Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Dhu'l-Qa'dah / Zil-Hijjah 1423 H
February 2003
Volume 16-02 No : 194
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The Dream Merchant from Oman!


The Dream Merchant from Oman!

Starting his career at the age of 17, Dr Mohammed Ali has come up the hard way. As a young recruit in a construction company, Dr Ali is today heading Galfar Constructions, the largest construction company in Oman and is actively involved in motivating Muslims towards education.

By Mohammed Hanif Lakdawala

A self-effacing man, distinctly uncomfortable in the public eye, Dr Mohammed Ali. P is a reluctant celebrity. The recipient of Oman’s “Civil Order Grade Three” and the Managing Director of Galfar (a leading construction and engineering company in Oman), would much rather have his work speak for itself - despite his numerous awards and accolades, he still thinks of himself as a manager simply doing his duty. Glasgow Caledonian University, one of the largest universities in Scotland with more than 14,500 students, had conferred the degree of honorary Doctor of Science on Dr Mohammed Ali. The brain behind the Oman Medical College and the Caledonian Engineering College in Oman revealed, that he was planning to open a rehabilitation centre for the handicapped. “The less privileged people deserve our attention”, he says. The Galfar group has recently taken over the 5-star deluxe property of the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) at Kovalam at a cost of over Rs.400 million. The property is being renovated and re-built to international standards at an additional investment of about Rs.300 million. With the acquisition of this property, Galfar has carved an important place for itself in the tourism map of Kerala, not to forget the milestone projects of the group at Kochi, namely, the International Convention Centre and a 5-star deluxe hotel.

“The early signs of an increase in leisure and corporate travel and a pressing requirement for world-class convention facilities in this state made me take this investment decision and I am glad,” says Dr. Mohammed Ali. Galfar Constructions is Oman’s largest construction company with 14,000 employees and sprawling office blocks in the Ghala Industrial Estate. From a civil engineering company, it has diversified into the mechanical, electro- mechanical, and heavy civil engineering industry, with offices in Brunei Darussalam, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. It is the only company in Oman capable of handling all construction requirements under one roof. The 53-year-old Dr Ali is much feted and is popular in Muscat and one of the best-known Indians in the Gulf. Dr Mohammed Ali still works just as hard with his team and who categorically maintains that none of Galfar’s achievements can be attributed to him alone. “Success in any organisation is never the effort of any one single person,” he says. “From the shareholders to the staff and the management team, everyone plays a part. I merely passed the ball along for my team to score,” he adds. “We have always worked as a team from day one. Some of our earliest ventures were in the Interiors. No other company was willing to work there, the risks were high, but so were the rewards. We have worked in some of the toughest places, it was an extremely hard life. However, we survived and built up an infrastructure to cope with challenges. We have come a long way since then, but our motto essentially remains unchanged - we don’t shy away from a challenge. We take it one step at a time, we set achievable targets and do things differently,” explains Dr Ali. Galfar has been involved with some of the biggest construction projects in the Sultanate, from the Salalah Waste Water Project to hospitals in Sur, Nizwa, Ibri, the Nizwa Souq, stadiums in Ibri and Sur, and the new link road in Qurum. Dr Mohammed Ali says, Galfar is a construction company that seeks to build a brand. It believes in delivering quality products stamped with its hallmark of reliability. “As a result, people trust us. They know what we stand for, that when we undertake a job, we will deliver a guaranteed product within the stipulated time frame. Every project of ours represents our brand and its unique set of attributes.” This drive to do something to the best of one’s abilities is something, he says, that has carried him through his career. Dr Mohammed Ali started his career at the age of 17. He was working in India in Mizoram when his father made arrangements for him to take up an assignment in Dubai. The Gulf in those days was the expatriate job seekers’ El Dorado, and he was a young hopeful with stars in his eyes. It was while working in Dubai that Dr P. Mohammed Ali met Sheikh Salem, the Chairman of Galfar, who had come down to source manpower, materials and equipment to start a construction outfit. He was interviewed along with five others. “We were all recruited and that was the beginning of the company,” says Dr P. Mohammed Ali. Dr Mohammed Ali claims to be a cautious risk taker. “I do take risks, but I do not jump into the fray without doing my homework. I understand what’s required and then work a way out. I discuss the issue with relevant people and work alongside them.

“I believe,” he continues, “in leading by example. “So when we venture into an unknown territory, I go there first - that encourages and strengthens my team. You have to be there for your people, even now that’s my number one priority. Whenever and wherever my people need me I will be, physically there for them, no matter what. We have to make people believe in themselves and in their capabilities in order to motivate them. You need your people to trust you, when they believe in you and in themselves, the company moves forward.” This spirit propelled Galfar to rapid growth, subsidiaries spun out of the parent company and today the group consists of 14 companies. He has taken on the mantle of an educationist. The Caledonian College of Engineering, the Indian School in Al Ghubra and the Oman Medical College are all promoted by Galfar. So is Ali a philanthropic? “Not at all,” he denies vehemently. “I’m not a saint, but raking in money does not goad me anymore. I won’t deny it was enjoyable when I could afford to meet my first few needs, but even then, I always focused on the task entrusted to me, that of managing the company. Money then becomes a by-product of that success.” Ali says education and development of human resources is vital for any country. “However rich the country may be in terms of its GDP and economic indicators, if its citizens are not educated and competent enough to handle its wealth and resources, what is the use of all its money? Education is the key to developing people and the community.”

Success has not changed him, because he has not forgotten his roots. “I enjoy going back to my village. In fact, though I live here, I see my relatives very often.”

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