December 14, 2018

The big interview: Muhammad Nadeem Anwar

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Muhammad Nadeem Anwar tells us about his young company Hortus Landscaping Works LLC which is thriving in the Dubai landscaping market.

Tell us a little about yourself…

I have a master’s degree in landscape horticulture and have horticultural certifications from the UK, Australia and Singapore, so I am one of the most qualified people in this field within the UAE. I am a member of the Royal Horticultural Society and the UK’s Landscape Institute – one of the world’s leading landscape architecture institutions.

How long has Hortus been in business?

Hortus is just about three years old now but I have more than 12 years’ experience in this field. In the past I have worked in Pakistan, Singapore and the UK, but for the last eight years I have been working in Dubai. I started Hortus Landscaping with my partner, M Afzal.

Do you offer the whole spectrum of design and landscaping services?

We cover a lot of fields including agriculture, horticulture, irrigation and landscaping. We’re consultants, designers, landscape contractors and we also maintain the projects ourselves.

Is your work mostly domestic or do you cover local authority and commercial projects too?

We mostly work in the domestic market but we do also cover some farms and projects such as schools and hotels. We provide consultancy services for commercial agricultural farms, irrigation systems and green houses. The domestic market is more profitable for us because it is easy, can be finished within a short space of time and the handling is easier.

What is the typical size of landscaping project you would undertake?

We are handling projects that range from AED1m to 1.5m (USD408k). People like to spend a good amount of money on high end products. Our clients are mostly Europeans, Russians with a few Emiratis.

Do you work throughout the Gulf region?

In the Middle East we offer only design and consultancy services, but in the UAE we cover all the states with our complete range of services.

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How many people does Hortus employ?

We have more than 50 people, a full team consisting of carpenters, electricians, civil engineers, horticultural engineers, designers, team and project managers and consultants. We are also approved consultants for the municipality.

What about the soft landscaping – do you get involved in planting design?

Yes, we offer the full package. I am an expert in planting design and have had specialist training from the KLC School of Design in London.

What challenges do you find with the soft-landscaping side of the business?

The planting palette is limited. We have only about 90 species here to play with. The environment is very tough with high levels of humidity and difficult soil conditions.

Do you import soil for use in your projects?

We import soil additives and mixing materials from overseas to mix in with the existing sand, and then of course irrigation plays its part.

How do you source new imported products?

We have all the suppliers and every kind of material is available here in the UAE but sometimes we need to import from countries such as China, Turkey, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe as per the needs of the project. We import sandstone from India and travertine tiles from Turkey. Most suppliers have offices here in Dubai as well so it’s easy to coordinate them with our requirements.

Furthermore, the prices for materials are always very reasonable here. What are the trends in terms of where work is coming from?

Dubai, as you know, is a desert. No one can think to live without having some kind of landscaping. The trend is low maintenance, clean, tidy work. Work is always there if you provide a good quality service to your clients. We are busy and always have projects in hand. Work is excellent in Dubai.

Are many people using low maintenance products such as artificial grass and composite decking?

Yes sure, people love to have good quality artificial turf as it saves on maintenance costs. We also recommend composite decking for use on most of our projects. People enjoy their gardens here and use them year-round.

So is lighting also an important aspect of a garden design?

People have to be educated where lighting is concerned. We recommend having 12V LED lighting systems in the gardens. These are safe, energy efficient and produce quality lighting effects. There are always new products being introduced to the market and people like trying new things. We try to educate our clients that the LED systems we use, running on 12 volts are the best.

Do you offer a maintenance contract once you have finished your projects?

For the first one to two months (depending on the size of the garden) we offer a free maintenance service to our clients and we also provide a maintenance schedule which they or their gardeners can follow. It’s their choice whether they continue.

Do you charge separately for your design service?

We have separate pricing but if we win the project the design costs are absorbed. We have meetings with clients during the design process where we find out the brief and guide them professionally. Then we give them the estimates and of course at that stage they are free to get costs from other contractors too. If they are happy with our pricing and want to proceed, the design costs are waived. Clients mostly do proceed with us because our pricing is very competitive.

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Are projects usually won on price?

I would say 99% of the time, but it’s not just about the cost. Clients also respect qualifications and experience, as we know how to do our job.

Are your staff trained?

We have trained people in the UAE and always provide the environment for them to further enhance their capabilities.

Would you also undertake interior landscaping projects?

We do a little interior work but it’s not our main focus.

What are your future plans for the business?

We are planning to expand our horizons. In the immediate future we are moving into green walls, green roofs and roof gardens. I’m going to the USA for training on green walls in October. The authorities always plan to deal with the heat island effect in the region and we will be focusing on green walls as a solution. There is a big market for it here and people are asking for them more and more.

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