Celebrating its 12th anniversary in 2020, Airolink Building Contracting LLC has become renowned for its speed, quality and price competitiveness, with the company having successfully completed many important and prestigious projects throughout the UAE. Here, we talk to Dr Anil Pillai, the founder and Chairman of Airolink, about current projects, the challenge of the pandemic, technology, social responsibility, and what the future holds for the company.
EPM: What has been the biggest motivation for you on your journey as the company has grown and expanded?
Dr Anil: Airolink has been fortunate enough to establish itself at the pace it has over the last 12 years. The visionary leaders of the UAE have offered enterprising organisations the opportunity to perform and evolve. Airolink has drawn on the strength of this platform to tap into the growth potential of the region through consistent performance, client-focus and dedication to quality.
Nothing gives us more satisfaction than witnessing an architectural concept take shape and turn into an engineering marvel. It is this passion for construction excellence that has fuelled Airolink’s journey.
EPM: Can you tell us about the Seven City project? I understand it is Airolink’s biggest ever? What are the particular challenges?
Dr Anil: Airolink is extremely proud to be at the helm on the construction of the biggest residential tower project in the UAE, the iconic Seven City Project at JLT. Valued at AED 1 billion, the project has a total built up area of 3.5 million square feet and is scheduled to be completed by Q2 2023.
Commencing such a massive project at a time when the whole world is reeling from Covid-19 comes with its own challenges. We envisage logistics also being a key concern, but Airolink has a proven aptitude for completing similar challenging projects. Our Project and Risk Management Teams are already aligning measures to ensure that construction completes ahead of schedule.
EPM: Can you tell us a little about other significant projects the company has undertaken this year, such as the Jafza Trader Market and the Wonderland Waterfront development?
Dr Anil: Jafza Trader’s Market and the Wonderland Waterfront development have been added to Airolink’s portfolio recently, riding on the success we have had with our other projects in the region. Of the 14 ongoing projects, eight are scheduled to be handed over in the next 12 months; and to build on this success, we will continue to add more significant projects to our pipeline, increasing the cumulative project value to over AED 5 billion.
EPM: CEO Today Middle East Awards recently recognised you as one of the world’s finest CEOs and featured an article on the visionary leadership behind Airolink. How would you define that leadership, and what makes Airolink stand out in what is a fiercely competitive marketplace?
Dr Anil: I am a man driven by a passion for what I do, and I try to emulate my passion in the way Airolink operates. As with any good organisational culture, our functions reflect trust, care and communication between all levels of the management.
My team is close to me, and in many cases, our relationship goes back even before Airolink was established. My company leaders are my strength, and they manage well independently, but where my assistance or support is required, I remain available to lend a helping hand.
Airolink’s hard work, dedication to quality and client focus has thankfully been rewarded with a ‘Premier Construction Entity’ status within the UAE in a very short span of time, and I attribute our success to the efforts of the entire Airolink family.
EPM: How did Airolink prepare for and mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Dr Anil: Airolink was one of the few firms to adopt early prevention measures and proactively minimise the impact of Covid-19. Right from awareness camps to dedicated monitoring divisions, isolation wards, enhanced camp hygiene measures and medical camps, the Airolink team has led the way. As a result of the hard work of our crisis management teams, thankfully, our operations were not hugely impacted, and we continued to outperform the targets for our clients.
EPM: Have your goals for 2020-21 changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
Dr Anil: As with the majority of the construction sector internationally, Airolink did have challenges during the sudden global onset of Covid-19. However, our teams did exceptionally well to put us back on track.
We also utilised this period to refine and remodel our operational framework and tailor-make functional changes to adapt to the prevailing market conditions. We upskilled our teams and introduced technological enhancements, including rolling out of a new customised ERP system.
While many companies downsized during Covid-19, Airolink has maintained a positive outlook and has recruited in almost every division of the firm. In terms of business expansion, the challenges brought about by Covid-19 have opened up new opportunities, but yes, we are cautious in our approach. As a firm, we continue to strengthen our local and international affiliations to build on our portfolio and continue our journey.
EPM: In which territories does Airolink operate in today, aside from the UAE; I understand the company is currently working on a high-status development in Bahrain?
Dr Anil: In addition to our UAE operations, we continue to expand globally through our ventures in Ireland, India and more recently in Bahrain. In partnership with a prominent local firm in Bahrain, Airolink has been awarded two new projects in Madinat Salman Island by the Ministry of Housing, Kingdom of Bahrain. We strongly believe in strengthening and enhancing our strategic partnerships to drive progress during these extremely challenging times for the construction industry.
EPM: How do you incorporate technology change into your business strategy?
Dr Anil: Embracing new technology is vital to future success in the construction industry. At Airolink, we have adopted smart, sustainable solutions into our operations and are constantly updating our systems and procedures to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advances. One may witness this on our projects right from enhanced digital integration, advanced biometric systems, deployment of BIM, customised integrated ERP systems and so on.
EPM: Can you give me an example of a corporate social responsibility initiative the company has championed?
Dr Anil: Part of our success mantra involves us being true to our values and being humble in our growth. Our CSR initiatives are targeted to give back to the community and support the needy with education, social welfare, child and female empowerment. As a result of the excellent support from my team, I have been honoured to be appointed by the International Human Rights Defence Committee as a ‘CIPDH Expert’ with SC-1 rank.
EPM: How do you keep an entrepreneurial spirit alive in an ever-expanding organisation?
Dr Anil: Motivation through passion is the key to keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive within an organisation. We established and built this company on the dreams and passion of all our employees.
Working meticulously to fulfil our appetite for growth, we set higher standards for ourselves, take calculated risks and stay focused. We encourage our team to think out of the box to find solutions and to be creative in their approach. There is a certain soul to each opportunity, venture and project, and as a team, we cherish all the challenges and enjoy every outcome.
There is no doubt that the world has had to navigate through exceptionally challenging times. However, I recommend maintaining a positive outlook and adopting to the times to not just survive, but thrive even better in the market. I would like to thank the UAE government for their exceptional success in boosting consumer confidence and drawing even more investment and interest into the UAE. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my team and all our affiliates for the success we have enjoyed so far. The best is yet to come for Airolink!