Eng. Khalid Al-Khatib

CEO of NAFFCOFirst, the vision is there; we know what we want, and number one we have the team members to do the job. We have about 2400 people and by the end of the year we’ll have maybe 3000 people. Engineering is playing a big role in NAFFCO’s life.



NAFFCO’s reputation for quality and reliability has made it a trusted name throughout the UAE and worldwide. Can you tell us more about the origins of the company and how did you manage to achieve such a result?

From the beginning, since we started in 1991 we had a vision that we wanted to manufacture a product that we can go to the whole word from Dubai with. That was our vision from the beginning. We started producing good quality products, and then we approached international collaborators like LPCD and UK BSI, and Dual in the States and FM, and in 2003 we got our first products approved by LPCD and BSI. In 2006 we got our products approved by UL and FM approval.

So we see that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum has awarded you for the second time a business award for excellence in manufacturing. NAFFCO has doubled overseas since the year 2000. What are the key success factors behind this stupendous achievement?

Actually the main issue behind it is our team. We have an excellent team here at NAFFCO and we are all dedicated to the business. NAFFCO since 2003 has started growing heavily after we got the approvals and we became an international company that is now exporting to most 76 countries worldwide. We took His Highness’ reward in 2005 for Best Company in Export in Jabal Ali then we took an award in 2006 for Best Company in Manufacturing also in Jabal Ali. So there is a vision, and also there is support. The vision of Sheikh Mohammed has a big impact on us, giving us the assurances that keeps us moving ahead. The support we get from the government of Dubai is important. This country is open for all investors. It is very accessible to everyone to come and conduct their business over here.

So in a way you represent Dubai and the country outside. You were in Paris at the Louvre and were one of the companies to be there representing the Emirates.

Yes actually we went to Paris, and also to Luxembourg, Germany, and we went to Miami in the States. Yearly we are doing about 20 exhibitions worldwide.


When you go abroad like that how do people react to your product, your services, maybe the country you come from; what are the reactions?

Before, in 2003 it was a little bit hard. It was very hard for them to accept that a company from the Middle East can export to Europe. Now it is not hard anymore. Now we are getting big inquiries actually from the States to start manufacturing over here. Once you get the approval on any product and it is the same authority that approves in the States or in Europe, and they are approving your factory, you don’t have any trouble. Their markets are wide open, and now NAFFCO by the end of the year are using very big facilities, about 100 thousand square meters, in Jabal Ali too. We are planning to extend our manufacturing facilities in order to reach more countries and to fulfill the requirements of our customers.

You mentioned that you are apparently on the way to obtain the Underwriters Laboratory license which enables laboratories to export directly to the US. What strategy are you going to use after obtaining this license to go to the US?


We actually have a lot of connections now with the States and Canada but we also have a lot of borders so we are postponing moving to the States until we move to our new factory. And actually the business is a two-way business, it is to import and to export; there is no one factory in the world that can produce everything so we have a lot of resources from the states and from Europe, so it is coming both ways, it’s a give-and-take. Moreover we succeeded in bringing the highest standards which are applied in Europe and in the States in the field of fire and safety and recommended here in Dubai. As I mentioned earlier, we are the official representative for the NFPA which is the National Fire Protection Association in the States. This association is a non-profitable organization and it just concentrates on life and safety for fire protection systems in buildings.

You also mentioned that most of the products come from Germany, and the US. Is that an assurance of quality of the product that you are going to produce?

Actually now we are an ISO company approved by LPCD and so on. It does not matter where you bring your raw materials from. What matters is do they meet the requirements and is it of a quality product. When you are implementing these procedures they will make sure that the raw materials meets certain criteria of quality. You have to be approved with them. Yes, we import from Europe, from Germany, France, the UK, and Italy, and then also from the States, but at the end of the day we have a product that is also approved that we can export to the whole world.

This is a bit of a difficult question because it compares you with your competitors, but how would you describe to our viewers what ranking you are in the world in terms of turnover, sales, and quality? How do you evaluate yourself?

Actually, we can evaluate ourselves saying that we are one of the top five, not on revenue but on the number of the systems we are manufacturing over here, and the diversity of them. We are very specialized in fire protection systems. You find for example one company, and they are only specialized in manufacturing portable systems, and other companies manufacture mobiles, other manufacture fire trucks. We here at NAFFCO manufacture everything related, almost everything related to that industry. So if someone wants to come he will have fire extinguishers all the way up to fire trucks, with high quality here in Dubai.

So is this diverse manufacturing helping you get a competitive advantage against those who are really specialized in one product?

Actually we are really specialized in each one, but also we succeeded in bringing them all together under one umbrella. And now we are proud to say we have one of the top engineering house in the world over here in Dubai. We have more than 50 engineers and autocad specialized in fire protection.

So to summarize, would you say that your main competitive advantage is the diversity of your products?

Yes, we have a lot to contribute here. First, the vision is there; we know what we want, and number one we have the team members to do the job. We have about 2400 people and by the end of the year we’ll have maybe 3000 people. Engineering is playing a big role in NAFFCO’s life. We are supported by highly qualified engineers, dedicated engineers, and as I mentioned also, the approval, which we have. For example, the United Arab Emirates without approval, anybody can say anything to you. But with approval you are the same as any other international manufacturer. Plus, over here in Dubai we have combined European approvals and American approval which you don’t find a lot in the world. This is also because of the diversification of the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East. Some consultants require European standards and some consultants require American standards to work. So we combine both and get the approval from both parties.

How do you achieve this quality of product? How does it work?

It was a long trip and took dedication to reach. You will find that every three months we have new audits, and actually these institutes like the LPCD or BSI or UL and FM have contributed a lot to upgrade the quality systems in our company. And it’s not only a certificate or a mark that we put on the extinguisher, rather it’s a system, and that really helped us a lot.

The future looms very brightly, specifically in the US, with the new areas where you want to expand there. What is your main challenge to managing the growth?

Our main challenge is to open new countries. Now we are exporting to 76, we go for 85. Whenever you are expanding and are entering to international markets like for example in the States, there is a lot of obligation in the company to maintain the growth and to improve. We don’t stop at a certain point we reach, no we have all the doors in front of us, whenever one closes we have the others in front of us.

Maybe as a general question: you represent one of the doors of the industry here. What message would you like to convey to our readers and our viewers when you think in terms of globally, if you have something to say to the Anglophone community about Dubai, about the Emirates, and also about your company?

Dubai, if you want to visit us, it’s the best place for tourism. If you want to invest, it’s also the best place for investment. Your money is very much 100% secure, and this is a land of opportunity. As Sheikh Mohammed says, we are still at the beginning, so there are a lot of opportunities available over here. This country is led by systems, so there is nothing to worry about. I don’t know anyone who came to Dubai and lost, unless he doesn’t have a good management, but I do know a lot of people who invested and really profited a lot, and they expanded their business more and more. And now we find people coming from different nationalities to Dubai, and they are contributing to the special flavor of Dubai. They are from everywhere; everybody is looking for a job, for tourism. Also, the main issue we appreciate in Dubai is security, which is very strong and you can feel it here. You are very secure, wherever you want to go, to walk in the streets at four or five o’clock in the morning you are safe. About our company, we promise we will be growing more and more, and we’ll see; maybe in the future we will enter more specialized industries, like electronics. And the sky is the limit!

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