140 square kilometers of Dubai desert will be transformed into the world´s largest airport. Meet the dealer and the contractor who have taken on the job.
Constructing an aerotropolis
Per Lorentzon changed quiet Eskilstuna for busy
Dubai. He is now promoting Volvo Construction Equipment in the emirate where construction work is literally everywhere.
Per Lorentzon is standing at a construction site in Dubai. Excavators and rigid haulers are operating, looking just like giant insects in the sand. In a few years´ time the dunes around him will be transformed into a whole new type of city, the aerotropolis, a cityform evolved around Al Maktoum Airport, by then one of the world’s largest aviation hubs.
“A lot of places in the world have visions. What I find interesting with Dubai is how the emirate makes its visions come true. Dubai doesn´t want to follow, the emirate wants to lead. I think one must respect them for that”, says Per Lorentzon.
The Emirate of Dubai is working on positioning itself as a place where connections will be made in many ways. Not least with the expansion of Al Maktoum Airport. The airport is operational, mainly for cargo flights, but is currently undergoing the first development phase to become the world´s largest airport. The airport will be an eight-hour flight away from both Europe and Asia.
“The Expo2020 is important for drawing attention to Dubai, the region and the emirate´s vision. But I think the expansion of the Al Maktoum Airport will be of a more structural importance to the region long after the doors have closed on Expo2020. Dubai is strengthening its position as a logistic hub to count on”, says Per Lorentzon.
It has been one and a half year since Per Lorentzon and his wife Lena decided to leave Eskilstuna in Sweden and bring their two sons to live in Dubai, at least for two years. They are now part of the large expat community of Dubai. More than 80 percent of the emirate´s population are expatriates and more than 200 nationalities live in Dubai. Per Lorentzon works closely with people from all over the world.
“The cultural mix can sometimes be challenging, both privately and in business, but it is also a big part of what makes Dubai such an interesting place to live and work in. I also believe it is a big contributor to the success of the development of the emirate”, says Per Lorentzon.
He has twenty years of experience working for Volvo Construction Equipment, mainly from commercial aftermarket. His role now is to be responsible for sales in a number of countries across the Middle East.
“Before we left for Dubai I was told that the market and its demands were very different here compared to Europe from where I have the majority of my experience. I was for example told fuel consumption of equipment was not a big topic, as fuel prices are so low. I do not find that entirely true. Fuel prices are rising and a lot of business here is influenced by employees with background in for example Europe or the US where savings on fuel consumption have been at the top of the agenda for a long time. Total cost of ownership and environmental aspects are becoming more important in the Middle East too”, says Per Lorentzon.
He says his driving force is to help customers work more efficiently.
“Since I know both our machines and our services I can focus on the solution as a whole which is a benefit. Naturally, not all customers are open to combining their machine purchase with services right now, but it is something I really like and believe in since it adds real value to a customer’s businesses. I have seen how monitoring the fleet has been an eye opener to fleet managers also here in UAE, and that is normally the starting point for implementing a more structural way to increase efficiency and productivity”, says Per Lorentzon.
Title: Business Manager
Background: Has worked for Volvo Construction Equipment since 1998.
Stationed in Dubai since: 2016
Family: Wife Lena. Two children, Filip, six years old and Oliver, four years old.
Lives: In The Lakes, Dubai. ”We were looking for a small house, and found one that is small for being Dubai, but huge with Swedish measures. A standard bedroom in Dubai seems to be the size of a small apartment in Sweden.”
Home: Eskilstuna. I am born and raised there while Lena moved there from a neighbouring town as a small child.
On the market in the Middle East:
The large down turn in the gulf is mainly a result of the big drop in oil prices during 2014 and 2015 which not only affected many businesses in the oil dependent economies, but also forced governments into a more restrictive investment policy. With oil prices now starting to pick up again we see a gradual improvement in the macro economic climate leading to the return of more positive business outlooks and structural investments from governments. The economy is picking up but is uneven throughout the region. The United Arab Emirates and Dubai had a slump, but not as deep as other parts of the Middle East. Quite a few both large and small construction and quarry businesses in the region went bankrupt during the crisis. The ones who are left had focus on cost control, efficiency and risk diversification.
Partly driven by the recent political instability in the region and the many large scale projects in UAE, there has also been a shift from quarry operations towards construction and infrastructure related demand for equipment.
On key learnings for the family living as expats:
“Language is definitely one. Our sons are seven and four years old. Our oldest could make his way around in English after a few months in school. Now, I hear the two of them play together, speaking English sometimes. Another aspect for the kids is learning there are different walks of life. But maybe cultural differences are something we grown-ups focus on? The children seem to deal with that in a very natural way. “If you play football you are my friend”-kind of approach where skin colour, financial situation or religious background is completely irrelevant. The entire family now have made friends with people from all over the world and with completely different backgrounds which is one of the big takeaways from our life here. I don’t see many other places where we would have had this opportunity.”