Hotel Insider sits down with Ismail Jumayyil Waheed, Managing Director, Nalahiya Trading Private Limited. 

A company with three decades of experience, Nalahiya needs little introduction. The business, which began as a simple start-up delivering cement to clients free of charge in the mid-80s, blossomed into a full-fledged enterprise over the next decade. Hotel Insider has a chat with its managing director Jumayyil to find out more about the company, its services to the resort sector, and talks about construction in a post-resort construction era. 

Hotel Insider: Can we talk a bit about Nalahiya’s main areas of focus? 

Jumayyil: We started out in 1985; back then, we were solely focussed on being a construction materials supplier. We began with 1000 bags of cement and we had a free delivery service. That was new at the time, free delivery, that was how we penetrated the market. We started adding more products to our portfolio, including sand, aggregate, steel; all materials that you’d need to construct a structure. We were sourcing things locally but later on, we purchased a vessel and started bringing in materials from abroad. We started shipping services to ensure the availability of materials. Today, we also provide separate logistics services, which includes delivery to resorts and islands, and we have a construction company that offers a complete solution to our clients. So, we’re integrated forwards and backwards. 

Hotel Insider: You offer construction solutions as well. 

Jumayyil: Yes, we do. We provide materials to resorts and we also offer construction services. We have a complete solution of construction materials under a single umbrella. There’s also something that we do that isn’t as visible: shipping. At the moment, we use it for our own purposes, to bring in our products. 

Hotel Insider: When did you get into shipping? 

Jumayyil: We started that not long after establishing ourselves actually. In the late 80s. 

Hotel Insider: Why did you think that was necessary?   

Jumayyil: To reduce freight, that’s the logic behind it. With our vessels we’d have a freight-control mechanism. It was also to cater to growing demand and to reduce unpredictability and ensure we get the product in the best possible quality. 

Hotel Insider: We’re in the middle of a construction boom; new resorts are cropping up every so often and more are to follow in the coming years. What can Nalahiya do to help out resorts under construction in this busy time? 

Jumayyil: We’re assisting quite a few resorts even now. We’re sourcing materials for them, we’re their supply and logistics partner. If we’re a logistics partner for instance, we’d take construction materials to the resort, offload them and take them to the site. Also, Nalahiya Trading brings in products that resorts don’t need in bulk and stores them at the company’s warehouse in Thilafshi. These products will then be delivered to the resorts according to their schedules.  

Hotel Insider: What bespoke services do you provide specifically for resort projects? 

Jumayyil: Resorts face a few challenges: they need storage facilities, they need availability and, of course, timely delivery. We provide storage services in the largest private port facility in the Maldives. Also, we provide ‘just in time’ delivery services to minimise the holding cost of the materials. 

Hotel Insider: I suppose having a private port is great when you have bulk orders. 

Jumayyil: Yes, we play a huge role when it comes to bulk and volume. I’d also like to add that we’re known for quality, availability and delivery. We’re using a quality cement, SCG, with a 100-year history in Thailand. Our steel is of the highest quality. Also when it comes to glass, we’re using products, like Guardian Glass, that have been used in places like Dubai, extremely durable and trusted products. We provide glass-cutting services; we have automated machines specifically for that. There’s no other party doing that in the Maldives. As for wood, we’re the only party that supplies what’s locally known as Malaysian plywood. It’s extremely easy to work with and durable and our clients have said as much. 

Hotel Insider: There’s a big focus on quality.  

Jumayyil: Yes, we are quality oriented. Cost comes second. 

Hotel Insider: All right. So, what sort of a role can Nalahiya play in bringing down costs and streamlining resort development?    

Jumayyil: When you’re developing a resort, you bring say six months’ or a year’s worth of materials in on a big vessel. Then you pile them up at the resort. But a resort won’t be completed in a year and for the duration of that year, the developer’s cashflow is affected. It’s a huge cost to bear. What Nalahiya can do for developers and construction groups is we can provide materials in the quantities that they want; they can place an order and pay and take the materials to the site. We’re doing this for several parties even now.   

Also, one of the most challenging aspects for developers is not getting their materials on time. This results in the project getting delayed. But when developers partner up with Nalahiya, we’ll make sure that our clients get their goods on time. We also insure our cargo, so the cost of an accident that affects the materials of our clients will be borne by us, not the clients. Our responsibility ends only when the materials are safely in our clients’ hands. 

Hotel Insider: OK. A tourism industry veteran has said that the industry will mature in the next few years. Meaning big resort building projects will dry up and this will affect the construction boom. Where will money be made then do you think? 

Jumayyil: This is something that we’ve considered, we’re planning for this actually. Without revealing everything, we can say that construction in the resort sector won’t be stopping completely. There will be reconstruction going on, resorts will add more rooms and so on. Of course, it won’t be at the scale we’re seeing right now. But there’s also something else on the horizon. The construction boom I think will then be fed by local islands. The guesthouse and local island tourism will be driving construction in the coming years. 

Hotel Insider: Right. And where do you think Nalahiya will be in the next few years? What does the future hold for the company? 

Jumayyil: We’re making some investments and we’ll be increasing our portfolio of products. We won’t just be selling construction materials in the future, we’ve already entered the service industry and logistics. We’ll be providing interior decorating materials, we’re also active in real estate. So yes, there will be some big changes that you can expect in the near future.