UAE - Economy
Chairman, Anchor Allied
Mr. Ahmed Ali Husain Nalwala is a successful business owner with a number of companies. He is also an active member of YPO MENA. He attended the prestigious Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai and was graduated with honors in commerce. By the age of 20 he had started his own company Anchor Allied Factory. He was a founder and holds a majority interest in Anchor Allied Factory Ltd (formerly with a partnership of Msharie) the largest Building Material Chemical Manufacturing Company of silicon sealant, PU foams, and aerosol, among other materials. He is involved in global real estate investments, from South Africa to India.
We have been fortunate to be in a country such as the UAE, where its leaders have been extremely forward in the way they have handled the situation. We are closely linked to the construction industry, and construction never stopped so the business never stopped completely. We experienced turmoil, as 60-70% of our business is export, which was impacted, and we suddenly had a complete stop of cash flow. Those 40-60 days were challenging, so we went back to the drawing board to look at what we are good at, and how we could turn around the situation to our benefit. We figured out what else we could add to our existing capabilities in the aerosol business The first thing I did was announce that no one would lose their jobs. The moment we took pressure off people, they stepped up, and we have gone into FMGC businesses now. The pandemic helped us and spearheaded a great deal of innovation. We have been fortunate to be in a country that is open minded and gave us an opportunity to have that window completely open.
Anchor was primarily known as a manufacturer of construction chemicals, and today we have a new division that was set up in six months, which we would not have done in two years ordinarily. Our team just stepped up, and our innovation drive was truly all guns blazing because we had the time and opportunity. Every time there is a crisis, there is an opportunity to grow your business.
There was a logistics nightmare, with the cost of logistics and raw materials going up; however, you have to deal with it and not just wait for things to change by themselves. We have five plants in the UAE, and we had different plants shutting down from time to time for two weeks due to positive cases. We could sense what was happening and realized that the net effect would be a logistical nightmare. Therefore, you have to start to plan your purchases much earlier if you are an importer and plan your shipping accordingly. If before you needed 30 days in advance, now you need 90 days. It was a challenge, but we have a great team, and I am extremely proud of them. When we needed additional warehousing space, we stepped up, and when we needed additional resources, we stepped up. We hired more people in 2020 than we ever have in one year. That is a testament of how we dealt with it.
We are moving fully ahead with expansion. We are expanding in Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Sharjah. We are also expanding in terms of export markets and have added markets this year. We are exporting to more countries than we have before and are in Central and South America now. We intend to continue to add export markets; there is no better time to expand. It is only when you have these opportunities that you have to step up, and if you have a good team, then that is everything.
We are in an unglamorous business with construction chemicals, as it is a product applied to a construction site on glass and aluminum, flooring, and wood. Once it is applied, it has no brand value, so we have to give something extra to our customers: service, consistency, and quality. Sharjah as a manufacturing hub is a unique environment, as it has all the requirements for a successful manufacturer to step out from here to the rest of the world. In the long term, it is cost effective, particularly Sharjah’s proximity to ports, with Dubai not that far away.
The reason why Sharjah is a great manufacturing hub is that in the long term, manufacturers need solid infrastructure. We have power, water, a great road network, proximity to ports, an international airport, and a long-term cost benefit in manufacturing. People also seek a high quality of life. In Sharjah, we have a zero-plastic waste policy, and we recycle all our solvents; we are a zero solvent waste company. We recycle everything in paint manufacturing and metal packing as well. When this trend started, it was already close to our heart. All the water waste from our labor camps is recycled. We grow our own fruits and vegetables onsite, and all the water is recycled wastewater. The fruit and vegetables taste better when you grow them yourself, so we do that in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. It is nice to breathe in clean air, and everyone wants to work in a clean environment.
2021 is a year of growth, and with Expo coming in, there will be a spillover effect with many more visitors coming to the UAE. There will be a spillover effect on the Northern Emirates, as visitors to Expo will want to see the manufacturing plants. It is a year of opportunities. We are on an expansion path; our second phase of expansion will be completed by the end of 2021, and the third phase will start in early 2022.
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