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Invicta Interviews: Anand Raghavan, AMEA General Manager

Embracing the challenge of opening offices around the world

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In our latest interview, we speak to Anand Raghavan – General Manager for the AMEA (Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa) region – about his long career with Invicta Durasteel, the challenges of opening offices in multiple continents, and his insights on working and communicating across cultures.

Could you introduce yourself, and what your role is at Invicta?

I’m Anand Raghavan, working as the General Manager for Invicta for the AMEA region. My role is mainly to monitor the overall performance of the company and its various departments; to develop strategies; and to achieve the long-term goals of the company. I also work closely with the management on all major decisions.


So how long have you been with Invicta now?

I joined Invicta on the 1st of August 2008, so more than 15 years now.


Okay, quite a while then! So you work predominantly in management and business development, if I’m correct. How did you get into that sort of role, and what was it that brought you to Invicta in the first place?

Yes, you’re right. Initially, I was the only person in this division in Dubai, and my role as Area Sales Manager was to create a new market for Durasteel in the MENA region. After spending a few months studying the market and fire protection systems used in various applications, I was able to secure a few jobs in UAE and other countries. The back-office support was provided by the UK head office, and I managed to execute the projects with supervisors from the UK office and local subcontractors trained by them.

After five or six years, in 2014, we decided to make the Middle East office independent and developed regional teams. We started working on bigger projects and new offices were set up in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi, India, Malaysia and Korea. Meanwhile, my role changed as General Manager and Director.

In terms of how I got into Invicta? While working in my previous company as Sales Manager for pumps, I took up agencies from European manufacturers, expanded my territory, developed a new team and set up a new mechanical division. It’s because of that experience that I was contacted by a recruitment firm for Invicta, and was selected to start their new division in Dubai.

Anand Raghavan, AMEA General Manager at Invicta Durasteel

Chester Durasteel transformer barriers

So you mentioned you’ve been working with the company for 15 years, and were by yourself in the Middle East operation for five years. 

Obviously the company and the Durasteel division have grown pretty significantly in the time that you’ve been here. What do you think, if you had to point to one thing, is the key to how successfully Invicta has expanded in the Middle East?

I think it was mainly the passion for the product, Durasteel. The product was new in this region and the applications were niche and limited to a few market segments – mainly airports, metros, industrial or petrochemical – which meant we had to explore places where projects were active in these sectors.

That was one of the factors. Another factor I would say was the openness of the UK management, of Andy [Shearer, CEO] and the freedom he had given me to explore the potential opportunities in the region.

Obviously, there have been a huge number of successes. I imagine they’ve also been some sort of challenges along the way as well.


Are there any sort of problems that come to mind that you’ve faced and been able to overcome; maybe a time when the company sort of needed to adapt to working in a new market?

When I started getting busier with enquiries and orders, it was a challenge to handle them alone, and that’s when we expanded our team. James joined me from the UK office, more people were recruited, and all the departments were set up locally – estimation, purchase, projects, finance, etcetera.

Even within the Middle East and Far East regions, each country has its own style of working. Right from initial company set up – the local regulations etc, to the industry standards that they follow, culture, mentality or mindset of people, product positioning, pricing, tax laws – everything was different and as you said, we had to adapt.

In each country and office, we now have company secretaries and legal consultants to manage compliance with local regulations, as well as trained sales managers and execution teams.

Canon Philippines transformer barriers

I imagine a lot of these markets you’ve been going into, you haven’t necessarily been that familiar with.

What’s that process like for you? Have there been any sort of difficulties you didn’t foresee before you started working in a particular country, and how have you personally resolved those?

Going into new markets was challenging. And yes, there have been difficulties. In 2011 for example, I tried to set up in India. I made a few visits and managed to win an order from an electricity company.

However, I soon realised the system was completely different; I wasn’t prepared and had to walk away from that job. I spent some time studying the market and got our products specified in a few metro projects, which led to me going back in 2018 and setting up a new office in India. Our team is now working on the Kolkata and Mumbai metro projects.


There’s maybe a stereotype – and you mentioned it earlier – that Durasteel is a less familiar product for some people, or certainly has been in the past. And people might choose concrete for fire and blast protection because it’s the familiar option.

