by Ruba Ali
Mr. Ali Manik is a veteran of the construction industry, the man behind the continued success of TEP Construction Company. Beginning with construction, the company has since diversified into civil construction, real-estate, and hardware wholesale & retail. With over 20 years of experience in the field, Mr. Ali Manik is a man of strong convictions with a kind smile on his face and a realistic outlook on everything.
Corporate Maldives sat down with Mr. Manik to discuss the difficulties faced in the construction industry, his achievements and the strong standards that make TEPCON stand out from the rest.
How did you get started with your career?
My father passed away at a very young age, and I was raised by my brother. At my first job, I was paid only MVR 100 per month, but that was also a lot of money back then. In 1985, I worked as a sailor in the engine room of a large ship. After my time as a sailor, I returned to Maldives and I began working with my brother, learning about things like construction and electrical work. I ended up working in Sri-Lanka for a while too.
In the beginning, we didn’t have a company, but when my brother decided to retire, I made the decision to turn our little venture into an actual business. I rented out a single room in a house and stored the equipment there initially, and began working with 4 other employees who had been with me since the beginning. Eventually, I brought in 4 builders from India and slowly started building the business.
In 1995, I converted what was then a local investment ‘TEP Group’ to TEP Construction Company.
What are some of your notable successes?
Building a company from the ground up and becoming successful at it was a task of momentous effort and hard work that spanned decades. Bringing my company to the level that it is today, from the time when we were 5 people working out of a single room, all the way to building mosques and multi-storey buildings that decorate the skyline of our country is my greatest accomplishment. We are responsible for some of the biggest breakwater-barrier projects undertaken in the Maldives, including the breakwater project in Hulhumale’.
I’d also like to point out that we eventually opened up what is now a very successful hardware shop. Initially, our objective was to bring in the raw materials that we needed for the projects, but having realized the substantial market for the products, I decided to explore that avenue to great success.
About three years ago, I decided to invest in a guesthouse at Dhiffushi, but at that time there was no water and sewerage system on the island. I leased three plots at the island and built from the ground up, we even installed our own plant to provide clean water and proper sewerage system. Our foray into the guesthouse industry has been very prosperous and I would consider that a great victory as well.
A personal success for me is being recognized and awarded the President’s ‘Aamu Hidhumathah Hivvaru Dhinumuge Inaamu’, for TEP Construction for our contribution to the construction industry, on 22nd December 2014.
What do you do differently at TEPCON?
I learned a lot from my mentors, who taught me strong values such as the importance of building trust with our clients, doing a job well enough that we get hired, and not letting the prospects of ‘more money’ corrupt the work we do. The work that we do is always based on real-time market rates and costs so that we can offer the best price guarantee to all our clients. We continue to hold onto these values.
One thing I am very proud to say is that TEP has never had a court case brought against the company for anything. It’s a matter of pride for everyone at the company that all of our clients have always been happy with the work we do for them, and the fact that we have always managed to reach and exceed their expectations.
What are some frequent challenges that you have faced?
I’ve always noticed a difficulty in finding staff who can find a balance between education and experience. There’s a lot of young people who would prefer a desk job as opposed to actually going out into the field, getting their hands dirty, and working to gain experience.
There’s often disgruntlement within the labor force, and for someone like me who started from absolutely nothing, I don’t see why anyone should oppose to going out into the field and learning to do the things that they are asking others to do. You can’t be a manager and implement best practices simply from what you learn from textbooks, there is a level of practical experience that you need to get before you have the capacity to make decisions that your subordinates can blindly trust.
What is your advice for young adults interested in entering the Construction Industry?
Transparency and work ethics are the most important values that you can instill within yourself. The trust you build with your employees and your clients is more important than anything else. If the trust in your company is broken, in an industry as wide as construction with so many companies, you will not retain your clients or your employees and that is a sure-fire way to spiral to failure.
Another piece of advice is to take pride in your work. Just because you are someone who works in the construction industry that doesn’t put you on a lower gauge than anyone else and we need to change the mentality that some jobs are worse than others. There’s no such thing as a bad job, any job can be rewarding and can help you feel accomplished if you work with the right attitude.