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Abu Amer to go global with two new brands

IN LINE with its ambition to expand its global footprint, Abu Amer Equipment Hiring Company, a privately-owned general hire firm, is spearheading a drive to transform its image in the market and promote its two new recently-launched brands: Mister Machine and iHire Software.

Mister Machine, the international brand of Abu Amer Equipment Hiring Company, offers qualified individuals or organisations the opportunity to franchise the business model developed by the Bahrain-based company, which has built a sound reputation for rental of top-quality equipment backed by superior services.

iHire is a software solution that was initially developed by the company for its own in-house use and is now being offered to clients as a bespoke equipment hire solution.

Abu Amer Equipment Hiring was launched in 1991 with an innovative concept of hiring new equipment to clients.

“At that time, the concept of equipment hire was based on renting out used equipment. We introduced a different business model where all our fleet was new and of good quality and fitted with comforts such as air-conditioning, which ensured that our customers benefited through higher productivity and no worries about any downtime,” says Rasool Abu Khadrah, managing director. “It is a business model that others have since been trying to copy.”

From its humble beginnings as a small shop in Buri Village offering power tools and light equipment on a rental basis, Abu Amer soon spread out within the country with outlets in Manama and Muharraq. Today the operation has attained a leadership position in the market and has six branches – one each in Manama, Muharraq, Hamala and Ras Zuwayed, and two in Maameer – with the head office also located in Maameer.

Its portfolio has expanded from light equipment to include the entire range of machinery and tools that could be required by a contractor – right from air compressors to forklifts, excavators, wheel loaders and cranes. Equipment can be hired for one day or one year or more, depending on the clients’ requirements and is backed by a maintenance contract with the manufacturers’ agents.

The company has its own fuel station located at the Ras Zuwayed heavy equipment facility and employs more than 300 office staff, operators and maintenance technicians.

Abu Amer was achieving a 30 per cent growth year-on-year until the global recession hit the region and the civil unrest in Bahrain dampened business in the country. Over the past three years, however, the company has managed to maintain a growth of five per cent, says Abu Khadrah.

Determined to further its success, the company has adopted a proactive approach to go global and last year set about achieving ISO2001:2008 certification, which it is currently awaiting accreditation for, from Bureau Veritas. Last year too, the company registered its two brands Mister Machine and iHire Software. It also streamlined its operations by setting up eight different equipment divisions hiring most types of equipment and now is looking for international partners to establish the Mister Machine brand across the world.

In addition, the company has been developing its own dedicated interactive websites for both Mister Machine and iHire.

Abu Khadrah attributes the company’s success to a combination of well-trained and efficient staff, quality equipment, excellent customer care, the iHire Software and its vision to be a leader in its field. The company is now looking to replicate its operations and success in other countries through franchising.

He points out that starting a new hiring business is risky and complex. “Franchising with Mister Machine minimises the risk of failure while reducing the hard work involved. You know right from the start that you are aligning yourself with a successful business model and you will duplicate a proven successful equipment hiring business with a distinctive brand – one which has adequate systems and resources to support its franchisees.”

Abu Khadrah says there is an increasing trend towards hiring equipment as contractors are unwilling to make huge investments in purchasing equipment.

“When we started business 21 years ago, contractors used to own more than 80 per cent of the equipment they required at their work sites. Contractors now tend to own some 40 per cent of their equipment and we expect this percentage to drop to 20 per cent,” he points out.

He continues: “Equipment hire is a specialised business and keeping machines in good working order is a challenge. The initial cost is prohibitive and keeping the machines well maintained is very costly. The maintenance cost becomes an issue if the equipment is not used for a length of time.”

Tracing the development of iHire, Abu Khadrah says the company started developing its rental software as it could not find a suitable ERP (enterprise resource planning) system that met its requirements. He then sought the assistance of his nephew Dr Mansoor Al Aali, who had previous experience in developing ERP solutions, to supervise the development of the dedicated software solution. The initial ERP solution went live in 2005 and has since been updated to include seven modules capable of supporting multiple businesses, branches, types of equipment and users and with multiple user rights. It is fully integrated with faxing, emailing document management and achieving modules and is suitable for medium to large equipment and car rental companies, he says.

Abu Khadrah has over the past year been showcasing these two brands at regional exhibitions in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We have received keen interest especially from Saudi clients, who are negotiating on our iHire software and a client is looking at our franchising solution,” he says. The company is also setting up an equipment hire operation in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, to be known as Awal Equipment Hire.