor.
Now we begin another - could be the last - oblivious phase of our life, probably which will lead us into the sunset of our life. But we look forward for a good life but would happily settle for what is destined for us. It is a good feel that we are leaving Qatar knowing that a brighter dawn is awaiting Al Balagh and Qatar.
God bless Al Balagh. God bless State of Qatar.