How much do you find that you need to convince potential clients that Durasteel is the right option for them? Has that changed over time, have more people learned about Durasteel?

I think convincing people about Durasteel has not been very difficult for us. Once we explain the features of our system, the advantages over the other alternatives are very evident. When it comes to projects, we have to talk to all parties – consultants, contractors and end clients. What I’ve seen is, even though they are convinced, some people are reluctant to initiate a change from the traditional system.

However, finding the right people, especially in big companies working on mega projects, is the most challenging part – locating those who are involved with the relevant applications, and the decision makers. Again, convincing the technical people is not enough, we have to also get approval from the commercial or procurement team in order to win the job.

When I look back, we’ve been able to create an awareness in the market about Durasteel, and obviously a lot more people know about our systems now.

Durasteel Sadara oil refinery

Durasteel Sadara oil refinery air lock

What’s the process for finding those people then; for finding the right decision makers at a company? Is there a way that you would look to approach them?

We have tied up with some companies providing project intelligence databases, and get access to project leads in the region. That surely helps. Our sales managers use their own strategies and network as well to find the right people. We also participate in exhibitions and events which are related to our industry to expand our reach in the market.


So you’ve been responsible for and have overseen some of invicta’s biggest projects, like the Dubai Metro, Doha Metro, Sadara oil refinery. What do you think are the biggest challenges of a project of that size and importance?

The biggest challenge in our construction industry is to foresee or anticipate things which are out of our control.

For example, the time frame. Some projects will be on a very tight deadline. Whatever happens, we have to finish it within the agreed duration. On the other hand, for some projects, there won’t be any urgency and it’ll be delayed beyond the normal timeframe.

When it comes to such big projects, another challenge is to get the variation jobs approved by the client. Once the work starts, we cannot stop. We have to carry on working based on site instructions for any variations. Sometimes we even get the approval after the project is completed.

When you go to different countries and recruit people from there, locally their cultures are also different. This is another challenge. So it’s not just that we have to train them technically, but we also need to align them to the culture of the company. Based on our experience, we consider all these factors to cover all these possibilities.

Riyadh metro OTE duct

So I mentioned some of the huge projects that you’ve worked on in the past, and there are many more. Are there any that you’ve particularly enjoyed and found satisfying to work on, maybe where you’ve made a big personal contribution to the success of the project?

Actually for me, any project is satisfying. Winning a project is not that easy! Customer acquisition in our case is not an easy thing. And it’s also very difficult to get recurring business, because once the project is over – it will normally be an infrastructure project – there’s no need for the next 25 years. So whenever we get a project, it’s exciting.

But since you asked for one particular project, the one we did for Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi. We were approached by the main contractor BeSix towards the final completion of the project. They had to comply with certain fire protection requirements, in order to get clearance from Abu Dhabi Civil Defence, and needed it to be completed within two months.

It was challenging to coordinate everything in such a short time, but in the end, everything went perfectly as planned. We had the right solution and completed the job to the customer’s satisfaction.


Okay, so I’ve got a short question, but maybe a big one, and a difficult one to answer. What do you think is the most important thing that you have learned in your time at Invicta?

Every single day in Invicta has been a learning experience for me. But I guess it takes time to realise certain facts and you get new ideas when you start changing the way you think.

It took some time to realise that business is about ups and downs and it needs a lot of patience and perseverance. The right time to act is when everything is going good – think about expansion, diversification, or how to utilise our capabilities more widely and efficiently.


So just finally, is there anyone at the Middle East office, any of your colleagues maybe who you’d like to give a shout out to? Someone who he doesn’t normally get the limelight, but you think deserves it?

Anand Raghavan: Our AMEA core team is a small group, so it’s difficult to name one or two! But I would say James – he has supported me when we started expanding here. He was looking after the execution side, and I was focusing on the sales part. So we worked [a lot] together. And as I said, everyone in our team is important and I work very closely with each one of them.

And I have to surely mention Andy – he’s the one who supported me throughout and gave me the courage.


Excellent, I think that’s a great place to leave it. Thank you very much Anand.

Thank you!


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