Sultan Sobhi Batterjee, CEO of IHCC, gives CBNME a few insights into what it takes to run a specialised construction business
IHCC is a turnkey solutions provider, taking projects from inception to completion starting with the concept design to construction and equipping. Their portfolio is based on healthcare, education and mixed use projects, which includes hospitals, medical towers, medical clinics, speciality centres, speciality hospitals, universities, colleges, and schools. IHCC is a buiding specialist, usually dealing with the latest trend of project management and hygienic safety. Sultan Sobhi Batterjee gives us an insight into what it is like to run his business.
What makes IHCC unique?
We really believe that our leadership in the industry comes from being a specialised business. We started off as the International Hospital Construction Company specialising in hospitals that grew into healthcare facilities which is a lot broader than just hospitals.
Even though our experience majorly consists of healthcare, which we are very proud of, we decided to grow our speciality in the educational facilities as well and shortening our name to IHCC.
Eventually healthcare and education have transformed into mixed-use products. This was logical as hospitals now were not just hospitals anymore, they have been attached to educational, retail and residential facilities as well. For example, Saudi German Hospital in Dubai, was initially a US$140 million project that consisted of a 300 bed general hospital. We then signed a contract to further develop seven residential towers. And now we have just signed a contract with them for six more centres of excellence that consists of commercial space which will include a miniature mall, educational facility, elderly homes, specialty centres for orthopedic, trauma centre and a long stay hospital.
So therefore you see the transformation of our speciality from hospitals, to healthcare, to education to mixed use, which includes residential and retail.
How has being a specialised business been an advantage?
We still stick to our speciality which is healthcare because we believe that a specialised company would be more recognised and caters specific clients. In addition the learning cycle improves our knowledge and makes us better. By being too diversified such as dealing with construction projects with dams and malls, airports and factories, we would be spreading ourselves too thin and wouldn’t stand out for a specific industry. Being specialised has added to our portfolio which makes clients approach us on a daily basis. We have a good track record of more than a couple of billion Emirati dirhams of projects completed in the MENA region in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Yemen, and now we are planning to expand more.
What are the some of your new projects?
Now we have discussions going on for more projects in different emirates in the UAE.
A month ago we just signed a project in Ajman for a miniature medical city with a hospital which is going to handle 50 to 200 bed hospital, with centres of excellence and accommodation buildings.
In Egypt we are currently working on a project in Cairo, which is a 300 bed hospital handled by Saudi German hospital which we are planning to hand over in seven months. We are also working on an educational project, a teaching hospital in Jeddah that is a mix between a non-for-profit teaching hospital and a teaching hospital.
There are a couple of residential complexes in Saudi Arabia and a medical tower project in the South of Saudi Arabia taken a month ago. We have also completed a number of projects in Saudi Arabia which includes mixed use and residential projects including apartments, condominiums for real estate development companies, and more.
All of these things keeps us engaged and adds to our knowledge, credibility and to our speciality, and makes a unique standard.
How is building or renovating a hospital more challenging than any other residential or commercial building?
Building hospitals is not a common business; they are not like any other construction projects. If you think about a hotel project, what are the clients or the people in the hotel going to complain about? There would be complaints about the food, or smoking rooms. The complaints are not that major but when you deal with a hospital, each patient is unique. They have different needs, injuries which require dissimilar surgeries. When you decide on a project you have to be very careful in the planning stage. You have to be very sound and safety cautious, with extra precautions against germs and infections. Safety and quality is extremely important.
Planning is key. Especially in cases of renovation, hospitals cannot just shut down. If a hotel is being renovated you could just shut it down but a hospital cannot. There are patients that are being treated, and it depends on their lives. Healthcare is not a luxury it is a necessity. People use hospitals to get treated, it is done for their survival. You have to plan your renovation and construction properly in phases so that the workflow of the renovation does not interrupt the patients or the traffic flow of the hospital.
Do you plan for expansion while working on a project?
Hospitals expand on a frequent basis, you have hospitals that have 50 beds and then they grow to a 100 beds. If the number of patients grow, the hospital needs to expand. A project must be planned in such a way that expansion can be possible and it does not get stuck in the future. It is the responsibility of the turnkey company to put themselves in the client’s shoes and not just think about current building project and getting done with it. You have to put yourself in the clients place and think about the future. What are his needs? What is he going to face? What he might need in the future? In case of expansion there are several things to be kept in mind during construction. If you want to expand vertically and have only two elevators, how are all these people going to get to the top floors? So you have to plan for other shafts and other elevators, so that if the expansion does go vertical you could add to these shafts without breaking any slabs or anything in the building and causing major damage to the building. On the other hand if you are going to expand horizontally, is there enough land in the surrounding area?
It is a complicated experience that needs thought, experience, connectivity, and communication.