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Luxury Approach: Ibrahim Al-Othman

With a background in the oil industry, Ibrahim Al-Othman brought a wide-ranging skill set with him when he joined the United Development Company as President and CEO.

The journey to corporate leadership can often be long and lined with many challenges. Yet once these obstacles are overcome, CEOs gain one of the most prized abilities in business: adaptability.

Dealing firsthand with a range of difficult scenarios and tests early in their careers can provide leaders with insights they can then implement in their roles at the top of their organization.

In collaboration with

China Railway 18th Bureau Group

A transportation infrastructure-focused construction company valuing teamwork. A transportation infrastructure-focused construction company valuing teamwork.
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Before becoming President and CEO of Qatar’s leading construction firm, United Development Company (UDC), Ibrahim Al-Othman had a lengthy career in the oil industry. On joining UDC as CEO in 2015, he immediately put those well-honed skills to good use.

"Of course, shifting from the oil industry to real estate is a major change," Al-Othman explains. "Whether you are in the oil industry or any other sector, the role of the CEO will have the same principles. One has to be agile and have that ability to maneuver."

"There were obstacles and struggles here and there, but nothing that couldn’t be handled."

A Team Effort

Much has changed since Al-Othman became CEO of UDC, but these improvements have not revolved around one person. Each team member contributes to the strength of the UDC culture.

"We want to bring back the company to its roots, to focus on the main core of business, and that is being a development company that has undertaken to develop luxury projects," he adds.

"Whether you are in the oil industry or any other sector, the role of the CEO will have the same principles."

By focusing on optimizing costs and cutting redundancies across the business, shareholder value has been maximized and profit and dividends have been enhanced.

Al-Othman says this plan didn’t happen just by following a textbook.

"We really put our brains together, and the entire team focused on executing a clear business plan that took us a while to develop," he says. "Now we are achieving and seeing this business plan bring results successfully."

Major Milestones

Thanks to an ambitious business plan, which Al-Othman and his team update annually, UDC has completed major growth milestones.

UDC’s flagship project is The Pearl Island, an artificial, mixed-use island development 350 meters offshore from the capital, Doha.

Along with luxury precincts such as the Mediterranean-inspired Floresta Gardens with its gated neighborhoods and residential towers, UDC has constructed the Corinthia Yacht Club with restaurants, a members’ lounge and meeting facilities, a cigar lounge and yacht berthing spaces.

The company has also completed the UDC Tower, which rises more than 200 meters high at the entrance to the island and is home to a fine dining restaurant, fitness club, luxury car showroom and premium office space.

"We are also in the stage of fitting out a hospital as well," he adds, in reference to United Hospital International, which is set to open in the first quarter of 2024.

"We always try to do new things in the industry, and that’s why we’re open to new ideas, whether it’s international or local."

Al-Othman has also embarked on the development of Gewan Island, which offers a mix of recreational, commercial and residential facilities. A new golf course has been built on the island, with a five-star hotel under construction and due to be completed by the end of 2024.

"There is also a beach club that compliments the hotel and the golf course. There are beautiful villas that are going to be offered for leasing by the Corinthia Hotel, with magnificent beaches overseeing the crystal waters that we have," he says.

Al-Othman says the island will also have a retail area that is going to be air-conditioned during the summer, so people can walk, dine and shop in comfort.

"It’s a major project that we are still working on. It’s going to keep us busy," he acknowledges.

Transparency First

With the end goal of achieving best practices in the market at the most competitive rate, UDC has achieved ISO certification for business continuity management and other aspects of the practices and procedures the organization follows.

When it comes to supply chain management, UDC works to be as transparent with suppliers as possible, with any supplier company or contractor being able to register online and potentially be invited to tender.

Safety First

Coming from a background in the oil industry, which is very disciplined and where safety is at the forefront, Al-Othman could embed best practices at UDC regarding employee welfare.

"When I say safety of people, we start with our employees and our contractors and subcontractors," he says. "This is something where we cannot allow for mistakes or slippage. Without the company’s employees, you cannot have progress. This is something one has to always keep in mind."

"We always try to do new things in the industry, and that’s why we’re open to new ideas, whether it’s international or local," he says.

But it’s not just established relationships that UDC maintains. The company is open to working with new firms that it hasn’t worked with before and doesn’t use the same designers, consultants, buyers and contractors for every project. Instead, Al-Othman and his team are committed to finding the best supplier available.

Changing Ecosystem

Developing the right product for the luxury market is no easy task, especially when there is intense competition in the space. For Al-Othman, speaking to clients to find out exactly what they want from a retail unit or villa is essential.

"It’s really important when we undertake any development to understand what clients want from the ambience and the atmosphere that he or she will be living in," he adds.

"It’s really important when we undertake any development to understand what clients want from the ambience and the atmosphere that he or she will be living in."

Like many other businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on UDC. But the firm was fortunate to have an excellent team, which has done many exercises on business continuity management.

"We never envisioned that we would be hit with a pandemic," he says. "However, we were doing exercises and drills routinely on what if something happens to the office and we couldn’t come to work and do business normally. It impeded and slowed down progress, but now we’re back on track."

"UDC’s management adheres to top-quality management, efficiency, safety and sustainability principles. They have used their wisdom to build Pearl Island into a beautiful and livable place, ensuring that customers get good-quality services." –­ Hualin Jiang, General Manager, China Railway 18th Bureau Group
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