As the company lead, you inspire your staff and peers. Who have been your mentors, the individuals you continue to draw inspiration from?
A good upbringing, for any individual is an important aspect of one’s life, and in my case, of course my parents have played critical roles. My mother taught me to be resilient, focused and hard working. My father, on his part taught me to love. When he recently passed away, the number of positive messages that flowed in was overwhelming and in many ways, his life and his death taught me a lot.
While addressing those who had gathered for his prayer meeting, I stated that I was not really going to mourn my father’s death, I would celebrate his life instead. I also happened to read out a few of the messages I happened to receive on his passing and every single person only had good things to say about him. This included people representing three generations – his peers, those from my generation, as well kids hailing from the same generation as his grandchildren. While making me feel proud, it also imparted the meaning of life itself, because when one experiences death among one’s near and dear is when you start questioning the meaning of life itself.
Q: Please share a brief history of your firm and its service portfolio.
I would divide our services into three prime categories — product, distribution and services. I have always tried to focus on niche categories, on things that make us different from the rest of the world. My mantra is, when the room gets too crowded, leave. Right from 2008, for instance I have been saying that the aftersales market, what we call brownfield, or the established projects, need to be taken care of.
As businesses, we are used to following new builds all the time, but what happens to the old build? So, in 2017, which I call the second innings, after a hostile bid to take over by my previous local partner was thwarted, we went all out to focus on the service business. And truth be told, the pandemic actually helped us, as the need for savings came in, as did a need for sustainability. Netix Global, for instance is the product solutions company and ODS, the service arm. The focus for both is sustainability and on being carbon neutral, about carbon credits and being adaptive, and not to be disruptive.
Building management is a $275 billion industry globally, and in the region, we have captured a significant market share, starting with Dubai. We have taken on entire business solutions in the vertical for Emaar, for instance, as well as Damac and up to 77 buildings for Etisalat. We have also been taking on other projects here in the UAE, clients who were being serviced by their original equipment manufacturers but who have now shown faith in our capabilities. We are servicing them at reasonable prices while also retaining the original equipment they were working with.
The new business has allowed us to expand our operations, and besides Dubai we now have an office in Abu Dhabi, as well as in India and Saudi Arabia, with direct services and offices in Qatar, Egypt, Singapore, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada doing business through our channel partners.
Q: How much has the business in your vertical changed in these last two years, keeping the pandemic in mind, and how has your brand evolved to stay in step?
It may sound funny but it is true that during every downturn the economy may have faced, one or two of my companies have grown. So, the last time the region faced a recession in 2008, we launched Teknoware that deals in high end intelligent emergency lighting systems. Again, during the pandemic, Netix leading the digital transformation and ODS had the service license that allowed us to move around and meet critical client requirements even during the lockdown phase, a big boon that helped us retain and fortify the goodwill among our clients. We also built the intelligent Command Control Centre (iCCC) at our headquarters here in Dubai just before the pandemic started, helping us remotely manage multiple buildings and their assets across the emirates from our office.
It should be noted that our clients have gained immensely from this innovation. Emaar, a premium developer, who built the iconic Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall and hundreds of buildings across Dubai and the world, for instance was most successful during the pandemic as they were managing their building systems remotely, and with the help of our services and our knowledge of multiple known brands, helping them achieve spectacular savings.
We also won maintenance of 24 towers of Damac, connected 77 buildings for Etisalat on cloud, upgraded all the UAE branches of a major bank from conventional bms bringing the data to a central command centre, connecting 93 buildings of Al Wasl by building a dedicated wireless network on RF across 50km2, connectivity of Emirates airline crew accommodations and remotely monitoring their building assets. We have more than 1,000 services contracts and growing. Our recent expansion in Abu Dhabi has been well received and we are in discussions with major stakeholders for multiple opportunities.
The iCCC, being an AI enabled IoT platform also promoted the vertical’s advantages, helping analyse equipment performance in real time.
Q: Provide a bird’s eye perspective on how you see your sector evolving over the next decade and the part your organisation will play in this evolution.
Building automation as a sector has been around for the more than 100 years, with the Invention of the heat regulator around 1925, digital control in 1969, DDCs in 1980s, Ethernet and BACnet in 1986 & eventually the Internet also transformed building automation: connectivity had a huge impact on the real estate sector, facility management, manufacturing, and systems integration. Wi-Fi debuted and the term “Internet of Things” (IoT) was coined helping buildings perform smartly.
