As Kurdistan’s economy has grown and developed in recent years, international firms have increasingly faced the dilemma of choosing how to administer the offices and facilities they occupy. Companies new to the Kurdistan Region are often either forced to juggle facilities management services themselves alongside their main corporate interests or turn to an array of local contractors that may or may not achieve the quality standards they are accustomed to in the rest of the world. Now, firms specializing in the provision of facilities management services are increasingly stepping into the Kurdish market and trying to win over corporate clients with international credentials and promised cost and time savings.
36N, established in 2012, is a leading facilities management firm that has seen its portfolio of clients in the oil and gas and real estate sectors expand with the overall growth of the Kurdish economy. The company aims to create value for its clients in Kurdistan by removing the need for them to divert crucial financial and human resources from their core businesses towards property management and the responsibilities associated with it. 36N offers its customers a range of round-the-clock services in areas including cleaning, engineering, general maintenance, catering, and health and safety training. Contrasting the services provided by his company with the complications associated with firms managing their own facilities, managing partner Mario Al-Jebouri contends, “It is much easier for a company like us, because we have a magnitude of clients, to have economies of scale and efficiency that no other company, no matter how large or small, can achieve on its own.”
We are here to implement processes, procedures, and standards that haven’t been put in place in Kurdistan as of yet.
36N aims to present international companies setting up shop in the Kurdistan Region with an experience that mirrors the standards of quality and customer service they could expect to encounter in their home markets. “We are very mindful of transferring those same types of global best practices and know-how and expertise here to Kurdistan,” Colin Gaskin, 36N's Executive Director, explains. To do so, 36N employs skilled expatriate staff that try to convey their experience and insights to local workers. The company also conforms to the international standards set out by many of the world’s leading facilities management associations, including the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA).
The firm has set its sights on managing assets for Kurdistan’s medical sector and the regional government, though the goal to diversify 36N’s client base was temporarily set back this year by budget disputes between Erbil and Baghdad. Now, with a durable settlement between the two sides in place that has seen the restoration of the Kurdistan Region’s budget, the company's leadership is optimistic that it will be able to secure government business as well as clients in other sectors that complement its current strength within the oil and gas industry.
To do so, 36N and other facilities management companies with a focus on international standards will have to prove to the Kurdish market that the value of the services they provide is defined as much by quality as it is by price. That argument is often challenged in Kurdistan’s still maturing economy, and the costs associated with the company’s aspiration to meet global standards in its industry can sometimes place it at a competitive disadvantage. “I will not shy away from saying that it is sometimes difficult,” says Al-Jebouri, “because we are sometimes seen as not being entirely competitive with the market, but that is mainly due to the fact that we are here to implement processes, procedures, and standards that haven’t been put in place in Kurdistan as of yet.” For Al-Jebouri, the advantage of the low service charges offered by some competitors can be illusory and often translates into lower quality service that can quickly lead to spiraling repair costs, miscommunication, and decreased asset values. “Facilities management is one of those sectors where it is sometimes difficult to understand the value of these services if you haven’t been exposed to them until something happens. Then you understand,” he argues.
Rapprochement between Baghdad and Erbil on budget and oil issues is a promising sign for continued growth in the energy and real estate sectors that underpin the facilities management industry in Kurdistan. In the industry’s quest for new clients and a greater market presence, though, the continuing process of educating companies operating in Kurdistan about the merits of an internationally minded, holistic approach to facilities management will likely prove crucial in the coming year.