Al Laith – A Transforming Business

Al Laith has a proud history behind it, but the firm is preparing itself to enter a bold new era.

With its portfolio of design, engineering, project management and technical temporary infrastructure projects around the Middle East, Al Laith has been recognised as the leading one-stop provider of temporary infrastructure solutions in the region.

Its reputation saw it bought up by investment firm CG Tech in 2016.

“We invest in businesses that have a good team, a broad spread of clients and where we think we can add an innovative touch and a strong culture to them,” says Jason English, CEO of Al Laith and CG Tech.

These are qualities that were readily on display in Al Laith.

“It comes down to having delivered for 27 years in a difficult region or it wouldn’t be in business,” English says. “Building the business over 27 years has been thanks to the incredible group of people who have worked here over the long term. They understand our clients, the industry, and the way our business operates and works.”

Al Laith is behind some magnificent projects in the region. It constructed the temporary infrastructure for numerous large scale, high-profile projects in 2021, including the UAE’s 50th National Day, the Dubai 7’s Rugby Stadium, the Shindagha Bridge, a new wastewater treatment plant, all the concert venues for Expo 2020, Formula E, Riyadh Seasons and MDL Beast (Sound Storm). The company’s other unique selling point is that it is the only provider in its sector serving as a sale and rentals company as well as an EPC (Engineering, Project Management and Construction) company.

“The combination of our EPC services backed up by a full suite of rental equipment and facilities allows us the flexibility to have a wider offering for clients, which ultimately makes their lives a lot simpler,” English tells us. “We can provide a lot of temporary infrastructure and logistics that would normally need to be hired from other companies, creating a single point of contact and efficient delivery. We also have an internal technology arm that does R&D. They’re generating innovation, building software solutions we have deployed and helping us roll out IoT systems and digital transformation within the business. We are using technology to help us render virtual immersive experiences for our products and project builds that we use to showcase to our clients.”

Changing Times

In delivering these services, like every other company in the sector, Al Laith has faced unprecedented challenges over the last two years.

“Construction and events are the core areas where we work and I can’t think of two industries more disrupted by Covid,” English admits. “So, we have spent that time focusing on how to not go out of business. Nobody knew how long the pandemic would go on for, so we set ourselves key challenges. The first was to sustain the business while doing as little damage to the employee base as possible. We wanted no mass retrenchments, no getting rid of people. We focused on how to reduce salaries as little as possible while protecting local communities from the repercussions as much as possible. At the same time, we tried to emerge stronger by continuing to invest in new products, new technologies, training & everything in between.”

The effects of the pandemic, combined with the innovation within CG Tech, have meant that Al Laith has been undergoing a period of change.

“With the results of Covid, many businesses have undergone restructuring. Because of our name, we were seen as a scaffolding company, but we’re much more than that. So, we are changing that narrative on a 27-year history,” says English. “Restructuring has been a big challenge and getting people aligned with our vision takes time but we’re making progress and when we come out of that process, we will be an even stronger business.”

Of course, change in general is always a challenging process for companies with a long history. and Jason understands that.

“There is an issue of legacy. It can be hard to get people to change their ways when they’ve been doing something the same way for a long time,” English points out. “When somebody new, like myself, comes along who wants to change the narrative of the business it can be somewhat overwhelming, and many decisions are questioned. But this is normal, and I have been through transformations before, so it’s simply a process we have to push through”

However, these changes are also essential, as the last two years have demonstrated.

“In the modern world we have to innovate, be more efficient, more productive,” English insists. “Historically the business operated on a very cost-tight model. This served its purpose but when you focus solely on costs you forget about creating depth in your team structures, investing in new capital equipment and you lose the ability to innovate and think outside the box. Coming out of the pandemic, work has been overwhelming, but we’ve swum upriver against many odds.”

Part of that change has been bringing new blood into the company.

“We’ve recruited a lot more people into the company. A mix of younger, forward-thinking people with no history as well as experienced and talented individuals. The ‘newbies’ can shake up the pot and bring new ways of doing things to support the changes we want to make within the business, which is driven around innovating, building depth and capacity, and implementing better systems and procedures, whilst the experienced and anchor teams can ensure business continues as usual” says English.

It also means reshaping the company’s identity. One of the ways Al Laith will emerge stronger is by refreshing its brand. Al Laith was a 25-year-old brand when COVID hit and yet launched a massive rebranding campaign, with a fresh logo and fresh look.

“We wanted the team to feel energised during a time when the world was confused and dull. There’s been a huge focus on the rollout of our new brand across Al Laith both physically and digitally. We are building our e-commerce platform and social media channels,” English says. “We’re reviving the website, brochures, and clothing. Everybody and everything is branded. This ensures we all represent a brand we believe in.”

Supporting Communities

It is important to English that Al Laith succeeds, not just for its own sake but also for the sake of the communities it invests in and supports.

“In the Middle East, we make the biggest impact in supporting education. Outside the Middle East we also focus on education and initiatives of national or international importance, such as tackling rhino poaching which is a global issue,” English says. “One initiative I’m passionate about is funding kids in the Middle East whose parents lost their jobs through Covid. We’ve funded four kids of determination who are at a special needs school. We fund their school fees so that they can have an opportunity in life to succeed. We have also funded the South African Robotics team (The Springbots) since their inception who have gone on to compete in world championships as well as young school athletes, the WWF, and we have supported kids with eye testing and procurement of glasses.”

The Springbots were not school graduates with money behind them from their parents, but kids from disadvantaged backgrounds in rural areas.

“We assembled the team, got them coaches, sent our innovation teams from London to South Africa to train them,” English recalls. “We want kids from poor backgrounds to see that they can participate in this revolution of robotics. It’s a story of inspiration & hope for Africa.”

Hope is a watchword, & with its new brand and restructuring, Al Laith will play an important role in CG Tech’s overall strategy.

“Al Laith will remain Middle East focused and expand regionally. We already have a presence in Saudi Arabia and Oman and want to increase our footprint into oil and gas and Qatar,” English explains. “We have already formed joint ventures with strong firms and we have played a pivotal role in transforming the UAE over the past 27 years. Now we want to further that story by helping to transform Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East over the next 20 years. It’s an exciting time for our team that is on this journey with us, and we have made big steps in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. We have reset the clock on our 27 years as we come out of Covid, and now we are back at Day One of a new era.”

More like this