Considering many building maintenance operators are not professionally trained to handle the needs of the vertical today from an IoT perspective which is the need of the hour. What is also unique about us is that thanks to our continued focus on the service sector over the past 12 years, we managed to acquire critical knowledge on how operations worked for several building management systems, from major players; Honeywell, Siemens, Johnson Controls, Schneider, etc. We have been providing an option for building owners to manage their BMS at an economical cost. And being pioneers while entering this space as a small operator more than a decade back, we have in fact been organising an unorganised market, paving the road for others to come in and join us and service the category.
What we are in fact doing now is partnering with other firms to share our knowledge and expertise and allow our partners to continue the good work on our behalf. The future will be all about solutions & partnerships!In this regard, we launched a partner programme called the Netix Novus Partner Programme – Brown- field Revolution, at the Burj Khalifa last September and that announced several partnerships with industry stakeholders.
Leveraging the Novus partner network, for example, ODS, Netix can offer all the necessary skilled manpower to manage multiple vendor systems, while Netix’s android approach empowers seamless integration across vendors, breaking the monopoly of OEMs and legacy vendors. It helps create an open-protocol hardware-software interplay that maximises savings and minimises challenges, making it cost-effective and easy for the client to avail the benefits of the Netix connect platform. In short, the partner programme has been a huge success. We also initiated social media marketing and received phenomenal response including from major global and regional brands such as established global e-commerce and search engine platforms and themed entertainment and recreational parks.
Q: How critical is R&D to the evolution of a firm and how much of a role does it play in your organisation’s success?
Considering the dynamics of our sector and how rapidly it is evolving, R&D is extremely critical to the success of our firm. That being said, our relatively early entry into IoT-led building automation services has allowed the research we provide to be game changers in many ways. The future is about identifying needs that may not have a demand yet, and then finding solutions to meet those needs, which is exactly what our R&D team has achieved over the past decade — turning the needs into demand by allowing the end clients to taste and experience these solutions till they realise the need. We have been solution driven and work with key players to fulfill their requirements. This research has also given our brand recognition and the goodwill to be counted among the big boys.
Netix, for instance is a platinum sponsor, alongwith Honeywell and Johnson Controls at the Niagara Summit 2022 (NS2022), to be held in Charlotte, New Carolina, in the US next month. Held between April 4-6, NS2022 will feature technology that drives smart devices and machine-to-machine communication, offering a platform that is AI (Artificial Intelligence) enabled & ML (Machine Learning) driven, for global players to network and ideate.
Q: What advice do you have for those interested in making a mark in your sector, as well as for entrepreneurs in general?
Most successful leaders recognise the lessons they learnt from their failures and mistakes. To experience failure while building a business is critical for entrepreneurs and leaders, it gives them the knowledge, as well as strength, resilience and resolve to overcome adversity and inspire peers and staff to achieve success. In relation to this, it is equally important to be positive, no matter what the obstacles or odds might be, as miracles can happen if you know within your heart that what you have done is right, for your colleagues and for business.
Also, try and do everything with love. Share the love you have for your work with your staff and colleagues and you will observe this positivity rubbing off on them too. It’s this bond that will build and hold your organisation together through the worst and best of times. Most importantly, as a leader be fearless and explore new horizons with the belief that you will succeed in your endeavour. This belief system is magical, so stand firm by your convictions just so everyone around you feels the magic as well.
The Netix advantage
A leading smart buildings solutions provider with a presence across global markets, Netix has been able to quantify the achievable outcomes in buildings in a comprehensive and consolidated solution — unlike piecemeal players in the domain. It is on point with the current market need-gap for a building management solution that balances cost-savings, flexibility, and sustainability mandates.
Netix Controls and its Novus partners such as ODS Global, offer 3-pronged benefits to building owners –
1. Adaptive maintenance of existing BMS systems
2. Reduce skilled resources for clients while being able to enhance efficiency in operations
3. Open-protocol integration that eliminates the myth of closed proprietary dependencies – all of these culminating in up to 50 per cent reduction in building operation costs — a proposition matched by no one in the world
To fully appreciate how transformational this 3-way comprehensive solution can be for real estate owners as well as cities, one must understand the challenges posed by legacy, multi-vendor, OEM-led systems that are inflexible, heavy on Capex and Opex, demand employment of highly-skilled labour, while offering marginal efficiencies.