The story of Imdaad is incomplete without the story of the man leading it, for both their journeys are inextricably intertwined. It was the end of 2006 when Jamal Abdulla Lootah first heard about ‘facilities management.’ He was approached by the management of Dubai World with the request to head a new arm of the company.
“Facility Management? What was that? At that time no one knew exactly what it meant,” he recalls. Then the HR Executive Director of Dubai Word, Lootah was uncertain to take up on the offer. He had answered then, ‘Okay, give me some time. Let me think. Give me three to four days, and I'll get back to you.”
It was a tough decision, as he had worked hard to be where he was. His debut at Dubai World, which had more than ten subsidiaries under it, was in 1991 as a supervisor for security, and he had worked his way up to the post of HR Executive Director.
“It was a nice journey – a tough journey,” he remembers.
At the time, the real estate sector in Dubai was booming, and developers like Emaar and Nakheel were just establishing themselves in the market. After two to three days of contemplation, he took a call on the matter: "I decided yes." Hence, in 2007, Imdaad was born, and for Lootah, there has been no looking back since.
He recalls the proceedings of the decision fondly. "I remember the higher authorities of Dubai World calling and saying, ‘Jamal you will be the CEO. And I said okay, but I need the freedom to change anything I want in this company." The wish was gladly granted.
He remembers the process of selecting the new company's name.
"I was thinking, ‘What should I call this company?’ The company would support Dubai World, as well as all the developers, both private and government. So I wanted a name that reflects that. I called my colleagues and asked them. We discussed it for more than two to three days. Finally, we came up with 'Imdaad'.
"Imdaad means to supply, to support, or to give hand to the one who needs support," he says.
Honoring the name and what it stands for, Imdaad has now been serving its clients for 15 glorious years.
It's a service done with passion, a feeling Lootah is all too well familiar with.
"For me facilities management is a passion, and at Imdaad, we serve with passion. I believe that if you don't like your job or if you don't like your clients, you will not serve them to the best of your abilities, and definitely not for 15 years at a stretch."
The logo of the company reflects its aim and mission. "If you see the logo, it symbolizes the linking of the supplier, the clients and the people. I believe the main asset of any company is its people and our core value is to provide people service while making a difference,” he says.
This reflects in the company’s staff-centric policy as well. Employee well-being has always been a key focus for Lootah. For him, Imdaad had to be an establishment that centers around the betterment and well-being of its staff. For this, during Imdaad’s formative years, he met with several of the staff members to understand their needs and include their suggestions in the regulatory framework.
From the outset, Imdaad's aim was to be the best. "This company will be the best in the Middle East. That was the dream. Even my team was skeptical. They asked, 'Are we going to reach that level? I told them that I wouldn't go ahead with the plan for the company if anything was less than satisfactory. I told my team what we had to do for our clients, partners, and owners. If we wanted to be the best, we had to be transparent, we had to give the right price for the right service, and we shouldn't put any pressure on our clients by adding any extra costs. And from day one, I saw that my team was really pushing themselves. They said, 'Let's do this. Let's grow'. I am very lucky to have a great team by my side,” he remarks
At the time, Imdaad began its operations by providing hard services. After a few months, it started with soft services and environmental services.
"We grow as per the needs of our clients. We see a huge potential in linking all the required services to one company so that our clients need not look outside for any short service. We want everything to be in one basket."
Imdaad's journey has had its fair share of challenges. One particular challenge was in convincing clients of the company's independent stature.
"While we successfully grew out of Dubai World to be an independent and strong company, serving competitors was tough. For instance, Nakheel was competing with Emaar, and it was very difficult to convince Emaar to take our service because we are working for their competitors. So my goal became to let people know that I'm not with anyone. I am serving any developer, any government, and anyone needing facilities management,” he says.
The emirate of Dubai has witnessed a massive transformation from 2007. The remarkable growth in infrastructure and other facilities comes down to the efforts of the government in keeping Dubai at the forefront of development, both regionally and internationally.
