“We are leading this company with a team. It is not a one-man show” says Farsi Khudabux, CEO of the Baitali Group. Since its early days in the 1960s, Baitali Group has managed to diversify and grow while maintaining its high technical standards and team-oriented perspective. Nowadays, its over 350 employees work in six different companies in the areas of construction, infrastructure and agriculture: AMB civil infrastructure, BPP pavement products, BPTT lab testing, Baitali Mining aggregates and armoured rock, MLN rice production and UCC cable infrastructure.
AMB is one of the largest civil construction contractors in Suriname, performing engineering, construction and project management on major infrastructure projects throughout the country. Its associate companies, BPP, BPTT and Baitali Mining, serve as suppliers providing the raw materials for construction as well as the testing and research facilities necessary to ensure the highest quality control in all production stages. As Khudabux explains, “we want to be involved in road construction from beginning to end. If you ride a Baitali road, the asphalt is made by Baitali, and the stone from the asphalt is also provided by Baitali. This way quality control is in our own hands.”
The group’s second major area, infrastructure, has also experienced exponential growth. They branched into cable and communications in 2019 given the growing importance of digital infrastructure. UCC offers a varied range of services including advising, installation and maintaining infrastructures relating to ICT networks (fiber-optic/copper), cable television, security and telecommunications systems, as well as electricity and drinking water.
Furthermore, they have exported their success by opening a Baitali branch in Georgetown, Guyana, which handles major infrastructure projects using raw materials from their own mining and pavement companies, as well as telecommunications projects working with a local telecom provider. As oil revenues are currently being invested in the development of Guyana, mostly in infrastructure, Baitali Group finds itself in an excellent position. “Business is starting to pick up. We see great perspectives in our Guyana based company”, says Khudabux.
In their agricultural division, they focus on rice production. MLN is an ISO-certified integrated rice producing enterprise that manages the planting, processing and exporting to Caribbean and European markets. While MLN has its own trial fields, in the coming years they plan to invest on a new state-of-the art rice production facility to further improve efficiency and quality. As Khudabux explains, “we believe food will be one of the biggest commodities of the future and we see tremendous opportunities for Suriname, a country that has a lot of unexploited land. We want to take the rice business one step ahead.”
Other future plans involve starting a Tier 2 services company in Suriname to provide oil companies with equipment, logistics and laboratory services, as well as marine services with their company’s vessels. They are looking to work in partnership with existing players of this industry so they can bring their expertise as facilitators and providers. “Once the oil revenues come we will be there to work in infrastructure. We will do what we are good at”, assures Mr. Khudabux.
In the meantime, they will continue to work on major construction and infrastructure projects that have translated into real sustainable development for Suriname. As Baitali Group’s CEO highlights, “Suriname is the land of opportunities, and local and foreign investors should find the best companies to invest in. Baitali is one of the organizations willing to take responsibility in the development of the country.”
An innovative international laboratory striving for excellence
When it comes to choosing the best mineral and environmental laboratory, Filab and Nana Resources is the most recommended reference in the field. Thanks to its progressive development strategy based on innovation and training, as well as the joint expertise of its international and local personnel, it has managed to achieve what few companies in Suriname have: to open a new and successful business field in the country.
They work in partnership with French Filab Laboratories in a 50-50 joint-venture, a successful arrangement that has allowed them to further expand and specialise, offering a varied range of services: from dissolving base metals and measuring gold content, to performing geochemical analyses of water and solid mineral samples, including all multi-elemental packages. “It is an excellent business opportunity in a growing market”, assures Henk Naarendorp, CEO and founder of Filab and Nana Resources.
In recent years they developed an ISO-certified environmental section that offers analyses specifically adapted to environmental samples, providing valuable environmental data to geologists as part of mineral exploration. “The mining sector and the environmental sector are closely related. We foresaw what was coming and invested in getting accredited, so now we have a competitive advantage”, states Naarendorp.
Filab and Nana Resources is also focused on training their personnel and providing internships to local chemistry students. “We must always think ahead. By offering high-quality and skilled employment we are giving people the ability to grow, and as a company we are becoming an essential part of the economic development of Suriname”, says Naarendorp.
They believe all these competitive advantages will be key for future investors, especially in the oil and gas industry. Like Naarendorp says, “we have the best equipment at hand and the capacity to train our staff, so if partners are looking at us to set a facility in the region we are ready to do that. We can compete with the best in the world.”