Trencon Construction – A Time to Build
Trencon services the commercial, industrial, and residential markets of South Africa. Its unique approach to doing business and ability to deliver projects of high complexity on time and within budget has made it the contractor of choice.
South Africa’s construction industry is a volatile environment at the moment, with urgent demand in some places while other markets shrink. Trencon is a company ready to navigate these challenges.
“That we are 100% black woman-owned is a distinguishing feature that gives us a unique competitive advantage but over the years we’ve developed a good reputation in the market thanks to our ability to deliver projects on time and of the highest quality,” says Yavani Singh-Ninan, Trencon’s CEO.
Singh-Ninan has taken over the role of CEO from her father, Dino Singh, who passed away in July last year after shepherding the company for nearly 27 years. Singh-Ninan is continuing his legacy.
“Our flat management structure means we are very client-centric, tailoring our work to the needs of the client in innovative ways to deliver a quality end product,” she tells us.
That management structure, and the hands-on attitude of the company leadership, is a tradition that Singh-Ninan has continued as CEO.
Most of Trencon’s business is in the construction of office buildings, shopping centres, residential projects, schools, and hospitals.
“Our business and work continue to be in that area, but we also carry out community and civil engineering works,” says Toni Flavio, COO. “We will do anything with structural concrete.”
While Trencon is well established across each of its markets, the construction sector has been subject to new challenges and seismic shifts over the last couple of years.
“Our work in the commercial office building sector has slowed down due to Covid, so lately we have been involved with universities around student accommodation, and the renewable energy space,” says Singh-Ninan.
“There is no more requirement for office space,” Flavio concurs. “People tend to work from home so the need for office space has really gone, and that’s a challenge because a huge chunk of our business was building office blocks. We have had to have a look at new markets. One is the renewable energy sector. We’re involved in solar projects, and gas-powered projects.”
As well as helping to fill the void left by the shift from office-based work, these projects can also help meet the pressing energy needs of South Africa.
“Our power stations are very inefficient at this point so it’s high time for renewable energy and we’re getting really involved in that at this time,” Flavio says.
“There’s a shortage of student accommodation,” Singh-Ninan adds. “Universities are desperate for student accommodation so that’s also an important market. We’re trying to grow our business in that space.”
“We’ve also seen huge demand from the government in the hospital building,” Flavio points out. “Tenders have come out and we responded to those as well.”
“We’ve just completed one of the biggest private hospitals in the country, our biggest project to date, finished on time to the best quality standards in the country,” Singh-Ninan tells us.
Flavio adds, “We’ve also diversified the way we work. We do design and construction, appoint professional teams, and find solutions for customers. We take part in public-private partnerships and participate in the full spectrum of construction contracts through from normal construction to design and build, PPPs and beyond.”
These public-private partnerships and government-funded projects are important, as a consistent issue for South Africa’s construction industry has been a lack of necessary infrastructure investment.
“We’ve been promised infrastructure spending for the last few years, so that’s been slow getting off the ground,” Flavio says. “There’s a lot of work that needs to happen in this country in water, schools, roads, etc. That all needs to happen and we’re gearing up for it.”
At the same time, as Singh-Ninan points out, the private sector is extremely competitive in terms of cost.
“It’s a low margin environment, we see a lot of undercutting by competitors,” Singh-Ninan says. “As an industry, we need to grow and expand to take advantage of the larger projects that need to happen.”
Built on Relationships
Trencon’s flat management structure means its leadership are in close contact not only with their customers but also their staff.
“We’ve been quite fortunate that many of our staff have been here for many years, and are very happy here,” Flavio says. “We’re close to our staff as well as our customers. We’ve invested in making sure the people that work at Trencon are happy working at Trencon.”
Indeed, word-of-mouth has proved a valuable recruitment tool for the company.
“We haven’t recruited any staff through agencies until now. Our senior personnel build relationships with individuals through previous projects, and we try to rely on relationships and word-of-mouth,” Singh-Ninan tells us. “Construction is a small industry, everyone knows each other. You really are as good as your last building.”
The construction industry has undergone tumultuous times recently, and there are more challenges ahead, but Trencon is a company ready to withstand those challenges.
“Over the last five or six years we’ve seen many of the major listed construction companies in this country not survive, and we’re proud to have climbed to take our position in the top tier of construction businesses in the last few years,” Flavio says. “We’re well respected to build or construct any size project in this country.”
“Given where we are in terms of the economy, it is important we respond to needs in terms of renewables, student accommodation, and hospitals. But it is also important that we innovate and respond differently, think outside of the box, diversify, and look into the property development side as well as the construction side of the business,” Singh-Ninan concludes. “We’re at a critical juncture for the business so it’s important to be innovative, cutting edge and distinguish ourselves from our competitors.”
Yavani Singh-Ninan, CEO & Toni Flavio, COO, Trencon