"The government has encouraged an environment that is conducive for business. This had led to a lot of developers coming into Dubai to set up business and offices. If we compare a picture of Dubai in 2007 to now, the difference is huge. We are competing among ourselves to become the best in the world. We have the best airlines, the tallest towers and state-of-the-art cities that have autonomy and are managed well. We are lucky,” he comments.
Looking back, Lootah, understandably, feels proud of Imdaad's progress and accomplishments over the last 15 years.
With a large number of satisfied clients, both from the government and private sector, Imdaad is on a journey that looks promising.
In the next five years, the company hopes to expand its reach regionally and in Africa, as well as get more clients in Dubai and manage later areas of real estate.
Keeping up with client expectations, as a leading provider of FM services in the UAE, Imdaad has ensured to be at the forefront of the energy management, technology and sustainability drive.
"When it comes to technology, the market is keen to adopt smart solutions that reduce the use of manpower or reduce load responsibility on people. We are also focusing on sustainability as a key issue and how the use of the right materials can help the environment."
He says that people's focus on environmental issues is a huge motivational factor for FM companies to focus on sustainability measures.
"We can see the difference between people now and those in the 80s or 90s. Now, people understand the importance of going green and the need for recycling and reusing."
In 2020, Imdaad opened Farz, a state-of-the-art Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to recycle waste going to landfills.
Located in National Industries Park in Dubai, Farz has the capacity to handle 1,200 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) per day. "At the time, people were surprised that we invested in recycling plants," Lootah recalls.
However, for long-lasting environmental benefits, he believes it is not enough to just set up recycling plants. What is important is "educating the people and changing their habits to encourage reuse and recycling."
As the Co-Founder and President of the Middle East Facilities Management Association (MEFMA), a non-profit association that provides a platform for sharing knowledge and best practices for the facilities management industry, Lootah says that one of his key focuses is on raising awareness of the profession among those in the industry.
"In this type of business, one needs to convince the client on the importance of facilities management. Also, I would like to give the message to people entering this industry that it's not the kind of business you can make profits in within one month or through one contract. You have to offer the best price of the service. For some companies, it is challenging because they just want to win the contract but they do not have the resources to provide the service,” he says.
In facilities management, people are the most important factor. Investing in the training of staff is paramount to the success of the company.
"If you are not investing in training them about facility management and how important it is, it will be difficult. From day one, when you select the people for your company, you have to select the people who believe in facility management, who have the knowledge of at least on how to serve people,” he remarks.
Integration of FM services will continue to be a key factor in customer satisfaction for Imdaad. "Full service is a key requirement. To have one roof with the full range of services the building requires, will make it easier for any client to manage their facilities,”
"We will continue to provide the whole range of FM services that help our clients make money, protect their assets, and shift to smart technology. Our clients may not have the time to focus on their water use or electricity use. Our specialised services will help them get the most out of their buildings by considering all aspects, including fire safety, automation, water management and all soft services,” he says.
Pondering on the current state of affairs, Lootah believes that people nowadays are more aware of what facilities management is. He credits the efforts of the media as one reason for this change.
"I'd like to thank you guys. Without you guys as a medium, it would be difficult for us or the FM industry to grow."
He says that several times peers have asked him what facilities management is after reading or watching his interview.
With all the progress UAE has made on FM front, Lootah feels there is still room for improvement when it comes to raising awareness about the need for facilities management among building owners.
Facilities management protects assets, making them last longer and generating more income. With FM, building owners can extend the life of their buildings by ten to forty years.
He gives an example to put things into context, "If you are not maintaining your AC for, let's say two or three years, you have to change the compressor, which is going to cost you much more than what you would have spent if you had dedicated 10% of your yearly profit to facilities management."
"Similarly, if you don't regularly clean your buildings, you will lose the quality of your fixtures," he adds.
According to him, the pandemic was a transformational period for facilities management. It threw the limelight on the FM industry and the crucial role it plays in ensuring people's wellbeing and health.
"Facility Management became very important during Covid-19. We learnt a lot about how to clean and protect buildings, especially the entrances, and how to ensure the health and safety of the people using the facilities," he said.
He has only one piece of advice for the property owners. "Have at least 5% of your income invested in facilities management to retain the quality of your buildings and continue getting profits. Try it and you will thank yourself."