Best Interior Fit Outs Contractor in Kuwait: Dahan

“Dahan is involved in interior fit out contracting. We execute many spaces such as restaurants, shops, boutiques, banks, and office spaces. We are purely executers and builders.”

Interview with Sameer Al Dahan, Managing Partner at Dahan General Trading & Contracting

Sameer Al Dahan, Managing Partner at Dahan General Trading & Contracting

Describe the sector and the main trends and demands for the Kuwaiti market.

Dahan is involved in interior fit out contracting. We execute many spaces such as restaurants, shops, boutiques, banks, and office spaces. We are purely executers and builders. We do not offer any kind of design services or business requirements for the retailers. We are also not involved in housing or residential areas. From 2003 to present, we have been able to offer complete turnkey jobs for our clients by securing everything needed for the project, including flooring, ceiling, electrical, HVAC, firefighting, shopfront glazing, and so on. In terms of the sector, throughout the years, our expansion has caused us to examine how we can service ourselves by having certain things provided in-house within the business. This led to the building of our own joinery manufactory, a subsidiary of Dahan called Manjartak. There, we can custom fabricate much of the woodwork for our clients. Making sure that the quality, time and actual finish of the project is made within our in-house facilities, our staff and our personnel make it easier for us to present a better quality product. In the past, we had often subcontracted to other suppliers. Over the years, we have begun to see a demand in the shading sector. Six years ago, we opened another division of Dahan, called Dahan Shades. It is a division for outdoor carpark shades and fabric shades commonly used in Kuwait. There is a great demand, not just in the commercial sector, but even the private sectors. If you have a house or villa and you need a fabric carpark shade, we will perform the fabrication and installation. We represent an Australian company whose fabric is very durable and has a ten-year warranty. We have also introduced a new outdoor shading product called a retractable shading system. It is a shade you can use with any outdoor seating, and it is able to automatically open and close to provide a nice atmosphere or usage during changing weather conditions. I have also diversified myself outside of Dahan. Personally, I have opened my own restaurant and retail space and become more involved in several other retail and real estate businesses within the state of Kuwait. But, Dahan is my main bread and butter and it is my main focus. I had funds I was not spending in Dahan because I was not able to find the right people to expand my business. I looked at spending those funds in other businesses, which failed. F&B (Food & Beverage) was growing and blooming here in Kuwait and I wanted to be part of that. I failed because of lack of management. Today, F&B is not like it used to be. You cannot simply open a restaurant and people will come in. If you do not evolve the business, or socialize, or have a social network and advertising backing up the business, you will definitely fail. I learned to focus on what I know best. The business that I run myself is much better than depending on others and doing other business with which I am not very well acquainted.

What does Dahan do, in particular, in terms of boutiques, bank branches, office spaces, and so on?

Dahan is not a design firm. We do not anticipate clients requesting us to design retail space, restaurants, office space or other environments. We are purely interior fit out contractors. We want the client to come to us with his drawings and full designs. We can then work on the actual bill of quantity, execution, and project management of the business or retail space. Another service we provide is to advise the client which material is better or more durable. The bill of quantity we create is fifty percent of the job. The bill of quantity is a document that translates everything on the drawings. We document and give a written description of every single item we supply. Once the BOQ is fully secured, we can price out item per item and unit per unit of the project. Of course, there is a debate with the client. Sometimes the client wishes to buy items themselves, such as floor tiles, lighting, or chairs and tables. The bill of quantity is one of the main reasons we sometimes lose jobs. Clients come to us and think that we are expensive, but we are not. We simply give clients the full scope of what they need for the project. Clients are sometimes tricked by other contractors who may hide items in the scope or give lump sum numbers.  Once inside, they start telling the client something was not supposed to be part of the scope, or that it is variations or additions. When Dahan gives a BOQ offer, it is totally complete and secured. I do not like the feeling of being on site and debating and arguing with the client, making him feel that we took advantage of something and we were waiting for these variation orders to be made. In the end, I enjoy and love what I do. A big part is that I meet people. The clients are not just clients, they become friends. Kuwait is a very small country and word of mouth is the strongest tool that can be used. If I lose this credibility with clients or friends or any of the people I work with, then the business will not move forward.

We are purely interior fit out contractors.

What are the highlights of Dahan? How many projects do you do per year?

Whenever there is a new mall, retail space, or complex opening in Kuwait, Dahan is always involved. We average at least fifty to sixty retail spaces per year, which vary from restaurants and cafés, to office space, banks, and boutiques. We have a limit of projects per year, because we lack project managers, draftsmen, and quantity surveyors. If we have more manpower, it will help us to expand our business within the state of Kuwait. We do not want to go outside of Kuwait.

The Fine Art of Building

What human resources challenges do you face and what do you need to solve them?

Our major challenge is getting the right people and the right manpower within the company. I treat Dahan as home. I also treat everyone who works at Dahan as part of the family. Whoever joins Dahan becomes one of our family members and one of the main supporters of the business itself. I have a huge challenge hiring credible and trustworthy people because of the nature of the business module. It is easy to imitate and go out there and do it yourself. A project manager within Dahan learns basic standard procedures of how we do business. He might think it is easy to just go out there and take a project on his own and run it himself, which is fair. It is his right to do that. However, it makes it very hard for me to maintain proper manpower and grow this manpower within the entity. This forces me to face the fact that we are who we are and we are the size that we are. I am very pleased with the business and the amount of jobs we do annually and the amount of turnover. I am not a greedy person. Who would not want to grow their business bigger? Why would I do fifty stores a year if I can do one hundred? It is more exposure, visibility, branding and strength within the market. This is a huge challenge. The key word to that is loyalty. If I could find a loyal person who is also qualified, it would be even more important to me.

What is the state of the market in Kuwait?

This question is twofold. How is the retail environment within Kuwait, and how are the businesses and people actually opening retail spaces? It is booming and it is nonstop. I do not know why other businesses might not be doing as well as the retail environment. We are approached on almost a weekly basis by new clients that want to open retail space, restaurants, or cafés. We have many areas to be leased and rented in Kuwait, so the supply is becoming higher than demand. However, the demand is still there because people are looking for the key location and the best space to open businesses. The retail environment is an easy business for any person to penetrate. It is not easy in terms of not having any headaches or pressure. It is a huge process to open a café, restaurant, or shop and run that business, but it is the easiest kind of business compared to a bigger entity or company. Within the local concepts and local brands, the creativity is amazingly beautiful. If they are opening a pizza store or a local coffee shop, they are coming up with their own brand, logo, name, identity, the whole complete operation and knowhow.


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