Meet the young guns

CMME profiles a new generation of KSA entrepreneurs ready to build on the good work of their fathers.

Saudi Bobcat dealer GTE is being overseen by young tyro Abdulaziz Al Bassam

Saudi Bobcat dealer GTE is being overseen by young tyro Abdulaziz Al Bassam

CMME profiles a new generation of KSA entrepreneurs ready to build on the good work of their fathers.

Saudi Arabia gets younger and younger every year. Over half the population is under 25 and 37% are below the age of 14. It’s a country that likes to talk too with almost two mobile phones for every user and 13 million (almost half the population of 28 million) using the internet and social media. While some people describe social change within the Kingdom as too fast and others too slow, it is hard to disagree with Time magazine’s assessment that this process is “dizzying”.

Given the construction industry’s traditional resistance to embracing new technology allied with Saudi’s natural conservatism, those on the outside would be forgiven for thinking it will fail to keep pace with this progress.

However that may not be the case. A new generation of leaders is slowly emerging from within the family-owned businesses that dominate the market. Unlike their parents, they’ve grown up inside the corporate culture of Saudi business and benefit from being highly educated. Destined to be leaders they are not necessarily destined to fail. To them coming to terms with this technological and social evolution is mission-critical for their companies if they are going to exploit the booming market.

Enter Abdulaziz Al Bassam and Fahad Al Areedh two of the leading lights of the supply of heavy equipment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Both are well educated, erudite and ambitious and a bundle of fresh ideas for a stale market. They share an understanding that change has become necessary if their companies are going to keep pace with Saudi’s formidable progress.

Riyadh-based Al Areedh first started business 35 years ago and today runs five different offices across the Kingdom. Its fleet of equipment now stands at more than 1,000 mechanical, hydraulic and telescopic cranes.

Following his graduation he began to learn under the stewardship of his father. Although he has taken over from his father in the day-to-day running of the company, Fahad Al Areedh still has the upmost respect for his father’s work.

“My father Sheikh Mohammed Al Areedh is one of the most specialized people in cranes by virtue of his long experience in this field, he is also a reference in his field, such a practical experience in this time of specialisation is an important asset for success.”

Al Areedh describes the packed Saudi market. “Competition is normal in every area of work and we are keen to update our fleet of equipment and application to provide our customer around the clock and commitment to the promises with companies.”

A major part of its strategy will be the continued expansion of its Sany mobile fleet. Al Areedh’s general manager Ashrab Taleh explains that the company has been spending big on the Chinese machines to meet demand for rental. In 2011 it bought 132 units in an order exceeding $100 million. Not only was the size of the order large, so were the machines. “[We bought] 30 100t machines. The biggest ones. All for rent.”

Inevitably many of these machines were leased to Saudi’s major corporations, such as Sabic, Aramco, and Saudi bin Laden.

“It was the biggest contract in the world,” he enthuses.

Incredibly despite adding to an already bulging inventory, Al Areedh is still running short. “We have more than 800 cranes but none to rent out.”

Clearly Al Areedh is doing something right and having managed to Sany’s mobiles rolling in the Kingdom over the past few years, Fahad Al Areedh could also get its excavators and concrete pumps moving. It should be noted that those are currently handlded by other dealers but Taleb sums up his managing director’s ambition.
“He wants all the Sany products!”

The general
Abdulaziz Al Bassam took on responsibility of running General Trading and Equipment (GTE) from his father at the end of 2012. He describes himself as officially deputy managing director but in reality the CEO.

Talking to CMME at the sidelines of a Bobcat dealer event in Dubai, he explains that the appointment was the next step in a lifelong journey to be the successor to his father.

“The shift occured in April 2012,” he says. “But I was integrated into the business (by my father) a long time ago. I used to attend these meetings as a child.”

Despite his early involvement, he was encouraged to experience the world beyond equipment, including attending school in the US. In a strong American accent he explains.

“Thankfully I had space to do what I was interested in. It wasn’t forced on me to stick with the family business,” he recalls. “There was a point where I wasn’t sure. I felt if you are going to invest some time in another field, then someone else would have to take care of the business instead.”

He describes his task from this point onwards is guiding GTE and its expansion of the Bobcat brand in the Kingdom by building on the work of his father. Working alongside him is his father’s right hand man Shams Elramly, GTE’s general manager.

“GTE has been one of my father’s favourite companies to watch and grow. He instilled a system that is very efficient and unorthodox. They created the compact the compact and the applications in Saudi Arabia. Mr Shams was one of the pioneers. He could tell you of the times where he would go visit the customer with the skid steer on the back of a truck.”

Taking his cue, Shams recalls those early conversations about Bobcat’s compacts.

“The customer didn’t know what a skid steer was,” he says. “We were taking the machine to the side and showing them what for. At that time we were selling 100 machines a year. (Then) that was fantastic.”

Despite the business growing in scale, the principle of using on-site demonstrations remains.

“We still do it today,” Abdulaziz adds, accentuating the continuity within GTE before explaining how
it is evolving.

“The game has changed of course,” he remarks.While GTE’s early hard work opened the window for compacts in the Kingdom it also threw open ther door for competitors to enter the market.

“We put ideas into the market like the wheel saw,’ says Shams. “We invent the business and Caterpillar get the benefits of what we’re doing. Our training to our team is that they need to be a consultant and not a sales person. They need to go the job site and open your eyes. ”

Abdulaziz interjects: “You have to groom them but because (we do) I think that is why we have the oldest team around.”

“Our people stay,” says Shams. “Stability is very important for any company. You keep your old people and they give experience to new people. When you join the company and you see that people have been here 15 years you feel confident, that this company is stable, it is growing,”

“The transistion wouldn’t have been easy if we hadn’t had people like Mr Shams,” says the young deputy MD. “We discuss on the method to go and in many ways I am also his apprentice.”

“But he is good, huh,” interrupts Shams. “The new generation has new ideas and you need to support them. The experience with their ideas works.”


0 0 votes
Article Rating


Most Popular

To Top
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x