Project Qatar 2012 returned in April boasting more exhibitors than ever and expecting its biggest ever number of visitors. However many people arrived at the event in hope rather than expectation. Almost 50,000 visitors were expected to attend the 62,000sqm show and new areas were added. The Heavy Max exhibition, which as the name suggests promotes […]
Project Qatar 2012 returned in April boasting more exhibitors than ever and expecting its biggest ever number of visitors. However many people arrived at the event in hope rather than expectation.
Almost 50,000 visitors were expected to attend the 62,000sqm show and new areas were added. The Heavy Max exhibition, which as the name suggests promotes heavy equipment was visibly larger than in previous shows. Where once the outdoor area was a few stalls and machines, it is now a fully fledged event within an event, taking over an entire side of Doha’s venerable exhibition and convention centre.
From relatively humble roots, Project Qatar is now a big deal in Doha, attracting support from large local organisations such as the Qatar National Bank (QNB) and UrbaCon Co (UCC). One representative of the organisers even joked that the show is now almost “too big”.
QNB’s assistant general manager, Salem Al Noaimi put the importance of the show in context.
“As an institution, we aim to support the growth of the Qatar economy and culture in every way possible,” said Al Noaimi. “Project Qatar has come to symbolise the growth potential of Qatar’s construction industry. We are proud to be a part of Project Qatar 2012, in particular, as well as the larger construction boom in Qatar.”
Talking to exhibitors and visitors to the show, the word ‘boom’ remains an awkward one to apply to what is happening on the ground in Qatar.
Last year’s event was boosted by the news that the World Cup would be coming to the country. When German giant Deutsche Bahn was subsequently awarded the contract to provide a rail network to Qatar during the show, it seemed likely that the country’s nascent construction sector was about to move into overdrive. A year down the line, the optimism that was rife at the time appears to have been a touch premature.
For instance, the deal with DB has since been restructured coming under QRail, its JV with Qatari Diar which was formed to build the on/off/on Bahrain-Qatar Causeway back in 2009. Furthermore tenders for the metro which will provide the spine of the new Doha that will rise in the next decade were also delayed, frustrating those urging for a speedy pick-up to development around the city. However, worries that it too may fall into development limbo were eased just prior to the event with QRail announcing it had invited some five tenders for the first phase of the metro rail transit system.
It was a timely boost in an otherwise fallow period for project announcements.
While there is much to be done in the country, plans for what will be needed and on what time-scale are still under wraps. While a relatively small country (geographically speaking, its healthy GDP rating shows that economically Qatar is a power-house) the country has many options in terms of balancing the demands of the World Cup with its aspirations for social and commercial growth.
Taking time to design the new Qatar may prove to be the most important approach. For those familiar with the often fluid nature of development in Qatar, it is also to be expected
“It’s Qatar,” said Hashim Al-Gendi, the deputy manager of sales for the heavy equipment division of one of Qatar’s largest dealers, Mannai. “Sometimes things that should take one month, sometimes take three. When they were doing the airport (Doha’s upcoming NDIA), people were going to airport shows and coming back and changing the design.”
The benefit of holding the World Cup and the ambitious projects needed to pull it off in Doha (modular stadia, advanced cooling, etc) means that the country has a deadline to meet. One that Mannai is prepared to wait for.
“We believe it will pick up in Q2 2013,” said Al-Gendi.
Mannai skipped the last Project Qatar, but felt the time was right to exhibit at the event.
“This show is about raising our exposure. We’ll meet some old customers but also some new ones too.”
Another company that skipped last year’s event but joined the Heavy Max expo this year was power solutions provider Aggreko.
“Is the market dead? No, it will just take time,” said Russel Moxham, area general manager – Central Gulf Aggreko Middle East. “It’s a massive opportunity, the boom is coming to Qatar. It’s just nobody knows when. I actually think the exciting part is now – I think you will see things really move towards Q3, maybe Q4 (this year) as we move towards 2013.”
The challenge for those that provide equipment is planning for the boom and ensuring the supply chain is in place for the expected boost in demand.Qatar Tractor and Equipment represents Tadano, Liebherr, Schwing-Stetter and most recently Merlo, and the company is using the lull before the storm to assess its offering to the marketplace. A company representative said that already prices are being affected by the looming boom.
“The rental market is really trending right now and price rises will affect small operators and rental companies. However we don’t expect a real shake up until the end of 2013. We are planning to have many more ranges ready for 2014.”
Samar Pal Bais, general manager at Q-Fab which features Wirtgen, New Holland/Kobelco and surprisingly Iron Planet among its partners, explained his company’s prominent position at the front of the show.
“You have to understand that if you’re not present, you’re not present in the market,” he explained. “Qatar is geographically a small market but there are a lot of opportunities here.”
A deal to represent Iron Planet in Qatar has already reaped rewards he said.
“In two or three months we have helped to sell 32 cranes, mainly to Africa… there is a lot of used machinery in Qatar.”
As he spoke, a band started up on his stand.
Pal Bais looked across at the band: “This is not just an exhibition, it’s a festival.”