By Nadine Abou el Atta
It is often believed that a core product is half the commodity, and the visual presentation is the other half. The same concept proves true for many matters in life, as it is a core human nature to shape perception on visual stimulation; a fact that any sound business is well aware of.
The quality of interior finishing and construction has become in recent years a core element in shaping the visual perception of the level of quality in commercial venues now a days, especially those that rely on attracting a constant flow of customers, such as a restaurant or a retail shot.
To better explore the effect of interior finishing on the potential of commercial businesses in the industry, Invest-Gate sat with Nabil Badr, Managing Director of Grid Fine Finishes.
When asked about the company’s added value to the commercial market in Egypt, Badr answered, “We simply bring design dreams to reality.” According to Badr, due to the increasing competition, most clients now are seeking highly artistic designs for their businesses, thus making it more challenging to translate these designs to reality.
“This is where Grid Fine Finishes comes in; our value is highly visible in sophisticated interior designs. We study such projects extensively; in some cases, we propose finishing materials and several methods of implementation. As seen in all our finished projects, we are very precise and meticulous when it comes to finishes,” he added.
“The company is the brainchild of five experienced engineers. Having worked with multinationals for over 15 years, these five engineers have extensive experience in various areas, including architecture, interior design, management, consultancy, contracting, real estate development, and projects management,” Badr added.
Numerous studies have been performed on consumer behavior, proving the staggering effect simple differences in surroundings could have on the buying behavior of customers. Invest-Gate asked Badr about his opinion on the role of internal construction and finishing in enhancing the experience of customers. “While this question is better answered by an interior designer or an artist, I still believe that it is the construction company that makes any design looks great, durable and interesting to re-visit. For example, a restaurant could look very artistic in 3D, and you get the feeling that you want to eat in it when it is built. Yet when the project is completed, the place may not be as comfortable as you may have expected, the restaurant may also be worn out in just few months,” he answered, noting that the same issue can be seen in retail shops and office spaces, as well.
“We started to see very attractive designs and we have even completed one of those projects that turned out to be a remarkable office space in Zamalek. Now the feedback we got from our client is that their executive team and their visitors from either Egypt or abroad are quite impressed by the office and the quality of finishes. They even mentioned that, once you walk into the office, you simply feel that you have traveled to an office in Europe. This could only be achieved by a great and impressive design, detailed set of drawings, a contractor that knows how to do the job, and finally a client who decided to trust in the designer’s vision and the contractor ability to deliver,” Badr explained.
In talks about trusting a contractor’s ability to deliver, Badr highlighted that in the commercial market even a delay of few days could translate to significant financial implications, adding “that is why we at Grid are very conscious of delivery dates. We set them right from the beginning and we deliver on time.”
Measuring Quality and Choice of Space
For owners of commercial properties, evaluating the quality of a contractor’s work before hand is easier said than done. As for Badr’s advice to commercial investors on the matter, he said that the easiest method to understand the quality of finishes and differentiate between the different levels of quality is to visit the projects completed by the company an investor is about to contract with. “See their work in real life; don’t just view their Facebook page or website. Read their profile, meet the team, and request a contract bound by a delivery time frame,” he advises.
In terms of cost, Badr commented that “while the general perception of contracting a reputable company to construct your project is that such a company will be expensive, it is quite the opposite. A reputable contractor will save you time, which costs a lot of money in commercial businesses. They should get it right from the beginning, and will finish the job on time and with high precision and quality, therefore, extending the lifetime of the used materials and the overall commercial business property lifetime.”
A crucial aspect, not only for the interior appeal of a commercial property, but for its functionality as a whole, is space usage. Commenting on the topic, Badr advises commercial property owners to “make sure that the property purchased satisfies all space needs, and includes all, or is at least equipped for all, utilities, such as an AC system connection provided by the landlord, and that electricity loads are enough for your type of business, ventilation and exhaust openings in the case of restaurants, water supply and gas connection. I also recommend ensuring that the location can accommodate sufficient parking space for the targeted number of clients.”
Evolution of Market, Challenges, and the Future
When asked about the challenges they face, Badr commented that, like any company, they face a few challenges, most notably the difficulties faced in importing the needed finishing materials. “They are now becoming difficult to find, yet we have turned this challenge into an opportunity for us, as we have succeeded on several occasions to convince local manufactures to replicate an imported material by presenting a market need case. We have also manufactured a replica of some imported accessories that have gone out of stock,” he said, adding that “in several projects, Grid has manufactured an exact replica of an accessory that was made in Europe at a lower cost.”
“China’s economy took off by replicating commodities, and while they still do, they have become the top exporter worldwide of everything we deal with on daily basis. I am optimistic that we will reach somewhere good by working hard and leveraging good ideas,” he continued.
“Another challenge is with skilled labor, who are hard to find and maintain. Commitment of labor is the major challenge in our line of business, and this is where the human aspect and social intelligence plays a major role. There must be a balance between being tough and requesting the job to be done on time with the highest precision, and between being humble and understanding of their ability to complete the job in an acceptable timeline and manner. This skill can’t be taught, you gain it by experience,” said Badr.
Moving on to how the market has evolved, especially in the past decade, where a steep shift has become more visible. “We have seen major changes over the past years, either in mega malls or on the side of office buildings. With the expansion of mega malls and all franchises being brought into the Egyptian market came the hunt of business investors for a construction company that could accelerate their expansion plans in the market and abide by delivery dates and contracts. The same applies for all the newly introduced office buildings and spaces in 6th of October and New Cairo. In all cases, from restaurants, retails shops or office buildings, all investors are now seeking attractive interior designs that represent their businesses and a contractor who can build these designs. We are optimistic regarding the growth of such establishments, which will bring more business for contracting companies, hence providing more unique designed and built properties,” commented Badr.
When asked about the increase of competition that resulted from the changes in the commercial market, and its move towards a more international orientation, Badr explained that market competition has enhanced the level and complexity of design, mandating certain finishing needs, especially in terms of materials and accessories, most of which need to be imported.
“The evolution of market needs resulted in increasing the level of competition either between designers or between contractors, and each are providing at the best of their capability. Such competition resulted in mutual agreements between designers and contractors, who are bringing their forces together to deliver great projects,” he added.
In closing, Invest-Gate asked Badr about how the Egyptian market compares to the neighboring markets, namely the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “In designs, and with respect to small and medium projects, I personally see no gap when compared with t he UAE. Believe it or not, we have great designers here in Egypt who can match international designers. Yet, some of them need to work on the quality of their drawing packages,” he answered, noting a difference in the execution of large projects, where in most neighboring countries a consortium or a group companies work together on delivering these types of projects.
“However, in construction or contracting, yes, we have a gap that must be filled. This gap is due to the limitation of skilled labor in some areas, as well as the limitation of materials and accessories required in finishes, and finally the limitation of tools and advanced machinery,” continued Badr.
“If, as a country, we continue to build more establishments, and as individuals, to enhance our skills and challenge our limits, then I believe it is only a matter of time until we reach the best version of Egypt without comparing ourselves to other countries that have different experiences and circumstances,” he concluded.
Perception is everything when it comes to a commercial venture that deals with everyday customers, and perception of a company offering services as its core product is often dictated by the internal presentation of its venue. In a restaurant for example, the lighting, the surrounding sound, the feel of the furniture all affect the perception of the taste and perceived quality of the brand. A matter that is crucial to the success of any commercial business.