Q&A: Staying competitive as a startup consultancy
Petrocontracts CEO Satender Sharma talks about operating as a startup in the regional oil and gas consultancy market, and how he takes a strategic approach to growth
What is it like to operate as a startup in this space?
Before starting my company, I was working for Petrofac International, and I have years of experience, so I have quite strong knowledge and awareness of the industry, whether it is Oman, Kuwait, or other areas, I know practically everybody. So, out of my personal experience now, we have started a company.
What are some of Petrocontracts' achievements since it was launched in Dubai last year?
We have done recently three big projects, we have served companies like Larsen & Toubro, and we are also serving companies all over the region. We are working in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iraq.
When I think about the milestones we have achieved, even as a startup company, we have succeeded quite well at getting orders from the market and have already completed some of those orders. That is a good achievement for a startup company that came out of nowhere and is doing business in their first year; We are being approached by contractors for business, now.
What is your long-term vision for the company, and what is your strategy to realise that vision?
Long term, my vision is for Petrocontracts to become international like some of the bigger companies, like Wood Group, for example.
We have to be cautious to stay competitive, and we are trying to reduce overhead. What we are doing is trying to keep a continuous flow of orders in our hands, to keep the organisation floating with us permanently. We also have limited the number of core staff, and we bring people in as required. This is how we optimise cost to remain competitive in this market.
Ultimately, we are not supplying a product, it is a service, so we can optimise our services by cutting overhead. That's why I think we have been favoured, because people know me, and they know that a product coming from me will be of high quality. It is also because the team we are hiring has been working with me for years, so there is the interconnectivity.
What are some of the challenges associated with being a startup in this market?
The key challenges are, to start with, that we have limited our scope to project management. As such, budget constraints are a concern, and companies are quite strict about their budget when hiring people like us.
Also, when some companies see a startup, they aren't sure about the value that we will bring, and some try to compare us with the big names. That becomes a challenge, and we have to convince them that those are only names, and the actual work is going to be done by the individuals with experience.
The qualification of the person is what matters, rather than the qualification of the company.